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USA TODAY: Richard Williams Sees A Big Year Ahead For Venus, Serena

Friday, January 16, 2009

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Richard Williams grinned slyly recently when asked to discuss the offseason training of his daughters, Serena and Venus, the Nos. 2 and 6 seeds at the Australian Open, which begins Monday (Sunday night ET) in Melbourne.

"We don't do a lot of training," Williams says, after stifling an attack of the giggles. "We try to start a good regimen of training about 13-14 days before the Australian. Even then, they won't train every day because I believe you need a healthy mind, as much as you need a healthy body to guide you through it."

Williams says his daughters, the only siblings to be ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the Open era, spent the offseason pursuing other interests, something he's always encouraged them to do.

"Venus is crazy about her design work, and Serena finished a TV movie and just got back from (Africa) a venture she was on," Richard says. " I wanted them to understand that there's life beyond the baseline, and it's good to work on that life while you're young, so when your tennis career is over, you just transition to something you've been working on all the time."

The Williams sisters pursued college degrees while competing on the women's tour. Despite a less-than laser-like focus on their tennis careers, Williams believes that his daughters again will become Nos. 1 and 2 in the world. This time, he says, Venus, not Serena, will finish the year at the top.

"I told Venus that she's only 594 points from No. 1, and if she wins the Australian Open, she can take No. 1," he says. "Right now, Venus is the best mover on the tour, and that's why I think she can win the Australian Open, be No. 1 again. The only one that can stand in her way is Serena, if her ankle is OK. And Serena needs a little more patience."

Though often criticized for decisions he's made throughout their training and development, Williams says he has no regrets about the path he chose for his daughters, who continue to rely on him and his former wife, Oracene, to guide their careers. In her 14-year career Venus Williams has won 39 singles titles, including seven majors (five Wimbledons and two U.S Opens), earned nearly $22 million in prize money and an estimated four times that amount in endorsements. In 13 years, Serena Williams has 32 singles titles, including nine majors (three Australian Opens, one French Open, two Wimbledons and three U.S. Opens), earned about $22 million and an estimated four times that amount in endorsements.

"I wouldn't let them get by without an education," Richard says. "The thing I realized that if you're out there playing a tennis tournament every week, you don't get to even know yourself. And if you don't know yourself, you can go out there and be hurt on the court and don't know how to pull back. You might keep running like a wild horse until you fall dead. I was not going to let them go out there and kill themselves because I think you should think about longevity, even if you don't play a long time."

Posted by Shelia

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