From The Times(UK newspaper): Serena's rising star continues eclipse of Venus

BY NEIL HARMAN, TENNIS CORRESPONDENT
July 08, 2002

THERE is, apparently, a 12-year-old girl in Cornwall called Jade whose father is pushing very hard to become the British equivalent of a Williams. After Venus and Serena, why not a stellar Jade? The name has a certain luminary aspect to it.

We would need the Hubble space telescope to see that far ahead and, as with so much in British tennis, the vision tends to blur around the edges (Tim Henman would recognise that sentiment). As the women’s game stands, Serena and Venus are in a different constellation and we should, properly, place their names in alphabetical order now because Serena is No 1, the Wimbledon champion and as unstoppable as one of those meteors that whizz past Earth every once in an aeon.

“I was pretty amazed to win,” Serena said. “Normally, when you set your goals you set them above what you can reach. When you reach for the sky, you might land on a star — that’s normally how I do it. I set my sights way up there and today, I got it.”

In a thrilling manner, too. Serena’s 7-6, 6-3 victory over her sister was the third time in a row that she had eclipsed Venus and it confirmed her membership of two pretty exclusive clubs: the All England and as one of only ten women who have won the French Open and Wimbledon within a month. Incredibly, it rained throughout the time she spent at home in Florida in between and she had a mere three days of preparation before the championships.

In doing so, she confounded the cynics who thought that this Williams thing was some kind of predetermined plot — Venus first, Serena next and so on. Three wins in a row is a pretty big little-sister accomplishment and from the outset on Saturday, Serena was so in touch with her game that it would have needed a superhuman effort from Venus to stay with her. Super, yes; human, yes; superhuman, not quite.

Ever since we chatted in Key Biscayne in March and Serena said that she and Richard, her father, had something up their sleeves to win Wimbledon, the probability of her victory grew. She said she expected to win it, as if it was some commonplace event.

“I planned for it, I planned to achieve, so I was able to do it,” Serena said. “I feel so good physically, I have a fitness trainer travelling with me now, but I think a lot of the injuries I had in the past were mental injuries. I had my chances last year, in the French and at Wimbledon, and missed them. I have just changed.

“When I won, it was just ‘wow, two (grand slams) this year’. Early this year I was a goner and I said to myself right, the French, Wimbledon and the US Open — because you make a lot of money from the US Open and I need the money.” (We think she was only kidding.) For the clothing companies are closing in. Her deal with Puma ends in December, Reebok, which clothes Venus, is in the wings, and Nike is said to be preparing a multimillion dollar offer.

Maybe that was why Richard was not here; the ace deal-maker was at home, chuntering into his well-worked mobile, preparing to rake in more funds on the back of his daughters’ hegemony. It is thought he peered at the final on television from behind the Venetian blinds, such is his state of anxiety when his kin play each other.

Once it was over, he was free to take Serena’s dogs for a walk. The very large black man with the cigarella in his mouth, seen skipping through the streets of Palm Beach Gardens, was Richard Williams.

There could not be a prouder man. His daughters are a sporting phenomenon. They have set the standard; it is up to the rest to respond, not chirrup from the wings. “People are never satisfied and that’s the truth,” the new champion said. “You have to be satisfied with you and who you are.

Venus and I have learnt that, we are satisfied with who we are, we are happy with us. We don’t have any problem with who we are. You have to be happy as a person inside. If you are even a bit bitter, you are going to be resentful, and if you are resentful, you should go away and do something about it. My dad always said, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

And so there was no doubt in Serena’s mind. Her face was set in stone from the start and Venus’s was only a little less malleable. Of the three breaks at the start of the opening set, the third was the most significant. At 2-2, Venus led 40-15 and was dragged back to deuce by a backhand crosscourt from Serena of mighty power and accompanied by such a grunt that Mum, Oracene, had to duck her head beneath the wall of the players’ box to hide her smile. Venus responded in the tenth game but the tie-break was irresistibly Serena’s, though a “let” on the ace at set point went unheard by either sister. The umpire, Jane Harvey, was obviously happy just to let them get on with it.

There was a hint of Serena taking pity at the start of the second set, she should have been 2-0 ahead but turned the heat down for just a second (was it to let Venus draw breath?). Pretty soon she was up and at her sister again and the host of tiny butterflies flitting across Centre Court were in danger of obliteration. Her sister’s serve lost its bite, Serena, at 5-3, 40-0, took in a huge breath and swept into history.

“I want to get home now and see my dogs. The smallest things in life really please me,” she said. With that perspective, expect to see her name up in lights many more times.

From MSNBC.com: COMMENTARY: A chance to be the Best Ever

Serena shows strong nerves, versatility during Grand Slam run this year

by Steve Wilstein ASSOCIATED PRESS writer
September 7,2002

NEW YORK, Sept. 7 — She’s No. 1 in the family, the world and, arguably, the history of women’s tennis. Dancing from clay to grass to hardcourt in a sizzling summer of Grand Slam triumphs, Serena Williams leaped into an elite circle of champions and made a case for being the best woman ever to play the game.

AND SHE’S GETTING better all the time.

It takes a rare talent to win the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in succession. Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Margaret Smith were the only ones to do it in the Open era.

Serena joined them Saturday night after taking out her big sister, Venus, the two-time defending champion, 6-4, 6-3 in a final that was more historic than dramatic.

Nothing fazes Serena. Not a stalker who was arrested early in the tournament. Not the pressure of sustaining a Grand Slam winning streak that has reached 21 matches. Not the glitz of a final night with champions all around the court, celebrities in the stands, a prime-time television audience watching, and Venus across the net.

Serena’s nerves and serves were steady and she launched her body into attacking shots with utter abandon, her feet off the ground, her bleached blond tresses flying, her thick arm and leg muscles gleaming in the lights. She aimed for the lines and frequently hit them.

Three weeks shy of her 21st birthday, Serena won her second U.S. Open and fourth major with a synthesis of power, control, athleticism and tennis savvy that no woman has ever displayed.

Over long careers, Graf and Navratilova are still the champions to beat. They dominated their eras, amassed extraordinary records and had greater single seasons than Serena had this year. Graf swept the four Grand Slam tournaments in 1988. Navratilova won 74 straight matches in 1984. But neither of them, in their prime, could match Serena’s serves, foot speed or strength.

Graf and Navratilova only occasionally served faster than 100 mph. Serena does it all the time on first serves, and is often over 110 mph. Her top speed against Venus was 117, and she had only one double-fault. Venus clocked a couple of 120 mph serves, but she double-faulted 10 times.

Graf and Navratilova were faster afoot than any of the women of their time. Venus is faster than they were, and Serena is faster still, reaching balls neither of them would have touched. She can pound winners from the baseline, whack volleys from midcourt, and drill overheads at the net.

If Graf or Navratilova or Evert had an edge over Serena in setting up points and putting away winners, she’s catching up quickly. She’s learned to harness her power and create points with smart play.

Serena and Venus are even in Grand Slam trophies with four apiece. They could conceivably trade titles and the No. 1 and No. 2 rankings for years. Very little separates them while the gulf is growing between them and the rest of the tour. But there are hints that suggest Serena will be the one to dominate, that she’s more comfortable than Venus in the spotlight and under pressure and that she wants it more.

Venus spoke after the match of being tired, mentally and physically, and needing a break. She’s often mentioned having other interests, like fashion design, and a reluctance to have a long tennis career. Losing to her younger sister frequently may be more dispiriting than losing to other players.

“I just had to tune out everything,” Venus said wearily. “People just wear you to death and talk so much. I just want to get away from the hype. I think Serena likes the attention.”

“She’s more of an outgoing person than I am. Everyone has their year, and this is her year. Next year could be her year also. I don’t know. But I’m glad she’s done well.”

Serena was spurred from an early age by Venus’ success, and all the more in the past year after watching her sister surge to No. 1. Now there seems to be no stopping Serena.

“I really wanted to stay No. 1,” she said. “I knew that everything was on the line. I’m going to have some fun next year, that’s for sure.”

The difference between her now and 1999, when she won the U.S. Open the first time as a precocious 17-year-old, can be measured in every facet of her game: strength, speed, strokes and strategy.

“I’m more mature and more relaxed,” she said. “I’m a better player, obviously. I have more fun with what I do. I’m not as stressed out there as I used to be.”

Navratilova was at courtside watching her. Evert came out to flip the coin for serve before the start of the match. Graf didn’t stick around to watch, but she was at courtside earlier in the day as her husband, Andre Agassi, beat Lleyton Hewitt to set up a men’s final against Pete Sampras.

Those three women’s champions own records that Serena might never match. But if they were on a court together, all in their prime, Serena would take them apart.

From Los Angeles Times:It's Serena's World, and She's Living It Up

By DIANE PUCIN
Times Staff Writer
September 8 2002

NEW YORK -- Serena Williams has become the most compelling female athlete in the world, a master of both her sport and her public, a woman of extraordinary physical strength and charismatic personality.

She is an African American woman unafraid to become a stunning blond and to wear pink. She is able to knock the fuzz off tennis balls and Saturday night she was willing to reduce her older sister, Venus Williams, to tennis rubble.

"My backhand is great now," Serena would say after beating Venus, 6-4, 6-3, in the final of the U.S. Open. "I want you to know that."

We know. We also know that right now Serena, 20, owns women's tennis with her backhand, her forehand, her crafty serving and her unending smile.

Before the Open, Serena had made herself substantially better than all the other women not named Williams. And on this night, filled with more music, more singing, more pomp than tennis, Serena also proved that she has become substantially better than her sister.

It took Serena only 1 hour 12 minutes to finish off Venus, 22. Serena was not afraid of thumping her sister, of walloping forehands at Venus' stomach, of slamming overheads at Venus' feet.

By the second set, the record crowd of 23,164 was trying to whisper its cheers for Serena so as not to make Venus feel so bad.

But for a twisted ankle that kept her out of the Australian Open, Serena might have been receiving congratulations as the first woman to sweep the four Grand Slam tournaments since Steffi Graf in 1988.

Now she is talking about the "Serena Slam," which would match the "Tiger Slam." Serena, who won her fourth Grand Slam title and became only the sixth woman to win three straight Slams, is planning to win the 2003 Australian Open and hold close to her heart all four trophies together.

It seems hard to imagine, after the way Serena dominated this Open, that anything other than an injury could stop her.

The Serena we've seen here for two weeks has been wisely analytical about her game, intelligently aware of the world around her and charmingly insouciant about the host of silly questions that were tossed at her about clothing, hairstyles and other girlish things.

This Serena was gracious after every win and unwilling to admit that she has stepped significantly ahead of her sister, a kindness that Venus surely appreciated.

So often athletes are spoken of as role models and too often they fall woefully short of such expectations.

This Serena is going to make a very good role model.

On Friday, when baseball great Henry Aaron came to the women's semifinals, Serena was asked if she had grown up admiring Aaron. So many young athletes in many sports, even baseball, would have looked up blankly and said no, or even worse, professed not to have heard of Aaron.

"I can't say I really knew at the time," Serena said, "but obviously I know who he is. I really, really do admire Hank Aaron. I was watching a program about him a while back. I've read a lot of things about him. That's really cool."

Six years ago, before Venus and Serena were full-time members of the women's tour, Richard Williams, the girls' father and coach, sat in a tennis club outside Chicago and said, quite seriously, that Serena was going to be the better player and bigger champion.

As he has been about so many things having to do with his talented daughters, Richard has turned out to be right.

Venus came here reaching for her third consecutive U.S. Open title. But she also arrived here having lost both the French Open and Wimbledon finals to her little sister. In the fourth round Venus was nearly beaten by Chanda Rubin in a two-hour match played at an incredible pace.

"My game went down after that fourth round," Venus said. "I just couldn't do a thing to bring it back up. Before, in the first, second and third rounds, I was playing great. But after that, I just couldn't do anything to bring it back."

Venus was pushed to three sets and two hours in the semifinals, too, by Amelie Mauresmo. Like Rubin, Mauresmo challenged Venus at the net and put constant pressure on her.

What has happened at this Open is that instead of the Big Two, we have the Only One. Venus has become just another challenger, like Mauresmo, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati, another competitor sent home to find some new gear to keep up with Serena.

In a note that sounded almost as if it were surrender, Venus said that Serena very much enjoys the hubbub and attention that goes with being No. 1. "I don't like it much," said Venus, who lost her No. 1 ranking to Serena after Wimbledon. "She's more of an outgoing person, maybe, than what I am. Everyone has their year and this is her year. And next year could be her year also."

That's how Serena is thinking. Instead of feeling sorry about the bad ankle that kept her out of the 2002 Australian Open, Serena found the upside. "Maybe it was meant to happen this way," she said. "Because now when I go to Australia I can just gain tons of [ranking] points. So I just start over. I'm still young."

Young but wise and talented and smiling the biggest smile you've ever seen.

Diane Pucin can be reached at diane.pucin@latimes.com.

From New York Times Online:Serena Williams Shows Confidence

by Selena Roberts
September 9, 2002

Serena Williams walked into a side room in a Midtown Manhattan hotel yesterday morning as tired as day-old party balloons, but she quickly perked up once she began to realize the kind of legacy she had created over the past two weeks.

Beyond taking her third major in a row with a United States Open championship Saturday night, more than defeating her older sister for each of those titles, Williams delivered a lesson on the powers of self-confidence the past two weeks.

It began in her first-round match, when Williams showed up that night at Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing a black leather warm-up jacket with a Lycra cat suit beneath it.

Suddenly, it was cool to have curves. On a tour where players with the physique of an exclamation point play in low-ride skirts, Williams provided an alternate view of style for the masses.

"You have to be happy with who you are," she said. "If I'm successful with who I am, whatever I look like, that's fine with me."

She has unveiled just as much self-assurance on the court. A year ago, when she was unprepared to play big matches, Williams's stomach would turn on her.

This year, she had faith in her game and a newfound calm inside because she put the work in to raise her level of play. After two years of indulging in the buzz after her 1999 United States Open title, Williams tucked away the distractions and redirected her mind to tennis this season.

The result has been her complete dominance of the WTA Tour, overwhelming everyone, including the former No. 1 player in the world, her sister Venus. Her big sister couldn't touch her serve Saturday night in their fourth Grand Slam final against each other. By the end of Serena's two-week stay at the National Tennis Center, she had a tournament-best 53 aces among the women. Next? Venus collected 26.

"I prefer to play Venus because that means that we have reached our maximum potential and that we'll both go home winners," Serena said. "For me, I'm happy to play her in the final."

Venus may not have felt the same way. On Saturday night, she looked beleaguered from her younger sister's deluge of aces and cross-court winners. She just wanted to go home, Venus said. She just wanted to run away from the hype, she said.

"Just two or three more tournaments this fall and then I'm going to enjoy a normal life," Venus said after her 6-4, 6-3 loss. "I've had a great year, more than anyone besides Serena could ask for. That's been great. But I would like to go home and practice and relax."

Some tennis observers wonder if Venus will disappear for a few months, as she did when Serena stunned her at the 1999 Open, becoming the first of the sisters to win a major despite the groundwork Venus had laid to do it.

But Serena does not put a lot of stock in Venus's claims of weariness. She has no reason to think that Venus will vanish.

"If she had played anyone besides me, she would have won Wimbledon for sure, and that would have been her third in a row," Serena said. "And she would have won the U.S. Open, and that would have been her third in a row. I don't think she's worn out at all because of defending tour points or chasing me. I think it's a challenge. I have a challenge to stay ahead, and she has the challenge to catch up and pass me."

Serena Williams, the No. 1 player in the world, takes her half of that situation seriously. She does not intend to repeat her slide into fun the way she did after success two years ago. Although she is almost sure she will not play past age 30 — she wants to have children while she's young, she said — she plans to grab a career Grand Slam by preparing herself in time for the Australian Open.

"I've gotten older," said Williams, who will turn 22 in two weeks. "When I won in '99, I wanted it so bad. I just wanted it so much that when I got it, I didn't know how to keep up the level and mentally how to stay there.

"I think that now I've won a lot more tournaments — like the smaller ones — and I have a lot more match play, I believe, mentally, I'm just a little more stronger. I've realized you can't just win one Slam and drop off."

Besides, maintaining a high profile may help her in her next career: acting. She has dabbled in it here and there and has learned the art of crying on cue. "You'd be surprised," Williams said.

Nothing she does surprises anyone anymore. After two confident weeks in a cat suit, she is on her way to being a symbol of self-esteem.

From Village Voice: Pete and Serena Find What Suits Them

Jockbeat
September 11-17,2002

‘. . . And speaking of one-sided rivalries, let's talk about the sisters Williams. At least Serena's total domination seems to have put to rest the ridiculous allegations that the outcome of their matches was predetermined. They simply play lackluster tennis against each other because their games are so similar, and the pendulum has swung so quickly and decisively from Big Sister to Little Sister.

Since dropping the first set to Jennifer Capriati at Roland Garros, Serena has won a mind-boggling 32 consecutive sets in grand slams. (For you trivia buffs, the other set she dropped this year was to Vera Zvonareva of Russia.) Skeptics will note that Richard Williams's final two predictions—that his daughters will be numbers one and two in the world and Serena will be better—have come to pass. Tennis fans can only hope that his concerns about the lenient treatment given to Serena stalker Albrecht Stromeyer ("The bail is so low, I think that encourages him to keep doing what he's doing,") and the tour's lax security as the Monica Seles stabbing recedes into memory ("It makes me wonder, 'Could he hurt Serena?' ") aren't validated.

The only suspense in Serena's matches at Flushing Meadows centered on the what-will-she-wear question. Serena's black Puma catsuit was the focus of much cattiness in the press room and elsewhere—"hideous" is a word that was bandied about a lot. Unlike Tommy Haas's sleeveless shirt (tournament referee Brian Earley made him change in his first round match against David Sanchez), which reeked of a Nike-driven publicity grab,Serena's outfit seemed designed to make a more profound statement: It celebrated a brilliantly functional body that doesn't conform to the Anna Kournikova straight-outta-FHM mold.

"But the catsuit—I feel like a cat," she told reporters, contrasting this sleek and chic fashion triumph with a demure soccer-inspired outfit she wore at the French. "I can go fast. I feel really, really, really serious in [this] outfit." Jehovah help the rest of women's tennis when Little Sis feels that way. —Allen St. John’

[the rest of the article can be viewed at Village Voice.com]