"You hope I win?" said S�nchez Vicario, arching an eyebrow. She then walked away.
Richard says he is setting his own rules, but just how much has he defied the system? Venus is the product of a Florida tennis academy. She spends an average of four hours a day on court. She has left the conventional school system. She is a pro at 14, although her father insists he had nothing to do with that decision. "It was Venus's decision," he says. "I've been trying to get her to quit since she was eight." He also says "fathers are bad for tennis."
Now that Venus is a pro, Richard has made a series of new pledges: Venus will play no more tournaments this year, no more than five in 1995 and no more than nine in '96; she will not sign with a management company; she will, at least for the moment, refuse to sign any endorsement contracts, because once a player signs a deal with a sponsor, she is under pressure to play more. "I want Venus to play for Venus, and her dog," says Richard. "I don't want her to perform for anyone. We're going to do this our way."
When asked about reports that he has received six figures from Reebok—the clothing line often sported by members of his family—as a consultant to its urban-youth program, Richard says, "Reebok never paid me one penny." But according to Reebok's public relations director, Dave Fogelson, Richard received a consultant's fee from Reebok for two years. The "consultant's arrangement" lapsed "fairly recently," Fogelson says, but he will not reveal the amount.
Perhaps Venus doesn't need a management company because Richard already has the shell of one in place for her. Attorney Keven Davis of Seattle and accountant Larry Bailey of Washington, D.C, have represented the Williamses for three years. Stockbrocker Leland Hardy, a former boxer, is a friend and family adviser. All were in Oakland. "It's scary," Oracene says. "This is a totally different world. We're just trying to keep balanced and stay on the high ground."
Regardless of what ground they're on, Richard will be monitoring his daughter's journey into pro tennis, and her fans will be monitoring him.