At the Net. . .

By Scott Riley
Tennis Editor

Venus: Goddess of Tennis?

Riley Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If you believe the WTA Singles Rankings, Martina Hingis is the top female tennis player in the world. But, if you've been paying attention to the sport over the last six weeks, you'll know that American Venus Williams is the player to beat right now, although her sister Serena just claimed a championship in Manhattan Beach with victories over the likes of Hingis and number-two Lindsay Davenport.

Venus is currently resting in third place on the world ledger, but the certifiably-hot California native/ Florida resident will be the heavy favorite to supplant Serena as U.S. Open champion in a few weeks.

All Williams has done is win her last three tournaments, a string that started with her first-ever Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in early July. One of Venus' victims at the prestigious grass court event was Serena [in the semifinals].

Williams, of course, became only the second African-American woman to capture Wimbledon, joining 1957 and '58 champion Althea Gibson. Arthur Ashe (1975) is the only other African-American to go all the way at the legendary fortnight.

Since Wimbledon, the 20-year-old Venus has also rattled off championships at Stanford (Bank of the West Classic) and San Diego (Acura Classic).

Williams upset Davenport to secure her crown at the All-England Club, and beat her compatriot in yet another final in late July (Stanford) to lay claim to her extant world tennis supremacy.

Since turning pro in 1994, under the watchful eye of curious father/manager Richard, experts have expected these recently-dominant results from Venus, who is taking time off to prepare for New York's Open.

Williams is in the proverbial "zone" at the moment, riding a 15- match winning streak. She posted her third straight title by holding off former world number-one star Monica Seles in the championship match at the Acura event in San Diego earlier this month.

Venus didn't play her best tennis in the Acura final, but prevailed anyhow, prompting her to say, "There's a lot of things that I'm not doing right, but I'm still winning."

Williams has appeared in only six tournaments this season -- winning half of them.

She boasts a 21-3 won-loss record in 2000, including a perfect 8-0 mark on hard courts and an equally-flawless 7-0 register on grass (Wimbledon). All three of Venus' match setbacks this year have come on clay (6-3), her worst surface.

Also, Williams has not lost to the aforementioned Hingis or Davenport this season. The 6-foot-1 bomber, with her powerful groundstrokes and a screaming serve that reaches 120 miles per hour, is 1-0 versus the "Swiss Miss" and 2-0 against Davenport [who hasn't titled since taking the Indian Wells tourney back in March].

And in case you're curious, Venus is also unbeaten (1-0) this season against the international sensation that is 19-year-old Anna Kournikova.

Williams, meanwhile, has gone 82-16 over the last two campaigns, with a whopping nine titles in 25 tournaments.

Is it any wonder that her favorite tennis player is Pete Sampras -- the supreme performer in the men's game.

If it's of any consequence to Venus, she IS number-one in The Sports Network's women's rankings.

The only knock against Williams at this point is her inconsistency on the court. She has the power and athleticism to, along with Serena, dominate for the next 10 years, but she'll have to cut down on mistakes to complete her game. All-time great Martina Navratilova has said of the sisters, "They both miss too much. If they can just cut down on unforced errors, maybe they can go for every shot."

I believe they Will-iams.

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