The media reaction to Jelena Jankovic beating Venus Williams in the third round of the French is kind of interesting. "Dark horse gallops on at French Open" my My Yahoo! page told me this morning. Jankovic is only ranked No. 4 in the world. Can one be a seeded player and a dark horse? Another wire story says "In some ways, this was hardly an upset." "Some ways?" That's what happens when people who watch tennis four times a year get a tennis beat.
Anyway, it's fair to say that Venus' comeback from injury hasn't been as spectacular as Serena's. In fact, it's been decidedly below her own standards. After every exit from a tournament these days, Venus says she thinks she's playing well, and she does look like she's been working on her forehand and her footwork. But what about those in her camp? What do they say?
"I think she needs to gain a little more weight," Zina Garrison said afterward, adding that Venus looked like she lacked energy.
“Venus played with fear because she lost to that girl a couple of times now,” Richard Williams says. “I’ve never ever seen her play like that before. She has never been that scared of hitting the ball."
I hate to say this, but Old Man Williams has a point. Venus is playing with fear these days. Whether it's fear of losing, fear of injury, or fear of not being the best, it's fear. You could see it in her match against Jankovic. It's clay, and she's trying to end points with wild crosscourt shots -- on clay! It doesn't help her that she doesn't have a lot of big wins, or NO big wins under her belt since her comeback either.
A lot of people thought neither sister would be able to dominate tennis again. Clearly, everyone was wrong about Serena. She was, for near fact, way out of shape, and a touch distracted. With one tournament, she's gone back to being a factor in everything she plays, and she obviously believes she can always win.
"I don't care if it's on clay or grass, hard court or on mud," Serena said after her third-round win. "I'm going to be here, and I'm going to be competing and doing whatever it takes."
Will everyone be wrong about Venus? It's not totally fair to judge her based on her play on her least comfortable surface. Now, if she tanks, injury free, in the third-round of Wimbledon?
Perhaps she might consider Daddy's advice.
“If I was her and I kept playing like that, I would just quit. I’d just retire.”
(Swear, who needs Chris Everts when you've got a coach like this? Guess who's getting a fish wrapped in newspaper for Father's Day?)