Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - The Inevitable, Inimitable Venus
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The Inevitable, Inimitable Venus 11/10/2008 - 8:11 PM

VwThe concept of a “turning point” in a tennis match, or any other sporting event, sounds like a myth waiting to be debunked by a hungry young statistician. It takes a minimum of 48 points to win two sets. Can the outcome of one of them, short of a match point that’s lost on a botched overhead, dramatically influence more than a handful of others? Most players will say that if they fail to serve out a set, it will weigh on them for a few games afterward, but only the sorriest competitor fails to recover before he’s thrown away the whole match. If tennis had a stats geek like Bill James, he would have put the turning point out to pasture years ago, the same way he dismissed the “clutch hitter” or the need for a designated “closer” in baseball.

Right? Well, the clutch hitter and the closer have proven to be tough little myths to kill. It turns out that some musty sports concepts—call them old coaches’ tales—may defy logic, but they still hold up under modern-day scrutiny. I haven’t done any research on whether or not turning points exist in tennis, but I am prepared to say that I know one when I see one.

There was no single moment, no single swing, in Sunday’s final in Doha between Venus Williams and Vera Zvonareva that turned the momentum from one player to the other. But there was, late in the first set, something that might best be described as an “inevitability point.” Zvonareva, the event’s equivalent of a lucky loser—she qualified because the higher-ranked Maria Sharapova was out with an injury—and the distinct underdog in this match, was serving for the first set at 5-3. The Russian has been an emotional basket case in the past, but last week she had held it together and gone 4-0 to reach the final. She betrayed no signs of nerves to begin the 5-3 game. She got first serves in, moved in for an overhead, and went up 40-0. On the next point, loose and confident, she stepped back and challenged Williams with a rocket serve into her forehand. Little did Zvonareva know, but she’d just lost the match.

The ball came in fast, but it also came in belt high. Venus, perhaps angry with herself for getting down three set points, took a full backswing, met the ball just in front of her, and thudded back an inside-out forehand return that sent Zvonareva stumbling in futile pursuit. It looked good, it sounded good, and it let everyone in the arena know that no matter what the score was, no one should bet against Venus Williams in this match. After that, it was no surprise when the American came back to break Zvonareva and take the first set to a tiebreaker. And it was even less of a surprise when, despite losing a lead in that tiebreaker, she completely turned the tables in the second and third sets to win 6-0 and 6-2. That one forehand return, which was beyond anything in Zvonareva’s arsenal, had made it all look inevitable.

Not that the lasting image of Zvonareva at Doha should be of her staggering after a Williams winner. With Safina a disappointment, Jankovic returning to second-fiddle form, and Serena Williams returning to the injured list, it was left to Zvonareva to breath some life into the event. While her visor was a little dated, her attitude and consistency were fresh. She rolled over her forehand more smoothly, and with more athletic aggressiveness, than most of her higher-ranked colleagues. She changed directions with the ball more often and with more confidence than I’ve ever seen her before. And Zvonareva managed to make that awkward service motion—she looks like she’s going to fall over backwards as she tosses the ball—work for her. A great athlete can make up for a lot of sins of imprecision on the serve with an explosive upward swing and wrist snap. Zvonareva does that in spades. You just wish she would make it a little easier on herself.

It was a bit of a shock to see the match begin with Zvonareva hitting from on top of her baseline and Williams huffing and puffing from side to side behind hers. But the Russian hits a heavy enough ball to dictate against anyone, and Williams spent most of the first set pulling up on her backhands and spraying them wide. If anything, her bullet return winner at 3-5 loosened her up and maybe even reminded her of who she was—not that a Williams sister could ever forget for long. Later in that game, at deuce, Zvonareva hit a passing shot that appeared to have Williams dead to rights. Venus, who had been sluggish through most of the first set, chose this time to show off her very best. She reached behind her to pick off a backhand half-volley, guided it just over the tape, and put it right on the line for a winner. I’d venture to say that at any earlier, less-crucial stage of the set, she wouldn’t have made that shot, that it would have dropped harmlessly into the net or an inch wide.

We talk a lot about the mental toughness of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Maria Sharapova, to name three. But unlike the Williams sisters, none of them have had the bedrock conviction at every stage of their careers that they should never lose. Federer often has to convince himself of his superiority over the course of a first set before he can play his best. With Venus on Sunday, and with the Williamses in general, it’s their strokes, not their heads, that they have to get under control before they get rolling—the blind sense of on-court superiority is always there, no matter what the score is. It’s there even when they lose. That attitude has annoyed a lot of fans, but I can only imagine what it’s done to their opponents. They must know that, whatever they may try, they're never going to bother the Williams sisters. By the third set on Sunday, it was enough to send Zvonareva, who had played well enough to beat most women, back to meltdown central.

Let’s skip ahead to 4-2 in the third with Williams serving. She’s won the second set 6-0 and built a lead in the third by doing exactly what she wasn’t doing in the first set. Now she’s the one who’s standing on the baseline and running her opponent; she’s the one making first serves; she’s the one wrong-footing Zvonareva with down-the-line shots that are landing a few inches from the sidelines. On the first point of this game, Williams plays meat and potatoes tennis: She pounds a hard first serve and follows it up with a backhand winner into the open court. While she misses a backhand after that, on the next point she comes back with another good one—Venus is rarely afraid to keep going after a shot; if anything, she can been too stubborn in her self-belief. But that only hurts her in the short term.

Before it’s over, Zvonareva gets in a last gasp—she come too far not to. At 30-15, she wheels all the way across the court and sends a borderline-impossible crosscourt backhand zinging past Williams at the net. Forget the meltdown, forget the four blown set points at 5-3 in the first. If we remember Zvonareva at Doha this year, it should be for this piece of spectacular improvisatory shot-making. Now, after all these years of emotional turmoil, she knows how much of it she has in her. She knows what she can do.

Williams, unphased, holds by going back to the meat and potatoes: She belts an unreturnable first serve right at Zvonareva and then breaks for the title, the first season-ender of her career (she’s only played it two other times).

Just as impressive as Williams’ turnaround is how impassive she has been through all of it. This is always true of Venus, of course; she’s been a study in stoical purposefulness since she ran into Irina Spirlea at the U.S. Open when she was 17. Watching her throughout the week in Doha, I was struck by how imposing her stone-cold style is; she makes Nadal look like a hyperactive child and Federer like a bashful teenager. This year there’s been a lot of talk about the Williams sisters, with their limited schedules and long, successful careers, being the right role models for young women players. Good luck imitating what they do. Take one look at the unruffled, unhurried sense of purpose on Venus Williams’ face as she sets up to serve, or the grimace of total determination that replaces it when she tears into a backhand. You know there will never be another player like her.



 
90
Comments
 

Posted by Blake Boldt 11/10/2008 at 08:30 PM

Terrific final paragraph. Venus is an imposing, often imperious character on the court, and her presence is sheer elegance.

Posted by Master Ace 11/10/2008 at 08:36 PM

Vera : Will she stay healthy for 2009 after playing over 80 matches in 2008? Also, will she make the 2nd week in a Slam 'cuz her Slam results for a player of her caliber was not good? Overall, she does have a nice game and only injuries have held her back from climbing the rankings.

Venus : She made an effort to play the Fall season and was rewarded by winning the SEC. Other than Wimbledon, she did not win a Tier II title or above since 2004 until she won Zurich and SEC. Another thing hard to believe and that was this was her first Tier I or above hardcourt title since 2001 when she won the USO.

Posted by Bobby 11/10/2008 at 08:42 PM

Great piece! Venus is a living, still-playing tennis legend, and she deserves every tribute she gets. The only thing better than her game and athleticism is her attitude. Hopefully Venus will stay healthy and excited next year and win a few big ones. Go, Venus!

Posted by venusfan 11/10/2008 at 08:43 PM

I love Venus Williams. She is really a class act. What a great win for her.

Posted by k 11/10/2008 at 08:44 PM

Great article, couldn't have agreed with you more. Venus is a CHAMPION, and knows how to turn around matches when most would fold. She can switch from being mediocre to amazing within a game and is usually ready to bring the goods when the point matters.

I must also praise Vera for putting up a strong fight, she was a worthy finalist, but was beaten by the better player in the end. She shouldn't be disheartened by the loss as I am sure she has many wonderful years ahead of her, and will be a strong challenger of the major titles next.

I hope Venus builds on this success too and win the Australian open for the first time, the hard court tournament suits her game and she should be able to win this open at least once in a illustrious career.

Posted by Master Ace 11/10/2008 at 08:58 PM

K,
If Venus was to somehow win Australian Open, would that be enough to put her over Serena even though the Slams total be 9 for Serena and 8 for Venus. You can make a case for both ladies as Serena won 5 of those Slams over Venus from 2002 FO to 2003 W when both ladies dominated the tour.

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed - take a break you deserve it 11/10/2008 at 09:25 PM

Great piece Steve. I always love to read articles about the Williams Sisters, and moreso Venus especially when it focuses on other aspects of their games, rather than how strong they are. The mental aspect of Venus' game is one that I think is really overlooked. I noticed during the SEC that the only time that I can ever recall seeing Venus get upset was in the third set, when she made an error and she stamped her foot. Immediately after doing it she splayed her fingers in the usual calm down mode and went up back to her serve again. I noticed that all during her matches, even when she was a set and a break down, even when she was serving double faults, there was always this look on her face as if to say, oh well, I double faulted, hopefully the next serve will find its way in the box. I recall after AO07 when Serena won she said in the press that after one of her matches (think it was against Petrova) she recalled that her father used to say to her, if the ball is going out that is a good thing, because it means that eventually it will start dropping in. Serena said that she remembered that and just kept plugging away because she knew that eventually her shots would start falling in. Same thing with Venus, ok so I am double faulting now and making errors, just calm down because eventually you will serve an ace and the balls will start dropping in for winners. Mental toughness indeed.

Posted by Adrian 11/10/2008 at 10:50 PM

Zvonareva might have been the last to qualify but her final appearance at Linz actually put her 6th in the points race overall with total points, with Venus being 8th. Having said that, Venus is no lucky-loser!

Posted by Deuce 11/10/2008 at 10:56 PM

Great article Steve. You summed up Venus perfectly. I have neber seen a female player play with the sense of calm she exhibits. Many congratulations to all her fans on the win. Well deserved.

Steve - I found your Fed comment spot on. I could never quite put my finger on why I have a hard time watching him play first sets occasionaly and I beleive you hit the nail on the head with this comment "Federer often has to convince himself of his superiority over the course of a first set before he can play his best."

Thank you again for a great article on Venus' win.

Posted by Master Ace 11/10/2008 at 10:57 PM

YPF,
Best highlight for me on Venus was the 4 straight aces she served against Flavia in the finals at Zurich. At that time, Venus won the first set in a tiebreaker and got the first break of the match in the second set to lead 2-1. Those 4 aces made it 3-1 and all Flavia can do is applaud her racquet when the game was over and had to serve at 1-3.

Posted by Takver 11/10/2008 at 11:12 PM

@ Yummy Prince Fed: I also saw Vee's foot stamp of frustration, quickly followed by her splayed fingers - that gesture of calm that she gives when she dismisses a bad play from her mind! It made me smile, and also allowed me to give Vera a pass for her mini-meltdown given the fact that she has a more fragile grip on her emotions. Credit to Vera though, for playing a great tournament and for starting to mentally toughen up. Good to see.

Interestingly enough, Lindsay Davenport on the Tennis Channel was full of praise for Venus' ability to move on from bad points, and drew a comparison to her own difficulty in doing the same.

Steve, I haven't read much of your writing except for your wonderful analysis of the Fed-Nadal epic this year. In this case, I like how even-handed and analytical you've been about the YEC, about both finalists and the match itself. You also seem to have an uncanny knack for singling out and describing the most memorable points in a match in the most vivid, accurate manner - so much so that I instantly knew *exactly* which points you were talking about.

I also like the idea of 'points of inevitability' where extreme pressure reveals a player's very best, and provide a prescient tip-off or premature glimpse of the eventual outcome. However, I have also seen Venus play points that *seemed* to indicate inevitability and suggest that even if she didn't instantly capitalise, at some stage she would turn things around and eventually win the match... and yet she has failed to prevail.(USO 2007 in the first set against Henin where she won the best point of the tournament, and the USO 2008 2nd set against Serena where she won a point that received a standing ovation. They are two examples of those kind of points that come to mind.) Sometimes, her game implodes...

But I certainly agree that those points exist and she knows how to play them.

I also agree Venus is one of a kind in her era. There isn't a contemporary player, male or female who has Venus' calm, almost phlegmatic temperament in contrast to her aggressive play. You'd probably have to look back to Bjorn Borg to find that degree of 'stone-cold' composure.

Posted by Rsquared 11/10/2008 at 11:36 PM

Kudos to Steve on an instant classic. A beautiful and perceptive piece of writing.

Posted by Bobby 11/10/2008 at 11:44 PM

Master Ace, it's impressive that Venus hit four aces in a row against Flavia. Impressive.

Posted by rg.nadal (No solace till i see Quantum of Solace) 11/10/2008 at 11:52 PM

Great article.
"You know they’ll never be another player like her."- We do. Thank you for the interesting writing.

Posted by Ren 11/11/2008 at 12:47 AM


Venus just received the 6th sense award given to players who make brilliant and unexplainable shots in a match. The cunning ability to show one's prowess in the most unexpected occasion makes Venus rise above any woman in the tour. It is one that does not surprise me. It is one that just confirms an inherent ability to rise above the mire!

Posted by Tom in Smalltown 11/11/2008 at 01:31 AM

Yes. I like Venus tennis. Then, after the match, it's Venus talk. I've never seen two more strikingly different auras from the same competitor. I just plain like Venus. Good post.

Posted by jon 11/11/2008 at 04:54 AM

venus is awesome. she is like a robot on the court.

Posted by luxsword 11/11/2008 at 08:23 AM

Funny to see Venus winning the women's master cup, after reading here and there (american) writers talking of serena as THE 2008 player. They were so busy diminishing JJ, n°1 spot, Ivanovic's too, Safina slamless, Zvonareva entering Doha, etc... only to conclude Serena was the best, and now we end up with Venus crowned. ^^

Posted by luxsword 11/11/2008 at 08:25 AM

I think i meant dismiss rather than diminish lol

Posted by Kenneth 11/11/2008 at 09:30 AM

Great on Venus for her win, but credit must be given to Zvonareva's own incredible mental fortitude improvement. To have gone 4-1 against the top players (granted at the end of the year, but for her that won't matter a bit), and only experiencing a single meltdown against the eventual champion speaks volumes about how far Vera has come. Who knew she would or could out-run the super athletic Dementieva or out-backhand-down-the-line the current bh dtliner Jankovic in equally convincing fashion? And am I the only one who loved her interviews in that regal looking black blouse? And how about when she smilingly corrected Tracy Austin on having defeated, for the second time, the current world #1?!? I have to say Vera has become one of my favorite WTA chicks to switch for. Hope she continues this great swing of superb tennis.

Posted by SwissMaestro 11/11/2008 at 09:52 AM

Wow Steve! This was powerful, meaningful writing yet very true and classy. And the sentence below left ME struck in awe for its truthfulness.

"I was struck by how imposing her stone-cold style is; she makes Nadal look like a hyperactive child and Federer like a bashful teenager".

Posted by Master Ace 11/11/2008 at 09:55 AM

Kenneth,
Biggest questions I have for Vera going into 2009 are the following:
(1) Will she stay healthy?
(2) Can she keep her emotions in check at critical times?
(3) Will she be able to repeat her SEC performance in Grand Slams?

Posted by unknown 11/11/2008 at 10:07 AM

AWESOME!! I JUST LOVE THIS WOMAN!! GO VENUS!!

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 11/11/2008 at 10:15 AM

No question, Steve, that turning points exist, as do clutch hitters and closers. I've always considered myself a good "closer" in fact. The further into a tournament I get, the better I play and the more likely my chances of winning it all. And the closer to the finish, the stronger my will gets. I'm sure it's no different for professionals--in fact, it's likely amplified.

About that Venus forehand return, I have a short story to share....

I was playing a tournament in Wilmington, NC, many years back. The club was once part-owned by Cliff Drysdale (may still be) and featured beautiful composition courts plus three grass courts, a rarity in the south.

Anyway, my opponent, whom I had never played before, was known to have a wicked-powerful forehand--with one swing he could and often did end a point. I was not intmidated, though, and got out to a 6-3, 3-1 lead, serving. I got up 30-15 on my service game when I decided to kick a serve out wide to his backhand and venture in. Unfortunately, the serve wasn't quite wide enough, and my opponent ran around his backhand and hit what I thought at the time was the hardest return I'd ever seen. It went whizzing past in my forehand corner before I could take more than one step into the court.

Although I didn't panic, from that moment on my opponent could not miss his forehand, and each time he took a cut at it he hit it harder than the time before. I went down in three sets.

I played him two more times over the next five years, and both times he waxed me in straight sets with that huge forehand. He was one of those players that when he got confident with his forehand, everything else started working better, too. It was brutal.

Another year passes and I have a chance to play him again, this time in the semifinals of a tournament. This time, after analyzing the situation from a tactical point of view, I realized that my best bet would be to go to his forehand side early in each point, opening up his weaker backhand wing, then hit a more penetrating ball or even a low, soft chip to his backhand side and follow it in to the net to put away his weaker reply.

Sure enough, it worked like a charm. As it turns out, he was not able to hit hios forehand on the run nearly as well as he could his open-stanced, inside-out version. So even my first ball to his forehand generally was not crushed, which made it easier to control my placement approach shot to his backhand side.

I won that match in two close sets, and then played him again a couple of years later in a final, beating him mhandily in straight sets by employing the same tactic.

What I've learned over the years is that most tennis players prefer some sort of rhythm, a little rallying or feeling each other and the ball out before they make an aggressive play. This is even more evident today than in the days of serve-and-volley tennis, where players attacked out of the gate and did so relentlessly.

So, generally it is safer to hit to an opponent's stronger wing earlier in the point, right off the bat, for example, so as to open up the weaker side. I beleiev even Rafael Nadal would rather hit his big forehand on the third or fourth swing, rather than right away.

Posted by deneys 11/11/2008 at 10:44 AM

Venus is the best, stay healthy & always do your best, keep up the good work, i had voted that you would win & you did it

Posted by Markic 11/11/2008 at 11:15 AM

Steve, you made the absolute key point: even when they lose, they aren't fazed. Serena did something similar vs Henin in their infamous FO final: on henin's first set point in the first set, she hit a rocket return. Difference was, Henin played a solid point after that to take the set. Maybe Vera can learn to do that too - it'll be interesting to see how she fares next year...

Posted by Po-Man 11/11/2008 at 11:20 AM

This was the best, most honest, less fluff piece that I've ever seen on Venus Williams. Fabulous work. I watched this match and when VeraZ went up 40-0, I knew that if Venus won that game, she might not have won the set (we all know about V's serving woes), but the match was a foregone conclusion. It was a very entertaining match. Truth is: when Venus is not donating points to her opponents, she is the best player in the WTA, period. This week, she beat #1, #2, #3, and #4 in the same tourney to get to the final. Tennis historians, has this ever been done before?

Posted by Master Ace 11/11/2008 at 11:51 AM

Po-Man,
Technically, Elena was number 5 and Ana was number 4 when the draw was made. Ana lost 230 pts this week while Elena gained 260.

Posted by Master Ace 11/11/2008 at 11:52 AM

"Ana lost 230 pts this week while Elena gained 260."

Meant to say Elena gained 160.

Posted by yougogirl 11/11/2008 at 01:27 PM

Venus is simply the best when she is at her game. This was a good win for her, playing five games without a loss. What a wonderful win for her. Venus and Serena are the two players who
brought so much to tennis. There power forever changed the game of tennis. They both are still feared by younger tennis players,because of their dominance still show their strength for the game. You can never count them out of any turnament. The women's game would suffer, if not for the Williams sisters. I am a fan forever. Often times you hear about Maria Sharapova and other players, although I must say Maria is a good player, but
Serena showed just how good she is by beating her at Austrailan
Open 2007 and Miami Open 2007, she dominated Maria, in both
events and had not played many games last year. They are simply
the best.

Posted by JillfromNY 11/11/2008 at 02:43 PM

The last paragraph is great!

Posted by Mimi 11/11/2008 at 02:52 PM

I am such a Venus Williams fan. I love tennis and watching her is a joy now. Back in 2006 when she had so many injuries and personal problems, it was painful to watch her lose so badly. I cannot believe a woman at 28 years old is dominating the sport of tennis. I hate the current ranking system because all you have to do is play a lot of tournaments and you can be high in the rankings. Jankovic should be ashamed to say she is the #1 player since she has NEVER won a grand slam. When your career is over, you will be remembered by the number of grand slams you have and not by the quantity of tennis you play. Venus is such a classy woman on and off the court. I use to be a fan of Serena, but she has disappointed me by her behavior toward her sister. I think she is a jealous spoiled brat. As a black woman myself, I am proud that Venus is liked by so many. I hope that she wins in 2009. I also want them both to forgive what happened at Indian Wells. Just because a few people booed them, doesn't mean that they will be treated the same way in the future. Venus is simply the best!

Posted by Massimo 11/11/2008 at 03:39 PM

Great piece Steve
your statements about Venus..Roger..Rafael are all spot on !!
thanks for the great article hope for many more next year

Posted by Vanessa 11/11/2008 at 03:53 PM

Venus and Rafa rock!
If Venus indeed has the 'never should lose' conviction as you say Steve, it certainly should work to her advantage.
But I can also appreciate Nadal's philosophical acceptance of his losses.
They both in their own way have made tennis a better game!

Posted by Conrad 11/11/2008 at 03:59 PM

With the psychological advantage of hearing your father wax on about Serena's superiority gone, a new Venus has emerged - more confident than Serena and more practiced than ever. A woman of her athleticism can do serious damage to the tour, even at 28, even at 30. I hope she doesn't even consider slowing down until the end of 2012.

I hope Venus' success spurs Serena on to get into serious shape, because Venus is leaving her behind.

Posted by Don 11/11/2008 at 04:41 PM

Downplaying one thing to exaggerate another.

Posted by Ruth 11/11/2008 at 05:35 PM

Thanks, Steve, for this wonderful analysis of and commentary on the Venus-Vera match. As I read it, I kept wishing that I'd read it before I watched the replay of the match on TC, which was my first opportunity to see the whole match (uninterrupted by my nervous channel changes during my viewing of it live). But I'm not worried because I'm sure that TC will repeat the final again, and I'll have the pleasure of savoring it while remembering the points that you made in this essay.

After watching the replay along with one of my TC-deprived friends, I commented that, although I'd been following Venus's career for 14 years and although she has been my #1 favorite tennis player for more than a decade, even I can sometimes forget how darn good she can be when she's on her game.

I wonder, Steve, what you think about what several fans and some tennis writers are about Venus being either in the running or the logical choice for Player of the Year because she is the only player who has won 2 of the big 6 events this year (4 Slams, Olympics, YEC).

Posted by Lois 11/11/2008 at 05:54 PM

FINALLY. FINALLY. A GREAT ARTICLE. THANKS

Posted by Master Ace 11/11/2008 at 06:15 PM

Ruth,
I have read that about Venus being the Player of the Year since she closed out the year strong and as you said, won 2 of the biggest 6 events of 2008. There will be an argument for Serena as she won the United States Open, Key Biscayne, Charleston, and a finalist at Wimbledon while Venus had a below average first half.

Posted by tennisLover 11/11/2008 at 06:43 PM

I think Venus really proved that she's still in the game and ready to continue and bulid on her already illustrious career. In the last month i've been happy to see Venus find herself again. She beat every other player in the top 10 in the last month other than Aggie Radwanska who she has thumped before and conquered her nemesis of the season Flavia Penetta, and I know there's still much more to come!!!!

Posted by goplay 11/11/2008 at 06:49 PM

shockingly no references to henin...?

Posted by sally ride 11/11/2008 at 07:16 PM

I have always loved Venus as player and personality. I was just starting to give up on her (especially after she fell in love cuz sometimes we get distracted by that!), but she made a beautiful turn of the corner as she advances in age/career and it looks great on her! I hope she marries Hank and has beautiful tennis playing kids!

Posted by JimF 11/11/2008 at 09:44 PM

why the need for such egregious hyperbole?

.

Posted by tennisesq. 11/11/2008 at 10:32 PM

Steve,
I really enjoyed this piece. It was a wonderful tribute to Venus and highlighted some of the characteristics I love about her. I also enjoyed reading the comments from fellow Venus fans. Interesting compare/contrast with Fed and Rafa.

Her matches are such emotional rollercoasters. She can play brilliant Grand Slam champion tennis one game, then the very next game play like a Tier XIV player on the ITF circuit.

I appreciate every second I see Venus (and Serena) play because I know they won't be playing forever. I hope this win at the YEC is a prelude to a remarkable 2009 for Venus.

Posted by tennisesq. 11/11/2008 at 10:40 PM

I would also like to say how much I enjoyed/appreciated Lindsay Davenport's commentary on TC during Venus's matches. Davenport had nothing but genuine praise for her former opponent. There is certainly a mutual respect between the two.

I remember during a post-match press conference after the 2005 Wimbledon Ladies' singles final. Venus said: if it wasn't her or Serena out there, she would be rooting for Lindsay because she always works so hard. For me, that is one of the most memorable Venus sound bites.

Posted by aldous 11/11/2008 at 10:51 PM

Reading the article was a brief journey but with a satisfying destination. Steve has written a piece about Venus that leaves an indelible feeling of admiration - both for him as a writer and Venus as the subject. More than I love Venus, I am delighted at the ground strokes of Steve as he top spins and slices a ball of opinions into the court of truth. Thanks Steve, and thank you for inspiring again my love for Venus.

Posted by John 11/11/2008 at 11:05 PM

I love Venus. She's so classy on and off court. She's my favorite women's player by far.

Posted by Nick McCarvel 11/12/2008 at 12:22 AM

Tremendous writing here on Venus. Great job, Steve. There really will never be another player like Venus. My question is how long the Williams sisters will keep doing what they're doing in tennis... and can V ever win the French?

Posted by robin 11/12/2008 at 01:50 AM

I humbly disagree.

Prefer Evert, Navratilova.

Posted by SoloSoldier 11/12/2008 at 04:00 AM

I think this an excellent article written about my favorite tennis player of all time. I've been watching her since I was 13 and learned to play the game from watching her (and Serena). Though I'm a guy, I feel like they inspire many females all over the world to believe in themselves and always try their hardest, in spite of what critics say. Though I'm more Serena-like (emotional) at the beginning of the match, I feel like when times get tough I can call on my inner Venus to help me get through. As stated in the article, no matter what happens my self-belief will get me through along with my will-power. I love Venus... and Serena!!!

Posted by roGER 11/12/2008 at 05:18 AM


"You know there will never be another player like her."

I fervently hope that's true.

Posted by rainB 11/12/2008 at 06:02 AM

a hungry young statistician...is there such a being?

Posted by C Wilson 11/12/2008 at 06:59 AM

The Williams sisters have ridden the tide of success and have taken their lumps from critics in the process. However, the article "The inevitable, inimitable Venus, is one of the best I have read in recent years. Analysts like Mary Carillo and Mary Jo have hurt American tennis by critizing players like Venus and Serena because they didn't follow the traditional coaching model. They are so hyped on the Russians, they failed to realize how they "turn of" younger players and parents about the sport. Americans need the next generation of players and need the support of fans and a federation for tennis.

Posted by unknown 11/12/2008 at 09:54 AM

@goplay...this is all about VENUS EBONY STAR WILLIAMS BABY!!!

Posted by unknown 11/12/2008 at 10:03 AM

"I remember during a post-match press conference after the 2005 Wimbledon Ladies' singles final. Venus said: if it wasn't her or Serena out there, she would be rooting for Lindsay because she always works so hard. For me, that is one of the most memorable Venus sound bites."


Lindsey and Venus do respect each other. I remember that post match-interview. It takes a really classy person to give that speech after such a devastating loss. This is why these ladies are two of my favorites.

Posted by unknown 11/12/2008 at 10:10 AM

@JimF...perhaps to you this piece is a flagrant exaggeration,but to many of us this piece is dead on. LOVE YOU VENUS!!!

Posted by Kaygee 11/12/2008 at 10:21 AM

C. Wilson:
"Analysts like Mary Carillo and Mary Jo have hurt American tennis by critizing players like Venus and Serena because they didn't follow the traditional coaching model. They are so hyped on the Russians, they failed to realize how they "turn of" younger players and parents about the sport."

OMG! This has been my exact thought for years - glad that at least one person out there agrees. When are the higher ups at the WTA and ESPN going to do something about the 2 Marys and Pam S. with their negativity towards the Williams sisters - it is too blatant to be overlooked.

One of the reasons I gladly got Tennis Channel is because I was so fed up with the 2 Mary and especially Pam S. negative commentaries. I just love Korina and Lindsay for the matches. Lindsay was always one of my favorites and her wonderful personality is showing on the commentaries. It is a pleasure to listen to her on TC - good work Lindsay - I hope TC is smart enough to keep you around for women's tennis for a long time.

Posted by frances 11/12/2008 at 11:30 AM

She's always been my favorit.

And, oh yeah: Hey Matt Cronin, Venus is 28 years-old. We know. We get it. She's 28. Now please shut up, sit down and go back to pinning for Sharapova.

Posted by Bobby 11/12/2008 at 12:16 PM

John, I love your comment. So concise and that's exactly how I feel.

Posted by Bobby 11/12/2008 at 12:18 PM

John, I love your comment. So concise and that's exactly how I feel.

Posted by frances 11/12/2008 at 01:39 PM

Finally, a tennis writer gives Venus her due. I'm talking to you Matt "I have a crush on Sharapova" Cronin.

Posted by TGE 11/12/2008 at 02:06 PM

Thanks for the great article on Ms. Venus Ebony Starr Williams. She is the greatest and deserves all the props. I agree with Kaygee about the 2 Marys and Pam S. I often wondered why there were so critical about Venus & Serena when they have the best game in the sport. Makes you wonder if they are held in a higher standard than the other girls on the circuit.

I felt that if Vera had not had a meltdown (the first one I had ever seen!)she could have come out of that match with a little more dignity. She fell to the ground and cried like a 5 year old. She really needs to get past that because all that does is fuel her opponent and makes them frustrate her further. Up until then, I thought she played great. But still, she was no match for Venus. Venus is a lady off the court and a killer on the court. She shows no emotion while she polishes off her opponents and you never see her smile until then end. She praises her opponents for their toughness and great play and credits them for making her work harder. She really is a class act.

Posted by Ruth 11/12/2008 at 06:41 PM

TGE: I see that you missed the old days when Vera cried and berated her coach in the stands during every match that she was losing. One tennis site that gave nicknames to all players called her Vera "The Crying Game" Zvonareva. She has really improved in that area in the last year or so, and I was sorry to see even that one relapse that you mentioned.

I didn't see it, but someone said that Billie Jean King, sitting in the stands in Doha, looked thoroughly disgusted at the Vera meltdown; I was just glad there was only one.

I want to remind Venus fans that the Sundance network series, "Iconoclasts," is supposed to feature Venus tomorrow night (10 pm in my area). The series brings together two well-known people from different walks of life and follows them in various settings. (One interesting pairing was Desmond Tutu and Richard Branson.) Venus is paired with Wyclef Jean.

Posted by bluesunflower 11/12/2008 at 06:56 PM

aldous I could not have put this better:
....'Steve has written a piece about Venus that leaves an indelible feeling of admiration - both for him as a writer and Venus as the subject. More than I love Venus, I am delighted at the ground strokes of Steve as he top spins and slices a ball of opinions into the court of truth. Thanks Steve, and thank you for inspiring again my love for Venus.'

Great article Steve. I didnt watch the match but from your description I can see that 'steely implacable unflappable Venus' One thing I admire more about her is that unwavering belief that she will win/die by her own sword constantly going for her shots. Times where you wish she would rein it in a bit or take a step back from the base line. She seems to know no fear. And can there be a more magnificent (or scary for the opponent) sight than Venus going forward towards the net.



Posted by jovan 11/13/2008 at 04:08 AM

I think you should say that Spirlea ran into venus....Venus is by far one of my favorite players and is apart of my most favorite womens match of all time..the 2005 wimbledon finals against lindsay davenport...

Posted by ncot 11/13/2008 at 05:35 AM

guys!!! awesome!!!

to cap it all, here's a tribute music:

"Venus, I'm Ready" by Wyclef Jean.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Y1CPVw-C8c

Posted by SuperTrooper 11/13/2008 at 02:24 PM

I just want to congrulate on a terrific article. I have been looking for a piece like this since the tournament has ended. I actually was quite sad when it ended.

Posted by Sandy 11/13/2008 at 03:13 PM

Venus as always been gracious. As much as I love Serena she needs to learn how to take losing to her sister more maturely. She never did congratulate Venus after she won SEC. If it was the other way around Venus would have been all over her.

Posted by Henrietta 11/13/2008 at 10:05 PM

Venus was just great at the SEC. I love to watch her play

Posted by 11/14/2008 at 05:36 AM

Awesome article, Steve. An even more awesome player is Venus Williams. She rocks!

Posted by Agus Arshad 11/14/2008 at 09:08 AM

When Venus decides to retire, my world would be less sunny without having her around- that's how much I love her- i have followed her since she burst onto the scene and she is a CLASS ACT! She is so professional and is always very positive- I was so appalled that Serena did not even seem to congratulate V on her SEC victory- Serena is such a sore loser!I can't believe that she could not get her fat ass off her seat to even shake Venus's hand!
Good luck V for 2009 and hope you play for the next 3 or 4 years.

Posted by Terrence 11/14/2008 at 01:15 PM

Venus is simply the best! When everything is in sync, there is no tennis player, including Serena, that can beat her. When she playing subpar, it still takes the other players a great deal to beat her.

This has been a wonderful reminder of how great Venus really is!

Posted by Sandra 11/14/2008 at 03:51 PM

Steve,
I have never in my life read such a moving article about Venus. I have watch she and Serena since day one of their careers. I would like to see more of your articles written in the future. This article is a testament to you as a writer and Venus as a player. I also would like to thank the true lovers of this sport for their heart felt comments. Venus you are in my court for 2009. I think you have reach the point of no return. Good luck to you and I pray that you stay injury free. You are the best.

Posted by Sue D 11/14/2008 at 05:23 PM

Venus forever! I have made a conscious decision that Vee is my daughter. Sorry Orcene, there are many of us who have laid claim to your Venus Ebony Star. We love her so. She is the best. Words cannot explain how I feel about Vee. No one compares. Just love, love, love her. I know I am sick, I love her.

Posted by Venusfan 11/14/2008 at 06:36 PM

Venus has certainly grown into a smart player and mature individual. I still remember the young Venus, who maddeningly couldn't embrace her net game and bought into her father's hype. Now, she's quiet, reserved, and gracious even in defeat. If only her sister has grown up the same way. Of all the top players, Venus now has the most rounded game because she can play offense, defense with her incredible speed, and most importantly can volley.

Posted by goodloser 11/14/2008 at 08:37 PM

Great article steve, thank you.

I don't think Venus is gracious in defeat. That statement by venusfan is practically unsupportable. Please, enlighten us, if you can.

Posted by janice person 11/14/2008 at 09:07 PM

i really like the williams sisters, both of them, and i do approve the way they do other things in there like, and not all tennis. there parents have raised and taught them well. thanks to there god jehovah. they are blessed and will continue to do well.

Posted by WOOOOO 11/14/2008 at 11:55 PM

I LOVE VENUS! awesome article steve; venus is a role model to people everywhere. shes simply the best

Posted by B.j. 11/15/2008 at 10:37 AM

Venus has always been this way. Even when Hingis beat her in 97 at the Open and celebrated like it was her last Slam and it was almost the last, she went back to the drawing board. She didn't play on the kiddy circuit where a child and parents innocence is impacted so negatively. She wanted to win Grand Slams, not tournaments, that's what seperates her and Serena from the pack. You want to know something, Borg was cool, but nobody was cooler or chillier under pressure, bigotry or playing unwinnable matches than Arthur Ashe. You think Mac thought balls were on the lines. How about knowing the ball was inside the lines and not the chair nor line judge calling it fairly or showing an ounce of integrity in the 60's or early 70's. Arthur Ashe kept it all in, so no one could say "see, look at that angry negro" He was the calmest athlete of all-time......period!!!!!!!!!

Posted by ivory penamon 11/15/2008 at 02:51 PM

Man....This was a great piece!! I love Venus and Serena, but V has always been my favorite. I would like to agree with some of the others on here also with Serena just sitting down and not doing anything when Venus won...i know she loves her but be a good sport! Low key she always tries to blame her shots not going in without giving credit to her big sister for just beating her! I think Venus understands that and she is the big sis and knows that serena is her little sister and she knows how serena is! I pray venus def wins wimbledon again bc she can def go down as the greatest female grass court tennis player ever but I would also like her to win the aussy open or the french this year!! Hey win all four...lol

Posted by Ruth 11/15/2008 at 05:12 PM

Several people have used the phrase "simply the best" in commenting about Venus, and I wondered if you'd seen the YouTube clip from the trophy presentation at Zurich this year when a singer and guitarist came on court to sing the Tina Turner song in which that phrase appears. It's definitely one of my favorite Venus moments:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCaPvKSHen8

Posted by Takver 11/15/2008 at 05:39 PM

@ Ruth
That youtube clip is hilarious. I love how Venus just takes the wailing guitar and off-key singing in her stride as she does her little dance.

@ BJ:
Good point about Arthur Ashe. Althea Gibson was probably another one who knew how to be calm and chill under pressure.

Posted by JillfromNY 11/16/2008 at 12:09 AM

Ruth, Thanx so much for that youtube clip of Vee. It was absolutely hilarious. lol! lol! lol! I have never seen any presentation like that. I was uncomfortable for Vee, but she handled it perfectly.

Posted by TOPCAT33 11/16/2008 at 04:41 PM

I HAVE A COMMENT ON THE TWO MARY'S AND PAM. WE NOTICED YEARS AGO HOW THEY "DOWNED" THE WILLIAMS SISTERS. AT ONE POINT I RECALLED MARY C. SAYING " I WISH SOMEONE WOULD KNOCK HER OFF HER PEDESTAL" MEANING VENUS.WE WERE BLOWNED AWAY WHEN SHE SAID THIS. THEY WERE TOOTING MARIA'S GAME AND KNOCKING THE WILLIAMS SISTERS.TWO AMERICAN ANNOUNCERS BERATING AMERICAN PLAYERS AND PRASING A RUSSIAN PLAYER... MARY JO HAS CHANGED HER COMMENTS TOWARD THE WILLIAMS SISTERS WHICH ARE FAVORABLE. AT ONE TIME WHEN MARY C. WAS MAKING NEGATIVE COMMENTS ABOUT THE WILLIAMS SISTERS ( EARLIER THIS YEAR), PAM HAD ENOUGH... SHE SAID" WE HAD BETTER HOPE THE WILLIAMS SISTERS HANG AROUND BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL WE HAVE". SHE DOES NOT SEE ANY PLAYER LIKE THE WILLIAMS SISTER COMING UP IN THE RANKS IN THE UNITED STATES.SINCE THAT COMMENT WAS MADE, MARY C HAS STOPPED THE NEGATIVE TALK. I MUST GIVE HER CREDIT ON THE WAY SHE COMMENTATED ABOUT THEM PLAYING IN WIMBLEDOM. SHE WAS TOTALLY IN AWE AND SHOWED IT IN HER COMMENTS.

Posted by ldjwilson 11/16/2008 at 07:40 PM

It is refreshing to see a postive article on Venus. She has proven time and again that she is simply the best all around female tennis player out there because she represents her sport well on and off the court.

I concur with the comments about the 2 Mary's and Pam (don't forget Chrissy at Wimbledon.) Often the comments were so negative that I had to watch the sisters' matches with the volume turned down or off. In the end it was okay because I loved how the sisters silenced the detractors with their tennis.

I'm still a little miffed with the commentators for how they have sullied the image of the sport of tennis (and pissed off tennis fans) with their negativity. They were especially rough with the Williams sisters those first years after their older sister was murdered. (i.e. Their games are in decline, their best is behind them, they have squandered their talent... etc) I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for Venus and Serena to be in a familiar place like centre court Wimbledon and look up in the stands expecting to see their sister and then to remember her death and the circumstances, the last time she was there, how their mom might be feeling etc. Its amazing that they could play at all.

Posted by Dylan 11/16/2008 at 10:19 PM

Venus is awesome, I <3 her and shrapova

Posted by lisab 11/19/2008 at 02:06 AM

Love the article Steve! Venus has always been my favorite since her improbable run at the '97 USO, and now my 10-year-old son says it every time we watch a match together. Even he can appreciate how terrific her demeanor is on and off court. She's the only female tennis player he will watch.

Absolutely agree about the female commentators going a little too far... and I believe this is why John McEnroe (of all people) started inserting himself as a regular commentator of Grand Slam matches that involve the sisters. He's hilarious and much more objective. Honestly, I would much rather listen to Tracy Austin's commentary than the Marys and Pam.

Posted by Valeria Barnes 11/20/2008 at 12:29 PM

I have been a fan of both of the sisters for years and I am in total agreements of the anti announcers who make it seem as though these young ladies have done them harm and thatthey are not somehow Americans.Only if you are from another country do you get the credit deserved.If we must be subjected to their harmful opinions then maybe they should be on the court and play the game so we can see how great they are or were when they were playing.Oops did I say something wrong.Lets just face both the girls are great and they make me proud .Keep on going and surpass as many records as you can.

Posted by JoMurphy 11/22/2008 at 09:34 AM

Finally, a true writer. How AWESOME! Wow, I thought I was the only one that noticed Serena did not get out her seat. Serena hurts me when Venus wins. She shows her selfishness and lack of that Venus so proudly gives to her. The women commentators, this too I thought would go unknown, it is so good to hear others show recognition of. Thank God for the Tennis Channel, I can not take another Pam or Mary..... Pam's, Mary's did you forget they too are

Posted by yougogirl 01/05/2009 at 09:27 PM

Both Mary Carillo and Pam Shriver should be replaced as analysis.
They have both verbally abused the Great Williams sisters until
I am sick and tired of it and must speak out. Their praise of
Russian players is forever praised by them whether they win or lose. This speaks a great deal of their preferences. Venua and
Serena are the only two players left for America. I am proud of
their game and more proud that they are still playing and making
America proud. Where can complaints be sent for their removal in
2009 enough is enough.


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