Tuesday, July 10, 2007


One more makes four
Williams bests Bartoli to earn another Wimbledon title
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Venus Williams giggled as she clutched the championship trophy against her chest, threw back her head and whooped at the sky.

Winning Wimbledon never gets old.

Williams won tennis' most prestigious tournament for the fourth time Saturday, beating surprising finalist Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-1.

It was Williams' sixth Grand Slam title, and her first since winning Wimbledon in 2005. She was also the champion at the All England Club in 2000 and 2001.

At No. 31, Williams became the lowest-ranked women's winner in Wimbledon history. Plagued in recent years by injuries that sent her ranking sliding, she rediscovered her championship form this week on the surface that always seems to inspire her best efforts.

"It has been a long road back," Williams said during the trophy ceremony. "I brought it together here against some of the best players in the world, including Marion."

She lost 22 games in her final four matches, beating 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova on Wednesday, 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova on Thursday and French Open runner-up Ana Ivanovic on Friday.

"She loves the grass," said Williams' boyfriend, pro golfer Hank Kuehne. "And she loves the environment here."

Her father and coach, Richard, said that when his daughter was about 9, she declared she wanted to win Wimbledon more than anyone else.

"I think she can win three more," he said, "and I would be disappointed if she did not."

Williams is the fourth woman in the Open era to win four or more Wimbledon singles titles, joining Martina Navratilova (9), Steffi Graf (7) and Billie Jean King (4). King also won Wimbledon singles titles in 1966-67, before the Open era began in 1968.

When Charles Barkley defiantly said "I'm not a role model" in that infamous Nike commercial years ago, I thought he was right. Usually, African-American athletes are controversial for the wrong reasons, and I believe there's a racist element of White America that likes it that way.

I'm old enough to remember when it was different.

Back in those angry days when African-Americans were “Negroes” and white bigots didn't need to hide in the closet, a brave loudmouth like Muhammad Ali would use his fame to illuminate the dark corners in America where ugly things were happening to black people. “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger”, Ali said, explaining why he refused induction into the Army during the Vietnam War. It was a controversial statement that got folks mad. And the penalty Muhammad Ali paid for those strong words was big. Stripped of his championship title, Ali didn't fight for 2 ½ years. No, he sure didn't sell a lot of sneakers.

I don't think it's getting any better. “Today you have athletes who are told not to be political,” said Charles Farrell, president of Sports Perspectives International, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. “I think one of the things we lose sight of is that sports is a $200 billion industry. And when you consider endorsements, there's a real incentive to keep your mouth shut, play your game and keep making money.”

Thankfully, there's the phenomenon named Venus Williams.

In an era where too many alleged "heroes" in sports are brutal, foul-mouthed idiots whose skill in selling tickets help keep them out of jail, and women of color are crudely objectified, Venus is a breath of fresh civility, and a splendid exception to the vulgar and mundane rule. Articulate, intelligent, courteous, and proud, Venus has never been afraid to speak her mind about controversial issues. Maybe she doesn't want to be a role model either, but Venus Williams is a shining mirror that young African-American women can look at and feel good about themselves.

No idiotic rapper or fossilized radio DJ would dare call her a bitch or a 'ho. Not if he doesn't want to be wearing a tennis racket in his empty head. That's Miss Venus Williams, thank you very much.