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9:13AM

S.F. Examiner: No Slam talk: Serena shuts it down after beating Venus

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

WIMBLEDON, England — Time had stopped, more accurately gone backward. The Williams sisters were at it once more, powering serves, ripping forehands, making us feel young again, making us feel part of an era when women’s tennis was distilled down to two names, Venus and Serena.

“Come on Williams!” a voice shouted during the first set of their Wimbledon fourth-rounder, and laughter rippled around Centre Court. Yeah, come on Williams, because out there in the sunshine and history, reprising an act that never gets boring, a Williams would succeed.

Read the full story here.

©2015 The San Francisco Examiner

9:42AM

S.F. Examiner: No black bras, green headbands at 21st-century Wimbledon

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

WIMBLEDON, England — The authorities are making underwear checks at Wimbledon. But only for the women, of course. “It’s creepy,” said Caroline Wozniacki, one of the top female players and social media targets. The ladies get equal pay at The Championships, but very unequal scrutiny.

It’s still the 19th Century around here. Eugenie Bouchard, the Canadian, reportedly was fined the other day for wearing a black bra under the obligatory white blouse, causing Claire Cohen of the Telegraph to write, “It’s 2015 and we’re still discussing female tennis players’ lingerie over their performance on court.”

Read the full story here.

©2015 The San Francisco Examiner

1:58PM

Venus: ‘I can look back with no regrets’

By Art Spander

WIMBLEDON, England — She won a match Wednesday, beat a woman, Kurumi Nara, even lower in the rankings than she is. Venus Williams kept herself in Wimbledon and kept the doubters at a distance, neither of which is a small task.

Williams was 34 a few days ago. That’s ancient in tennis. Her 7-6 (4), 6-1 victory in a match that began just after 11:30 a.m. put her into the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2013 Australian Open, a span of six events.

She still can bring it, but probably against women who never brought it.

These are strange times for Venus, who sits at No. 31 in the WTA standings — sister Serena is first — and is beset by an autoimmune disorder, Sjogren’s syndrome, that causes fatigue.

She keeps playing competitively, which is both admirable and perplexing. Watching her get bumped out of the Australian Open in the first round or the French Open in the second becomes unsettling.

We remember the way it was and cringe at the way it is.

Not that Venus or any other athlete is required to please us, if she can please herself.

Chris Evert, as the years grew and her placement in the rankings declined, asked rhetorically what was wrong with just reaching the semifinals or the quarters. All Evert knew was tennis. All Venus knows is tennis.

A week ago, the concern in sports was Lucy Li. Some insisted the 11-year-old from Northern California was too young to play in the U.S. Women’s Open golf championship. Now we worry about Venus Williams being too old to play tennis.

Venus called her victory “a step in the right direction,” although her game, a victim of time and Sjogren’s, has been going in the wrong direction.

Twenty years she’s been at it, reaching the summit, winning the titles. A long time, a far distance, reasons to remember the past more than to consider the future.

It was a cool evening in Oakland, almost 20 years ago, Halloween night 1994, when a 14-year-old from Compton with beads in her hair faced pros from the WTA in her debut. Venus beat Shaun Stafford, who predicted, “She’s going to be great for women’s tennis.” That Williams lost the next match to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario didn’t matter a bit.

So many possibilities. So much excitement. Now, so many questions, most dismissed by Venus, who at times acts and talks as if nothing has changed from the golden era of victories at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open.

Asked if she even considered the match against Nara could be her last singles ever at Wimbledon, Williams was perturbed. “No,” she said, “I definitely don’t think that way. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.”

An odd phrase, in a way, when she will not agree to a summing up of her career.

Derek Jeter can take his victory lap. Venus Williams is taking her time, lingering as long as possible in the only world she has known since a teenager.

It’s basically one Williams in the spotlight, Serena, who is 32 but the tournament’s No. 1 seed. Venus is out there on the fringe, being questioned on what it’s like when she and Serena both are in the second week of major championship, as once they were.

“I think we motivate each other,” said Venus. “We want to see each other win. I guess I haven’t held up my end of the bargain. I tried. I just haven’t had the luck I wanted.”

Without the Sjogren’s, for which she was diagnosed in 2011, she’s a better player. However, tennis is a sport of the young, and healthy or not, a 34-year-old is at a disadvantage. The kid across the net has the reflexes you used to have. Perception is no substitute for reaction.

“Wisdom has served me well,” countered Venus when reminded of her age. “I’ve worn my sunscreen, so I haven’t aged terribly. My knees are very tight, not saggy. And the crow’s feet have been kept at bay. So I’ll give myself an A-plus.”

She looks fine. It’s her tennis that’s saggy, not the knees. Still, she’s not prepared to surrender to any opponent, including Father Time.  

“I don’t like watching it on TV,” she said when asked what keeps her going. “I want to be out there. I’m not about the easy thing. Life is a challenge. For me, when I leave tennis, I want it to be on my own terms.

“I want to look back with no regrets. So far in my career I can do that. Everyone messes up. Everyone chokes. Everyone gets tight. Everyone loses matches they should have won. But as long as you walked out there and gave it your all, you can look back with no regrets.”

Yes, wisdom has served her well. Very well.

9:34AM

RealClearSports: 'Tough-as-Nails' Venus Out in 1st Round

By Art Spander
For RealClearSports.com

WIMBLEDON, England — The response was a fusion of philosophy and defiance. A champion never concedes, which is why she is a champion. For a decade, Venus Williams, a queen here in a land of royalty, unquestionably was a champion of grace and grandeur.

Now, in one of those awful twists of fate, Venus has been stricken by an autoimmune disease named Sjogren's Syndrome, which has sapped her strength and stolen her brilliance.

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2012

10:17AM

SF Examiner: In the aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11, we've grown stronger

By Art Spander
Special to The Examiner


It was supposed to be the men’s singles final today, but fate and the weather have upset the schedule. On this painful anniversary, on a court in a complex only a few miles from ground zero, it will be the ladies who take the stage at the U.S. Open.

Aside the Long Island Expressway from Manhattan to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, a route contestants, officials and media travel, there is a billboard with only three words: “Honor. Remember. Unite.”



Read the full story here.

Copyright 2011 SF Newspaper Company
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