To Williams, any discussion about her demeanor is bewildering. She has been taught to play to win. "Why don't you guys tell me what they want me to do?" she said to reporters after hearing Kruger's comment. "They should come up to me and say, 'Venus, I want you to smile so I can feel better.' When I want to smile, I'll smile. If I don't want to, I'm not going to. I think it's a little bit peevish. Smiling—what does that have to do with anything?"
In women's tennis, it has to do with plenty. This is a game in which a 16-year-old like Hingis can make cocky statements at the drop of a ballpoint, yet no one minds because she does it with a grin. Women's tennis loves to make nice. Asked if the tension surrounding Williams was racially motivated, Davenport said, "I don't feel it's a problem of race. I feel like she's separated herself from us for whatever reason. I don't know if it's on her side. The players in the locker room love Chanda Rubin, and Zina Garrison is a good friend. Some people have tried, but you can only try so much."
After Venus's quarterfinal win over Sandrine Testud last week, Venus and Serena locked arms in a stadium hallway. They began singing and dancing as they walked, two sisters having great fun, and Venus looked the same way she does when she wins and her tough face drops and she all but shivers from excitement. In that moment, she looked like a 17-year-old kid.
Let the sideshow begin, they sang. Hurry hurry/Step right on in/Can't afford to pass it by/Guaranteed to make you cry....
The sideshow has begun. That moment is gone.