Saturday, June 16, 2012

Leander Paes & Venus Williams

Leander Paes was born on 17 June 1973, in Calcutta, India. Belonging to the Goan Catholic community in Calcutta (the present day Kolkata), his parents - father Vece Paes and mother Jennifer Paes were sportspersons. Vece was a midfielder in the Indian field hockey team, while Jennifer was a basketball player. Leander Paes attended La Martiniere School and graduated from St. Xavier's College in Calcutta. Thereafter, he was enrolled into the Britannia Amritraj Tennis Academy in Madras in 1985, where he was given training by Coach Dave O'Meara. Paes sharpened his skills in tennis by practicing at the Academy.

Early Life
Right from his early entry to tennis, Leander Paes proved to be a promising player. He won titles at the Junior US Open and the Junior Wimbledon, thus making the promise even stronger. Thereafter, he decided to take up tennis as his profession and turned into a professional tennis player in 1991. He shot into limelight, when he was ranked the World No.1 player in junior rankings. In the following year, he made it to the quarter finals of the doubles match in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, by pairing with veteran tennis player Ramesh Krishnan.

Success In Career
Paes continued to perform outstandingly, as the time passed by. In 1996, he represented India at the Atlanta Olympics and won bronze medal, thus becoming the Indian tennis player, next to KD Jadhav, to win an individual Olympic medal for India. The scintillating performance fetched Paes the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 1996. Thereafter, Paes partnered with Mahesh Bhupathi to add to the tally of his titles. The Paes-Bhupathi combination proved a reward for the Indian tennis, as the duo brought a number of titles to the homeland. They entered the semi-finals of the US Open in 1997.

The doubles team of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi continued to dominate a number of tennis tournaments. One of the notable achievements of Paes-Bhupathi pair was the entry to the semi-finals of three Grand Slams - the Australian Open, the French Open and the US Open - in 1998. The duo created a record, by reaching the finals of all the four Grand Slams, in 1999. By winning the French Open and the Wimbledon, Paes-Bhupathi team became the first Indian pair to have won a doubles event at a Grand Slam tournament.

Apart from pairing with Mahesh Bhupathi, Paes has teamed up with Lisa Raymond to win the Mixed doubles event at Wimbledon in 1999. In the following year, he paired with Sébastien Lareau for the Australian Open and Jan Siemerink for the French Open. However, in both the events, they were defeated in the first round itself. Paes partnered with Bhupathi for the US Open, which fetched defeat in the very first round. Despite of wining the French Open in 2001, the Paes-Bhupathi duo lost in the first round in the other three Grand Slams of the year. Paes picked up pace in 2003, when he won Wimbledon and Australian Open mixed doubles crowns with Martina Navratilova.

In the following years, Leander Paes put more focus on his doubles and mixed doubles game. He featured at many Mixed Doubles events, where he registered wins and tasted defeat too. After failing at the semi final stage of doubles event at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games (when he paired with Bhupathi), Paes emerged victorious at the US Open doubles event in 2006. He was chosen the captain of the Indian tennis team at the Doha Asian Games in 2006, in which, he won two gold medals in the Men's Doubles event (teaming Mahesh Bhupathi) and Mixed Doubles (paired with Sania Mirza).

Present Day
Leander Paes continues to be one of the promising Indian tennis players. He was ranked among the top 20 players in the world doubles ranking in 2005 and maintained the position until 2007. He has taken his doubles tally to a whopping 38 times, as per recorded in May 2007. Although he had a split with his compatriot Bhupathi, the duo teamed up again at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. By teaming with Cara Black, Leander Paes won the US Open Mixed Doubles title in 2008. Although he is towards the end of his career, Paes continues to maintain his charm and authoritativeness, whenever he is on the tennis court.

Venus Williams
Venus Ebony Starr Williams was born June 17, 1980 in Lynwood, California. Her parents, Oracene and Richard, already had three daughters, Yetunde, Isha and Lyndrea. A fifth daughter, Serena, would follow 15 months later.

Richard and Oracene worked hard to support their children and give them opportunities to rise above the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles. Richard ran his own security company; Oracene was a private-duty nurse.

Both parents had been good athletes in their youth. Their first three daughters were also accomplished athletes. During the 1970s, there wasn’t much money in women’s sports, and college scholarship were few and far between. By the time Venus came along, the possibilities were widening. Richard had been struck by a tennis match he had seen on television, in which Virginia Ruzici won and took home $30,000. That was about what he made in a year. Also, Ruzici, a Top 10 player, seemed to have no extraordinary athletic skills. When Venus was born, Richard decided to channel her talents into tennis.

Richard collected whatever books and videos he could find on tennis. He spent four years studying the game before handing Venus her first racket. The first day he took her out to the public courts in Compton, she was popping balls over the net with ease. Soon those lollypops where screamers. Venus loved tennis—not for the beauty of the game, but because it was a way to have her dad all to herself. Serena was crestfallen whenever Richard and Venus hopped into the family's old VW and headed for the courts. She would soon begin tagging along.

Away from tennis, Venus had a creative mind and an eye for detail. She had a steel-trap intellect that served her well on and off the court. She could watch a women’s match on TV and then pick up a racket and imitate the grips and swings of the top players. She also noticed that the successful players were the ones that identified an opponent’s weakness and then hammered them into submission. Venus sharpened her competitive skills in a variety of sports, including soccer and track. At the age of eight, she ran a mile in under 5:30.

By the late 1980s, Venus and Serena were hitting together, building on their considerable skills, competitive spirit, and sibling rivalry—as Richard egged them on. They hardly noticed that their neighborhood was disintegrating around them. Compton was quickly becoming a metaphor for urban blight and gang warfare, all fueled by a malignant crack epidemic. The Williams sisters remember these days with great joy. Richard likes to remind them, “We played tennis in hell.” He recalls teaching the girls how to lie flat when they heard gunshots. Fortunately, the street gangs and drug dealers of Compton had a hands-off policy on the girls.

Around the age of 10, Venus began entering local junior tournaments. On these weekends, she would be transported out of the inner city to the tennis clubs of greater Los Angeles. The kids, the homes, the facilities—for a girl from the ’hood, it seemed like she was visiting another planet. Her opponents felt the same way. Venus was taller, faster and stronger than the other players, and she demolished them with grim efficiency.

By the early 1990s, Venus’s stiffest competition came from her sister. They hit with each other day after day. This gave Serena the opportunity to hone her game against a superior player, and forced Venus to stay ahead of her little sister.

During Venus’s teen years, the spectators at her matches began to include sports agents and representatives from equipment companies. They were equally excited by her talent and the diversity she might bring to what was becoming a ho-hum sport. To their dismay, Richard rebuffed their offers, unwilling to relinquish control of his daughter’s career. Venus’s parents were also worried that too much tennis would burn her out. Sometimes, when the girls became too focused on the sport, they would simply take their rackets away for a few weeks and tell them to find something else to do.

Riachrd and Oracene also had strict rules about schoolwork. They explained to their daughters that tennis would only occupy a few years of their lives. To become productive, well-rounded human beings, they had to prepare for a life beyond tennis. Venus and Serena became straight-A students. Oracene also brought the girls along when she worked the neighborhood spreading the word about her religion, Jehovah's witnesses. They had a lot of doors slammed in their faces. Venus learned that there are some things in the world you just can't take personally.


By the time Venus became the top 12-and-under player in Southern California, the tennis establishment started to eye Richard with suspicion. Venus, and soon Serena, would need a higher level of coaching than he could provide. They feared that he was using his daughters’ growing fame for his own benefit.

Eventually, the Williamses became convinced of the need to bring in a pro. They chose Rick Macci and moved to Delray Beach, Florida. There was one condition—that Macci limit the girls' training partners to players who were better than the pair. Typically, these were male players. And the arrangement precluded Venus and Serena from playing on the junior circuit, which gave the USTA conniption fits. Tennis officials argued that Venus needed to experience the pressure of junior tournaments in order to round out her game. The Williamses argued the opposite and pointed out how Jennifer Capriati ended up with a set of mug shots at the age of 16.

Serena & Venus Williams,
1998 SI for Kids

A few months after Venus’s 14th birthday, the Williams braintrust decided that it was time to turn pro. In the fall of 1994, she played her first WTA tournament in Oakland. As she took the court for her match against Shaun Stafford, fans were amazed. Venus was a well-muscled, ebony-skinned six-footer with elaborate beadwork in her long hair and an ear-to-ear smile across her face. That smile disappeared once the match began—and that body began crushing shot after shot against the overwhelmed Stafford. Venus won 6–3, 6–4. In her next match, she nearly blew second-ranked Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario off the court. Venus took the first three games, but the crafty veteran taught her younger opponent a lesson. Once Sanchez-Vicario noticed a flaw in her opponent’s footwork, she tied her up with twisting, spinning shots. Venus could not adjust quickly enough. She was used to exploiting a weakness, not having her own exploited. She lost the next 12 games and Sanchez-Vicario moved on.

Over the next two years, Venus entered just eight tournaments as she continued to hone her game under Macci’s watchful eye. Her light schedule hardly hurt her pocketbook, especially after she signed a lucrative endorsement deal with Reebok. Macci taught Venus how to use her long. lean body as a whip on her strokes and serves, and how to move smoothly around the court. He also spent a lot of time on court strategy and managing points. Venus proved a particularly able student in this respect. With a little more experience, few doubted she would be able to think her way through tough matches.

In 1997, Venus joined the WTA Tour and worked her way from a sub-200 ranking to #66 by the US Open. This was her coming out party, as she buzzed through the draw to reach the semifinals. There she met Irena Sprilea, who tried every shot in her arsenal and every mind game in the book to rattle Venus—including bumping her as they changed sides during the final set. Venus survived two match points to win.

Richard claimed the bumping incident was a racial affront and stirred up a hornet's nest on the eve of his daughter’s final showdown with Martina Hingis. Some criticized him for stealing the spotlight from Venus. But as he would do time and again in his daughters’ careers, he was making himself a target for the media to take some heat off of them. In retrospect, Venus was probably distracted by her father’s ploy. She seemed unfocused against Hingis, who beat her 6–0, 6–4.

Venus gained some revenge early in 1998, when she defeated Hingis at the Australian Open. That spring, she won her first singles title, at an event in Oklahoma City. Venus added two more singles titles to her resume, and both were big—the Lipton Championship and the Grand Slam Cup.

Two of her most memorable matches in 1998 came against Serena, who had joined the WTA Tour the previous fall. Venus beat her first at the Australian Open and later at the Italian Open. The Williams sisters also teamed up for doubles in '98. They won four tournaments. Venus took her first Grand Slam titles as a member of a mixed doubles team at the Australian and French Opens.

Fearing that Venus and Serena would distract each other on the tour, Richard devised a schedule that had them playing separate events whenever possible. In February, the sisters each won a singles title on the same day—the first time in history that had happened. Venus beat Amanda Coetzer and Serena beat Amelie Mauresmo.

Venus Williams, 1993 Netpro

A month later, Venus and Serena squared off in the finals of the same tournament, the Lipton. Venus had defeated Jana Novotna and Steffi Graf along the way and Serena had beaten Hingis and Monica Seles. For a couple of hours, the girls transported themselves back to the courts of Compton, playing what they later called “nuclear war.” It was ugly, emotional, intimidating, risk-taking tennis. For every spectacular winner, there were many unforced errors. Venus won again.

Venus rode this victory to a pair of clay-court titles in Hamburg and Rome, and then combined with Serena to win their first Grand Slam title as a team at the French Open. Over the summer, the Williams Sisters, brimming with confidence, began to irritate others on the tour. Heading into the US Open, they predicted they would meet in the final. This did not sit well with Hingis, the WTA’s #1 player, who was growing weary of answering questions about Venus and Serena. She engaged in a war of words with Richard Williams, and then beat Venus in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows.

To Hingis’s dismay, she found herself dealing with a second Williams sister in the final. Serena had scored a stunning semifinal victory over Lindsay Davenport to advance. She next defeated Hingis in two sets. Venus didn’t have much time to celebrate with her sister—they were scheduled to play the doubles finals that day. They lost the first set and then rallied to win the next two for the championship.


Venus finished 1999 ranked third and Serena was right behind her at #4. However, it was Serena who had won the first Grand Slam singles title. Venus desperately wanted one of her own. She got it in July of 2000 at Wimbledon, after defeating Hingis in the quarterfinals, Serena in the semifinals, and Davenport in the finals.It was a part of a 35-match winning streak that saw her win five tournaments in a row. Not bad, considering sore wrists had kept her from competing at full strength at the beginning of the year.

Venus stayed red-hot that summer and cruised to victory at the US Open, defeating Hingis and Davenport again. Her final victories of the year came at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where she won the gold medal in singles and in doubles (with Serena). Exhausted and anemic, Venus ended her season early in October.

After an up-and-down start to 2001, Venus arrived at Wimbledon to defend her singles championship. She was successful, beating Davenport in the semis and the up-and-coming Justine Henin in the final. After capturing a pair of hardcourt titles in the summer, Venus demolished the field at the US Open to defend her title there, too. She won the championship without losing a single set and defeated Serena in the finals.

Venus kept on rolling in 2002, winning several tournaments—and achieving the #1 ranking for the first time, in March—on her way to the final of the French Open, where she faced her sister. Just reaching this level was an accomplishment for both sisters, as the slow clay of Roland Garros negated much of the power advantage they possessed over opponents. On this day, however, it was Serena who would prevail. At Wimbledon, the sisters treated tennis fans to their second straight all-Williams Grand Slam final. Serena prevailed again, in straight sets. Later Venus and Serena teamed up to win the doubles crown.

Venus Williams, 1998 SI for Kids

Venus rebounded from her singles loss by winning the hardcourt tournaments in San Diego, New Haven and Stanford, all for the third year in a row. She then reached the final of the US Open. Once again, she played Serena, and once again, her little sister won. Incredibly, they met in their fourth straight Grand Slam final at the 2003 Australian Open, and to Venus’s dismay, Serena won again.

Venus made her next appearance in a Grand Slam final that summer at Wimbledon against—who else?—Serena. In the semis against Kim Clijsters, Venus injured an abdominal muscle, but was still able to pull out a victory. After winning the first set against Serena, she lost the next two. The tennis world soon got a reprieve from the Williams sisters, as both suffered season-ending injuries.

Venus struggled to recapture her form in 2004. The top-tier players she had once dominated were able to beat her, and although she advanced deep into many tournaments, she won only two singles titles. Venuscontinued her losing ways in 2005, but she gained momentum heading into Wimbledon. Despite being seeded a lowly 14th, she smashed her way through the draw and scored a stunning defeat in the semifinals over defending champ Maria Sharapova, who had lost just one service game heading into their match.

Looming between Venus and her third Wimbledon title was Davenport. In a classic slugfest that broke the record for the longest women’s final, Venus saved a match point to win in three thrilling sets.

Prior to the tournament, Venus had given an interview to The London Times, making a passionate plea for equal prize money for men and women at Wimbledon. In the story, she stated that Wimbledon was on “the wrong side of history.” Her words inspired Parliament to beseech the All England Club to end the double-standard. In 2007, women received the same prize money as men for the first time.

The 2005 season ended early for Venus because of another injury. She was also out of action for much of 2006, primarily with a sore wrist. This problem also kept her out of the 2007 Australian Open. Desperate to get back into championship form, Venus entered a number of tournaments prior to the French Open. The results were mixed. She lost a second-round match in the Istanbul Open, marking her first career defeat in a Tier III event. At Roland Garros, she bowed out in the third round.

No one knew what to expect from Venus at Wimbledon. At this stage of her career, she obviously had the talent and experience to win at the All England Club. But was she healthy, and where was her game? It seemed as if she was destined for disappointment after nearly losing losing to lightly regarded Alla Kudryavtseva in the first round. Venus managed to rescue this match and advance.

In the third round, Venus faced Akiko Morigami, who served for the match in the third set. Again, Venus eeked out a win. In her next match, she pulled it together and blew the second-seeded Sharapova off the court. From there, her path to the finals was clear, as she overwhelmed Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic. Venus’s opponent in the final was France’s Marion Bartoli, who proved to be the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. Venus rolled to her fourth Wimbledon singles title, 6–4, 6–1.

At the US Open, Venus was at full strength, as witnessed by her 129 mph serve in the opening round. It was the fastest in the history of women’s tennis. Her bid for a championship ended in the semis, however, against Henin. Venus had experienced lightheadedness and nausea during the match. She cut short her season that fall because of anemia problems.

Venus could not shake her various maladies in 2008. She performed poorly in a number of events before taking a break from tennis. Venus returned for the end of the clay court season and was at full strength again by the time Wimbledon began. She and Serena each reached the semifinals, Venus against dangerous Elena Dementieva and Serena against low-ranked Jie Zheng. In both matches, Venus and Serena dominated the first, and then took the second set in thrilling tie-breakers. When the day was done, it was another all-Williams Grand Slam final. Venus knew she had an uphill battle—Serena had won five of the six previous meetings in these situations.

Serena took the early advantage, with Venus playing defensively at times against her sister. Venus soon got aggressive, hit a handful of winners, and the momentum shifted. She won five of the final six games to take the first set. After struggling with her serve early in the second set, she broke her sister’s serve to gain a 5–4 advantage and closed out the match on an unforced error to win her fifth Wimbledon singles title. Later that day, the Williams sisters teamed up to earn their third Wimbledon crown.

At the end of this great day, Serena summed it all up for reporters, “It’s definitely a great celebration for the Williams family."

Serena & Venus Williams,
2003 Netpro

And it has been a wonderful life for Venus. Few athletes in sports history have aged as gracefully or maintained their edge as effectively over the long haul. Even if she doesn't win another major, Vaenus will go down as one of the all-time greats.


Power and reach are two excellent attributes in women’s tennis, and Venus may be unsurpassed in both departments. Her 125-mph serve is one of the most intimidating weapons in sports. It gives her a chance to win any tournament she enters. Although she does not venture to net as often as other players, her long arms and quick reactions compensate for a so-so volleying game.

Venus’s long arms and legs make her an exceptional baseline player. Opponents who try to move her from side to side do so at their own peril, as she lopes around the backcourt striking balls with tremendous speed and topspin.

The better of Venus's baseline shots is her two-handed backhand. Her forehand can be an awesome shot, but it is more prone to inconsistency when she is tired or injured. Early in her career, opponents tried to test Venus by varying their shots, and often this broke her concentration. This strategy, however, is no longer effective.

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