Last Orbit For Venus?
Venus Williams's rumored retirement may just be more goofing by tennis's fun family
You knew it couldn't last. Things had been quiet-way too quiet—over at the Williams Family Circus the last few months: no crossover bumps, no racial contretemps, no chitchat about buying Rockefeller Center for $3 billion. This wasn't what we've come to expect from the rambunctious world of Richard, Venus and Serena. But now, like the Paul-is-dead rumor that sent Beatles fans into frenzied mourning, something loony this way comes. Venus is sewing. Venus is bored with tennis. Venus, all of 19, is done.
That's right. Instead of a looming rematch of last year's historic final between the Williamses at the Lipton Championships, the buzz last week at the Ericsson Open (as the tournament has been renamed) in Key Biscayne, Fla., was all about Venus's purported retirement. It had been more than four months since she had last played a match, and, though the official excuse was recurring tendinitis in both wrists, her weekly withdrawals and continued silence (through Monday) had spawned a whirl of speculation that could only delight a teenage diva. "Venus is taking a long break and it seems isn't interested in coming back anytime soon," said No. 2 Lindsay Davenport. "One year, two years, six months—who knows?"
Well, the family knows, of course. "I have the inside information," Serena said, giggling, after Venus hid in the IMG luxury box to watch her sister's straight-sets win over Magdalena Maleeva last Saturday. "Unfortunately, I'm not able to release that" (Venus watched from the stands on Monday as Serena was eliminated by Jennifer Capriati.)
It came as no surprise to hear that the sisters' father, Richard, had no interest in seeing the subject the a nice, fully-denied death. "I would like to see her retire now," Richard said before the match. "I would love to see her do that." In fact, Richard said, he was discussing the subject with Venus, urging her to leave the sport behind. "Venus is one of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world, next to me," he said. "She'd do so much better if she retired right now and went to build her business the way I've built mine. Venus is so talented designing, helping me design, clothes that we're putting out for the organization [he means his family]. Venus is very good when it comes to understanding the Internet-Web sites, Web development, Web pages. Venus could end up making a ton of money."
Yes, this sounded like the usual Richard gambit, stirring the pot for attention. Yet for at least a year the sisters and their mother, Oracene, indeed had been chattering in public about Venus retiring by age 22. (Venus, last April: "I have a short attention span, like my dad. I think Serena will play longer") And ever since Venus had watched, hooded and blank-faced, at the 1999 U.S. Open as her younger sister became the first Williams to win a Grand Slam singles title, many tennis observers had noticed that she'd seemed to transfer her passion into clothing design and the occasional college class. She may have won six tides and $2.3 million last year, but no one around Venus denied the dampening affect of Serena's rise.
No one, that is, except Serena, who knows her sister better than anyone. Asked on Saturday night if she'd be surprised if Venus never played again, Serena said, "Very surprised," and then grinned and decided she couldn't resist a Williams family gambit of her own. "I'm going to announce my retirement at Wimbledon," she said, then determined even that wasn't good enough. "This is my last event," she announced. "It's been swell."
— S.L. Price
RODMAN AND CASINOS
They Must Like His Money
Las Vegas cocktail waitress Connie Wilcox, who accused Dennis Rodman of hoisting her up by the sides of her breasts, has reached an out-of-court settlement with the ex-Piston, ex-Spur, ex-Bull, ex-Laker, ex-Maverick. This incident, which Wilcox says happened when she was serving drinks to Rodman and his entourage in April 1998, is one of at least seven lawsuits Rodman has faced or is facing for his behavior in Las Vegas casinos in the last two years.
And they ban card counters?