Richard Williams, the paterfamilias of tennis's sister act,
rarely permitted daughters Venus and Serena (right) to watch
television while they were growing up. He made an exception for
the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. "Not just tennis, but also
swimming, track, gymnastics--they watched it all," he says. "I
told them if they worked hard, that could be them representing
Eight years later, Venus and Serena make up half of the
murderers' row that is the U.S. women's tennis team. With the
Williamses, Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles, the Americans
will field four of the world's top six players, and, in
Davenport, the 1996 gold medal winner. (That world No. 1 Martina
Hingis, No. 4 Mary Pierce and even No. 12 Anna Kournikova have
begged off going to Sydney only increases the likelihood of U.S.
domination.) "Any of our singles players can win," says coach
Billie Jean King. "A sweep of the [women's] medals by the U.S.
isn't out of the question."
The Yanks are so deep that the world's top-ranked women's doubles
player, Lisa Raymond, didn't make the team. King instead chose
Serena for the doubles-only position. Claiming that King had
reneged on a promise to follow the rankings and instead made what
Raymond described as the "politically correct" choice, Raymond
filed a grievance with the USTA to claim the spot she believed
was rightfully hers. An arbitrator ruled in favor of the USTA.
Whatever the rankings say, the Williams sisters will be the
overwhelming favorite to finish on top Down Under. Just ask them.
"We are the best doubles team America has because it's impossible
to beat two of us," says Venus. "No matter how bad we play, one
of us is going to be playing pretty well."
Not exactly in the spirit of Olympic humility and goodwill,
perhaps--but, hey, it's hard to argue with her.
--L. Jon Wertheim