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Versatile Venus has much thinking to do

February 18, 2004 14:33 IST
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Niggles, knocks and persistent injuries have undermined Venus Williams for the bulk of her career.

For all those physical failings it could well be a psychological weak spot which ends up driving her out of tennis.

Stomach pulls, wrist strains and a range of tendinitis injuries have pock-marked the American's professional career and this week she was forced out of the Antwerp Diamond Games.

That she has the physique to return from this latest setback -- a knee problem -- is beyond doubt.

Whether or not she has the resilience to return to the top of the game, the heart to put in the long hours required on the practice court, is another matter altogether.

Four times a grand slam winner, Venus returned to the big stage at the start of this year. Her trip to the Australian Open was her first competitive outing since losing to little sister Serena in the final of Wimbledon 2003.

"Oh yes I am back now," she nodded confidently after thrashing fellow American Ashley Harkleroad 6-2 6-1 in round one.

Her fragile belief was shattered days later in the third round when she was beaten by doubles specialist Lisa Raymond.

"I'm pretty much in shock," was her honest analysis. "It's like 'Noooooooo'."

"TENNIS TOURIST"

Instead of hitting the practice courts, Venus had other plans. "So I have two weeks off now woe is me. I'll be a tennis tourist, go see the Twelve Apostles now, who knows, Ayers Rock - all those good things," she grinned.

Whether Venus did venture to the red centre of Australia is not the issue. What is telling is that she then pulled out of the Pan Pacific Open after just one match, citing a leg problem.

"It's not really funny. But good things come to those who work hard and I will," she told the disappointed

Tokyo crowd earlier this month.

Fans in Antwerp were left disappointed again this week when Venus was a no-show.

"Venus aggravated her knee during (last month's) Australian Open...she re-aggravated her knee at last week's Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo," a statement on the tournament's website said.

Champion in Antwerp in 2002 and 2003, Venus would have won outright the gold and diamond racket worth a million euros ($1.28 million) had she triumphed again in Belgium.

While money is clearly no longer a major motive for the multi-millionairess, it seems increasingly clear that tennis goals are becoming less important to the 23-year-old.

Certainly her off-court pursuits are many and varied.

"FANCY HOTELS"

A career in design is burgeoning and these days the striking American, forced to grow up in front of the cameras, has more on her mind than forehands and backhands.

Already she is chief executive of her company V Starr Interiors, named after her own exotic moniker, Venus Ebone Starr Williams.

She has been spending more and more time 'hands-on' at the company's Palm Beach Gardens headquarters in Florida.

"I go to the office, I pick out fabrics, I take telephone calls, I do all kinds of things," she said last year.

While on the WTA Tour she developed an eye for interiors "staying in fancy hotels, shopping at pricey stores and visiting historical places".

She is already certified as an interior decorator and is due to graduate with a degree in fashion design from the Art Institute at Fort Lauderdale.

Her company motto boasts "Your wish is our design".

Right now it is Venus's wishes which are in question.

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Source: REUTERS
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