Posted: Friday September 2, 2005 11:38AM; Updated: Friday September 2, 2005 1:53PM
While Venus Williams' on-court focus has made her a great player, it has also made her a disturbingly shallow one at times, too.
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NEW YORK -- More than 1,000 people are presumed dead, half a million more are homeless -- and Venus Williams had no idea.
While a concerned nation sits spellbound through wall-to-wall coverage of Hurricane Katrina, desperate for anything resembling good news to come out of the Gulf region, Williams turns the channel. Breezily, she admits she's never had much of a stomach for hard news and generally tries to steer clear of it.
"I kind of leave it like that because it's better not to know," she said Wednesday after waxing Maria Kirilenko in 74 minutes in the second round of the U.S. Open. Overall, the disruption to her life has been slight, the lone casualty just a delayed charter from South Florida to LaGuardia.
"I was barely able to get out of the storm [and to the U.S. Open on time]," Williams said. "I didn't know it was coming till someone started talking about it from my office."
A day later, before the PR time bomb had a chance to blow up, in came the clarification from publicist Lisa Sorensen.
"Before I left Florida for the U.S. Open, I didn't know about the hurricane," Williams explained through Sorensen. "But during Wednesday's press conference, I was very much aware of it and the impact it had on Louisiana."
Given her ties to the region, Williams' empty, knee-jerk concern is surprising. While Williams was raised in Compton, Calif., her father Richard was born in Shreveport, La., the son of a sharecropper, and Venus maintains strong ties to the region. Chanda Rubin, her doubles partner at the 2004 Athens Olympics, hails from Lafayette, La. (Rubin managed to escape the worst of the storm.)
To hear her publicist tell it, though, this is just Williams at the height of her focus. The two-time U.S. Open champion is just determined to add a third title to her collection. Even tennis in excess gets distracting. Asked if she had caught any of Andy Roddick's epic upset loss to Gilles Muller on Tuesday night, Williams confessed she hadn't, her short attention divided between reruns of The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air back at her hotel.