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No credit for style, says Serena

Los Angeles: She has won the last three Grand Slam titles and lost only one match since June, yet Serena Williams still feels she and her elder sister Venus are not appreciated enough.

Yes, they are athletic. Yes, they hit the ball with a power not seen in the women’s game before. But Serena wants more recognition that the Williams sisters use their brains on court and can construct a point as well as anyone.

“I don’t get the credit, I use more angles than anyone,” said Serena, the world number one. “A lot of people started using angles because of me. In that sense, we’re not getting credit. They’re saying we’re athletic or run well but don’t say: ‘That was a good play to hit behind that girl.’ ”

Responding to a comment made by her mother Oracene that “black people are always just viewed as athletes — they’re strong and tough but can’t think”, Serena said she thought that her mother was being fair.

“All the commentators say how Venus and I are so athletic,” said Serena at a news conference to promote the season-ending WTA Championships in Los Angeles from November 6 to 11.

“They say ‘look at the athleticism of her game’. It’s never she won because she used finesse. I don’t hit every ball hard. That’s what I did when I was losing. When I first broke in the top 100, I stopped that because you can’t hit hard like that.

“Some shots I will hit hard but not every ball. I’m not just using my power.”

Tennis Tigers

Former world number one Lindsay Davenport recently remarked that it was incredible to have two elite athletes from one family at the top of their sport, saying: “Can you imagine Tiger Woods walking down the 18th fairway with his brother battling it out for the victory'”

Serena agreed. “That’s the way you have to look at it. We’re really fighting. Seeing Tiger — I guess his brother’s name would be ‘Bear’ — those two going at it. It’s really special and brings a different colour to tennis.”

After being upset by Magdalena Maleeva three weeks ago in a Moscow tournament, Venus, ranked second in the world, said she was getting bored with tennis and might need to spend more time with off-court activities to add spice to her life.

Venus lost to Serena in the final of the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open this year.

“It’s the fall blues,” Serena said. “Everyone’s played the Grand Slams, the pressure’s off but you have to keep proving yourself at the smaller tournaments and it’s hard to get up for them. That’s been the difference for me this year. I’ve been able to get up for them even when I didn’t want to. Venus will come back strong.”

Serena has won eight titles this year and pulled out of three European tournaments this month due to fatigue.

Improved standard

Serena believes her success this year has changed the way the game is played and the way her rivals prepare and has improved standards across the women’s tour.

“Yes, just like Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles did,” Serena said. “The girls have improved a lot. I see more girls in the gym now. They’re getting stronger, which is great for women’s tennis because you can see tougher matches.

“The bar’s been raised. I’ve faced players I used to have an easy time with but now they’ve improved.”

In 2001 and for the first half of this year, a cluster of players were rivals for the number one spot — Venus, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis and Davenport.

But after her stellar summer, Serena has pulled away.

“I decided I needed to get more serious,” Serena said. ‘Venus did that a couple years ago. This year I raised my game. I was tired of losing to players I shouldn’t lose to and there were people ranked ahead of me who shouldn’t have been. That was the last straw.”

The first player since Hingis in 1997-1998 to win three straight majors, Serena is carrying an aura of near-invincibility. The 20-year-old American is so confident that she believes she can win a calendar-year Grand Slam in 2003. “I could,” she said. “I just have to stay calm and relaxed.”

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