Sunday, June 22, 2003

Williams sisters take rivalry to the wardrobe

The Associated Press

LONDON - Venus Williams wants to outdo sister Serena in tennis - and in fashion - at Wimbledon.

Venus modeled a corset-style white tennis dress Friday that she will wear at Wimbledon, which starts Monday. All-white except for a navy "RbK" logo on the front, the dress is open-laced up the back to show flesh rather than a sports bra.

Venus designed the Reebok dress together with American fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

The Williams sisters are known for their love of on-court fashion and glittering accessories, not to mention their domination of women's tennis.

Until the French Open, they had met in four of the previous five Grand Slam finals. Serena won Wimbledon last year, breaking Venus' two-year hold on the title.

Venus said she hopes to have the fashion edge over her sister at Wimbledon after Serena's daring black, skintight catsuit stole the headlines at last year's U.S Open.

"Maybe this week I'm ahead of her," Venus said. "That black outfit she wore was wonderful. We look at each other's outfits when they arrive at the house and we decide who has the better outfit."

Von Furstenberg, who became known in American fashion in the 1970s with printed jersey wraparound dresses, said her role was to make the sport "a little prettier."

"It was important to be part of that, and I did have a lot of input into the designs," Venus said. "Things have to be just perfect. If I'm not happy, I'll scream."

The sisters' father, Richard Williams, sat in the front row, videotaping Venus as she posed for photographers on a fake grass catwalk.

Venus said it was strange not to be in the French Open final, where Justine Henin-Hardenne beat fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters.

Venus lost to Russia's Vera Zvonareva in the fourth round - she's projected to play her again in the fourth round at Wimbledon - and Serena fell to Henin-Hardenne in the semis.

"After I wasn't in the tournament, I transferred all my hopes to Serena," Venus said. "I don't know if I was more upset with my loss or her loss. You definitely learn more when you lose. To win everything throughout your whole career is almost impossible."

Venus dismissed talk of retirement, which members of her family have hinted at in the past.

"I have a lot of years left," she said. "The joy is to keep challenging yourself to keep on top. If there was no challenge, there would be no joy. I think she (Serena) is a great player for sure, but I don't see why I shouldn't be around much longer. I don't know why this is a thought in anyone's mind."

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