- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 6, 2002

WIMBLEDON, England There's a shameless new trend in the tennis world. Instead of celebrating the staggering success of the game's wonder women, it's become fashionable to take potshots at the Slam Sisters.
The most recent bit of bitterness directed at Venus and Serena Williams came courtesy of Wimbledon also-ran Amelie Mauresmo, who had the gall to suggest that today's all-Williams final at the All England Club is bad for the sport.
"I think it's a little bit sad for women's tennis," Mauresmo said Thursday, still smarting after 20-year-old Serena turned her over her knee in the semifinals (6-2, 6-1). "I think people are going to get bored about it. It was already the final at the French Open. You know, I'm not counting how many people since yesterday told me, 'We don't want a Williams final.'"
Hey, now there's a pertinent point from one of the sport's most agile minds. Who needs competition? Let's just hold a poll among the fans on site to determine the final. At Wimbledon, such an exercise might have yielded a finale pitting Brit Elena Baltacha against marketing tool Anna Kournikova. Who cares if neither player was seeded entering the fortnight? Who cares if the caliber of the tennis might set the sport back three decades? Heck, let's just call the match off and have a strip show at Centre Court. Then Anna might actually win something.
A similar dominance equals predictability equals boredom mentality has pervaded life on the PGA Tour since Tiger Wood began hoarding golf's goodies. But unlike Mauresmo, few of Tiger's would-be rivals have had the audacity to heave verbal manure at golf's golden child. Perhaps we can chalk this up to maturity, because most of Tiger's Tour brethren are considerably older than the 23-year-old Mauresmo.
In time, hopefully Mauresmo will figure out what Tiger's victims seem to understand. The Williams sisters, like Tiger, bring popularity and wealth to everyone involved in the sport. If you find their budding dominance tedious, as Mauresmo obviously does, do something about it. Stop whining and start winning.
But Mauresmo is far from the only one hurling aspersions at the Williamses. A startling percentage of the media is in on the act as well. Just yesterday a columnist in the Daily Telegraph trotted out the same baseless drivel we've read for years that father Richard determines the winner before their head-to-head matches. This nonsense started several years ago when that bastion of enlightenment called the National Enquirer published a story tabbing Richard as the grand puppeteer. Incredibly, both a portion of the media and certain players believed the story.
Two years ago, when Venus and Serena met in the semifinals at Wimbledon, Lindsay Davenport was asked to pick a winner.
"You'll have to ask Richard," said Davenport, only half joking.
But folks, including John McEnroe, continue to drag out this hackneyed allegation although Richard hasn't attended a Grand Slam in a year. And anybody remotely close to the situation knows that Richard would have a tough time fixing a sandwich, much less a Grand Slam final.
On Thursday, Venus stopped just short of admitting her father was completely loopy. When asked what she thought Richard would do if he caught up with Serena's German stalker, Venus rolled her eyes and replied, "Probably take him to lunch."
That brings us to another angle of criticism that has been heaped on the Slam Sisters. Both Richard and mother Oracene are relatively easy targets. The owner of this space has taken more than his share of swipes at the estranged couple and their strange ways. But it's impossible to argue with their results.
"No matter what people say about my dad and my mom, hey, they've made some champions," said Serena.
Not if you listen to a number of hushed voices in the press room, who think steroids might be the sisters' secret to success. Sure, they're bigger and stronger than anyone else on Tour. But where's the proof that drugs, and not hard work, are responsible? It doesn't exist. That hasn't stopped some from clamoring for random off-site drug testing, which the WTA announced this week it's considering. But until proven otherwise, you have to assume that everyone on the women's tour is clean. That's how this legal system thing works.
So enough of the innuendo and rumor-mongering and sour grapes. It's time for the critics to close their mouths and open their eyes to the most staggering sibling rivalry in sports history.


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