NEW YORK -- Her ranking now sits in the triple digits, floating in the low 100s alongside not-so-households name such as Misaki Doi, Edina Gallovits-Hall and Varvara Lepchenko. This is the area code where Venus Williams now lives after a bittersweet day in her remarkable tennis career.
You predicted someone other than Roger or Rafa would win a Grand Slam this year. When does that happen? And is there anyone currently (or in the future) who could match Roger's five consecutive wins at two different events? Do you see anyone matching that ... or winning five consecutive at even one Grand Slam? --Marina, Dallas
Why are the Shanghai Masters not televised on ESPN? Why do Little League, high school basketball, football and baseball get more airtime than tennis? Our elite athletes deserve better. Also, there are no doping scandals in tennis like there are in cycling and baseball. Why do people hold up baseball and cycling as great athletes but not tennis players? They don't get any respect! --HB, Winthrop, Washington
Can you and SI hold a design competition for a less expensive but workable roof for Arthur Ashe Stadium? I flat out do NOT believe a new roof cannot be added for less than $250 million. I believe old-fashioned ideas done the most expensive way would cost $250 million, but I believe hungry young architects trying to make a name for themselves could contribute many ideas of how to cover the stadium for well under $250 million. I remember years ago the Detroit Lions were worried about cost overruns for the Pontiac Silverdome and came up with a much less expensive air-supported roof that was radical at the time but let the stadium come in on time and under budget. If it can be done there, why not at Ashe Stadium? There must be ways to do it. Would you be willing to ask your bosses at SI if you can sponsor a non-committal design competition for an affordable roof? It would be great publicity for SI and just may get the U.S. Open a roof. -- Randy Lee Mayes, Bradford, PA.
NEW YORK -- She didn't have a ball or racket in hand, wasn't even near a tennis court, so it took a moment to recognize that one of the most important figures in the history of American sports had changed her game. Because Venus Williams, tennis player, wasn't talking about dogs or fashion; Venus Williams wasn't responding to the latest nonsense about her sister's foot or her father's mouth. No, she was talking about race now, about fighting hatred, about doing right when the easy choice is to do nothing. We've grown too used to the rich and famous using their clout only to sell products. You had to look around the room, and remember, to see that a long-ago promise was being realized at last.
Seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Venus Williams is our guest respondent for this week's Mailbag. Currently ranked No. 3 in singles and No. 1 in doubles, Venus has taken a break from preparing for the U.S. Open and promoting her bestselling book Come to Win in order to answer your questions.
I live in Berkeley. I'm liberal ... but even I thought Venus' outfit was inappropriate. What is the difference between lingerie and "outer" clothing designed to look like lingerie? (And please don't tell me it's the "illusion.") --Caryn, Berkeley, Calif.
I enjoyed watching Mary Joe Fernandez as a player, I enjoy listening to her as a commentator, and I've enjoyed the success she's had as Fed Cup captain. What I would enjoy even more, however, is for her to say to the Williams sisters, "It's obvious you don't care enough about this competition to play, and that's your prerogative. But I, at least, am going to stop this silly and transparent charade about you wanting to and saying that you will, so you can appear patriotic, and then pulling out at the last minute. From this point on, Fed Cup is a Williams-free Zone." The team has done very well without the Williamses, and they are a joy to watch, because they all want to be there and enjoy being on the team together. --Chris F., Otsego, Minn.
1. The orbit of Venus: Venus Williams -- and her travel agent -- take a bow. A week after winning the title on the hard courts of Dubai, Venus wins on the clay of Acapulco. And one day later (Monday night), she'll play indoors at the BNP Paribas Showdown exo at Madison Square Garden (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET). We'll preempt the cynics and concede that, yes, she was paid handsomely at each stop. And, yes, with Indian Wells upon us, Venus will now have a self-imposed two-week vacation. Still, at a time when so many are squirting embalming fluid on her career, she makes a strong statement about her commitment level when she plays successfully and often.
So it has come to this in the world of big-time tennis: You're 28 years old, absolutely in your prime, cherishing the game -- and you're some kind of mythical superhero, a miracle of longevity and commitment.
I know you'll never touch this question but here's nothing. Serena said: Being a Jehovah's Witness kept her from voting in the election, but didn't prevent her from watching Barack Obama's campaign and victory. "I try to stay politically neutral, don't get involved in worldly matters," she said. "For me, because I am black, seeing that happen, I would be blind if I didn't take interest in it or I would be lying if I said I wasn't interested in what was going on. Obviously I am." As an African-American, I'm curious as to whether winning slams and other tennis tournaments is somehow religious or unworldly? My point is that she and her sister set a poor example for young kids. Voting is ungodly but chasing Slams isn't? Your opinion? -- Ray Vinson, Hampton,Va.
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Yesterday you were asked whether Jelena Jankovic was underrated or overrated. Today I want to ask you about the other Serb, Ana Ivanovic. Your thoughts? -- Clark, Stockholm, Sweden
NEW YORK -- Justine Henin and Venus Williams were tied at 5-5 in the first set of their semifinal clash and as hard as Svetlana Kuznetsova tried not to look at the television during her post-match press conference, her eyes kept drifting toward the screen. Why? Because you always want to see what your executioner looks like.
Let's pretend you are, say, an insurance salesman. You're damn good at your job, world-class even. You clock in every day. You miss family functions on account of work. You try like hell to improve your performance rating and keep ascending the ladder. But there are these two colleagues -- siblings, no less! -- blocking your progress. They seem to pop into the office only when the mood strikes. They miss all the meetings and those insufferable "team building" outings because they're off acting or designing clothes or doing Lord knows what else. They take lots of sick leave, too. But when there's money on the table, they're the best around. They swoop in, perform with breathtaking skill and close the biggest accounts. Argh!