Father knows best
Richard Williams' prediction comes truePosted: Sunday September 08, 2002 4:24 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Richard Williams says plenty for effect, including once talking about buying Rockefeller Center. Of all his predictions about the success his daughters Venus and Serena would have, one that seemed most outrageous came in January 1998.
"Serena will be the best on the WTA Tour," he said then. "But Venus has a lot of pride, and nothing will get in the way of her getting to No. 1 first."
Both No. 1? Serena better than Venus? Hmmm. At the time, Venus was a top 20 player who had been a U.S. Open runner-up, while Serena had yet to play even one Grand Slam match and finished 1997 ranked 99th.
Well, yes, it's happened: Serena is the best player in her house and in the game, having defeated Venus in each of the past three major finals: the French Open, Wimbledon and, Saturday night, the U.S. Open.
Now the little sister has what she dubbed a "Serena Slam," and she can make it four in a row at the majors in January's Australian Open (she missed that tournament this year because of an ankle injury).
And Venus, meanwhile, is left to wonder how the baby of the family stole the show. After her 6-4, 6-3 loss to Serena in the U.S. Open final, Venus sounded despondent.
She wasn't as outwardly down as she seemed to be when watching from the player's guest box while Serena won the 1999 U.S. Open. But Venus certainly didn't look as genuinely thrilled for her sister as she did when she joined the scrum of media photographers and snapped pictures of the French Open trophy presentation in June.
"I need to have a break, basically. I've done well as far as getting to the finals. That's not an easy feat at all. But then Serena always played better than me," Venus said. "I would like to just go home and practice and relax."
Venus -- she's 22, Serena turns 21 on Sept. 26 -- is generally less outspoken, less interested in all the attention. Venus wore a red-white-and-blue, traditional tennis dress and white shoes for the U.S. Open, while Serena wore a short black body suit with pink sweatbands and shoes.
"I think Serena likes the attention," Venus said. "I didn't like it so much. She's more of an outgoing person. Everyone has their year, and this is her year, and next year could be her year, also -- I don't know. But I'm glad she's done well."
Asked if she were enjoying tennis as much as always, Venus said: "Not at this tournament, not as much as the rest. I just had to tune out everything, people just wear you to death and talk so much. I just wanted to get away from the hype."
The hype should only grow around Serena, whose contract with Puma is about to expire.
"I like the glamorous side," Serena said. "I like the pictures and everything."
Venus entered the year as the two-time defending champion at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and managed to go 60-3 against everyone but her sister in 2002. But now she has to settle for runner-up trophies and being No. 2 in the rankings.
Serena has won four straight matches against Venus, all in straight sets, including on clay at the French Open, on grass at Wimbledon, and now on New York's hard courts.
And she's just the sixth woman to win a year's last three majors.
Serena didn't drop a set during the U.S. Open or Wimbledon, throttling the ball with powerful strokes, serving well, returning even better, and running down apparent winners as though the opponent were telling her where the ball would be.
"I was just tired of losing," said Serena, who now has just as many major titles as Venus, four. "Life was passing me by."
It's often said about sports that the only way to improve is to play or practice against the best.
Serena used to be the one who took advantage of that.
Now it's Venus' turn.