Bill Simons and Douglas Hochmuth
A PILGRIM’S GUIDE TO PLANET VENUS
- One of the great suggestions in tennis history came years ago from the colorful journalist Gianni Clerici. At the time the sport was hurting, and the Italian commentator, referring to Serena and Venus, said, “What the game needs is a third sister.” Well, there are only two tennis-playing Williams sisters, but they keep on keeping on. Often when one is stymied, the other excels. Of late, it’s usually been Serena who goes deeper into tourneys – she reached the Wimbledon and US Open finals and the quarters in Melbourne. But, for the second year in a row, Venus has gone further at Indian Wells than her younger sister.
- So we asked “V” if she gets a little more motivation after Serena’s had a tough day in the office, like she had yesterday when she retired against Garbine Muguruza due to a viral infection. Venus said, “I’ve watched Serena win so many times, and those wins always felt like we were all winning. So when she loses, which isn’t often, it’s a really foreign feeling and probably a shock for everybody.” Today Venus beat New Jersey qualifier Christina McHale, who’s No. 140. Williams will next play German Mona Barthel in the fourth round. The German took out No. 17 seed Madison Keys and then defeated No. 15 seed Julia Gorges. Venus is 3-0 against Barthel, who’s ranked No. 97.
- It’s always great if your ranking is lower than your age. And that formula still works for Venus. She’s 38, and ranked No. 36.
- Speaking of numbers, when PA announcer Andrew Krasny asked Venus, who owns the EleVen by Venus apparel company, what the number 11 means to her, she said, “Going beyond your limits and being more than 10.” When IT asked Venus to rank her career on a scale of one to eleven, she said “In terms of effort? Well, if 11 is the max, definitely an 11.” And we asked, “What about in terms of enjoyment?” She replied, “Wow, to work this hard, and have no life, you have to enjoy it!”
- Venus is the only American woman left in the singles draw. Isner is the only US man still standing.
THE NEXT NEW SUPERSTAR? Felix Auger-Aliassime, who beat the 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas in his opening match, fell behind 5-1 in the third set to Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka. He was on the brink of defeat, then surged with power. He saved three match points. Paul Annacone said that the eighteen-year-old, who reached the Rio Open final, “has regrouped like no other teenager…since Mats Wilander. It’s been ice water in the Canadian’s veins.” Of course, Canadians know a thing or two about ice. Then, in a thrilling third-set tiebreak, Nishioka prevailed.
PICK YOUR ACCOLADE: Djokovic is the only man to have won all 9 Masters titles. Rafa has won an incredible 11 French Open titles. A fellow named Federer has 20 Slams and 100 titles. And that’s darned good, too.
BACK-TO-BACK: Yesterday we had back-to-back appearances of the two most famous, bigger-than-the-sport-itself personalities – Roger and Serena…Within minutes today, Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka and Naomi Osaka won…Tonight, the men’s and women’s No. 1 players – Osaka and Djokovic – played back-to-back, until Novak’s match was rained out.…In the two biggest American tournaments of the past six months, Chris Evert won awards. She was given the USTA’s President’s Award at the US Open, and in Indian Wells she received the Annalee Thurston Award, that benefits the Love & Love Tennis Foundation.
ALEXANDER THE NEARLY GREAT: Alexander Zverev is just fabulous – what an appealing talent. Only 21, he’s already in the top three. He’s won three Masters titles, the ATP Finals, and he’s often touted as the next great thing. The only problemo is that in the 17 Slams he’s played, he’s only reached one quarter-final. Today he lost his third-round match to a fellow German, No. 55 Jan-Lennard Struff.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE? After Naomi Osaka’s win over Danielle Collins, the Indian Wells PA announcer wanted the defending champion, who has won 11 matches in a row, to talk about the beauty of Indian Wells and asked if she’d seen all the flowers in the area. The 21-year old quipped, “I didn’t know there were flowers here.”
GO FIGURE: Osaka, who’s won the two last majors, played 12 Slams before winning the US Open. Until then she’d never gotten past the fourth round in a Slam.
LOW INFORMATION CHAMPION: Li Na reflected on Naomi Osaka, commenting, “You can’t see a lot of information on her face.’
BATTLE OF THE LOVE PARTNERS? Who are the best pro couples, tennis-wise, in history? These days you might say Gael Monfils and his girlfriend Elina Svitolina, who are ranked No. 19 and 6 and share a joint Instagram. Then again, Dominic Thiem and Kiki Mladenovic aren’t too shabby. But how would they do against Stefanie Graf and Andre Agassi, or Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe and Stacy Margolin? And what other great tennis lovers have excelled?
“This could be one that the Cheech in the chair gets wrong.” – Mary Carillo when it seemed that celebrated chair ump Marija Cicak was wrong.
NOT PULLING HIS LEG: Rising Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka revealed that pulling at Dmitry Tursunov’s ponytail was the best part of her sometimes fun-loving relationship with her Russian coach…Sabalenka added that she wanted to play until she was 33 and then have babies. But she hesitated to say whether she could win a Slam while pregnant as Serena did.
DEEP SORROW: Brit Dan Evans was so upset and ashamed about his use of cocaine, which led to his suspension, that there was a period of time when he couldn’t even watch tennis.
HEY ROGER – “KEI TO GO”: Everyone is singing Federer’s praises these days, including Kei Nishikori. The Japanese star said, “It’s something incredible to see. He works harder than anyone. They say he plays very smooth. He puts so little stress on his body.”
(Additional reporting by Douglas Hochmuth)