Williams serves it up

By Patricia J. Sheehan
August 31, 2006

Shane Evans

It’s not every day that a two-time Olympic gold medalist makes her way to the secluded Cabrini campus. So when someone as well-known as Venus Williams steps onto the court, you can’t help but take notice of the superstar. Besides the fact you just can’t miss her 6′ 1″ frame even if you tried.

The Mansion’s backyard was buzzing with excitement with local and national sponsors. Advanta, GEICO, Gatorade, Wilson and Main Line Health all hosted giveaways for World TeamTennis fans. Wilson even treated with free tennis racket giveaways for children. Advanta gave away free popcorn and hosted a very sophisticated VIP party located on the Mansion’s back patio.

This match is particularly important. The Philadelphia Freedoms needed to beat the Delaware Smash in order to make it to the play-offs.

Williams and fellow Freedoms’ teammate, Daniel Nestor, took on Liezel Huber and Tres Davis of the Smash in the mixed doubles match. They managed to overtake the Smash by winning 5-3. This put the Freedoms in a 10-7 lead. Williams then took on Delaware Smash star Angela Haynes who surprisingly kept Williams on her toes.

In between matches, Williams made her rounds around the court and danced to the music playing. She also chatted with the young ball-boys and girls who turned red with excitement.

Williams wasn’t able to dominate Haynes in the early stages of the match as one might expect. Each player was all over the court trying to knock the other down. Soon Williams gave it her all by showing off some explosive serves that just couldn’t be touched by Haynes. When it was all over, Haynes just shrugged her shoulders as if to say: “How can I touch that?”

During intermission some games and giveaways were played including an exclusive charity auction. The bid was for a racket, tennis jersey and picture all signed by Williams. As the bidding continued, the announcer suddenly stated that he had received a bid of an astounding $5,000. The mystery bidder turned out to be the legendary Billie Jean King who is also the World Team Tennis founder.

The crowd erupted into a contagious roar for King as Williams thanked her for her donation which went to Fox Chase Cancer Center.

The final match, a women’s doubles, featured Lisa Raymond and Rannae Stubbs of the Freedoms. Their opponents, Haynes and Huber, had been talking big game throughout the entire event, most of which came from their outspoken coach, Mariaan de Stawrdt.

It was a fierce match from the beginning. The Freedoms was in the lead with a score of 22 points while the Smash lagged with a total of 13 points. The rival was displayed in full force as each team played hard while Smash’s coach Stawrdt tried to up Huber and Haynes morale.

With a short overtime, the Freedoms came out on top winning the event with a score of 23 to 16.

After the match, many ran to Williams for photographs and autographs. Williams graciously signed the t-shirts of the young ball-kids who were glowing with excitement.

Williams seemed shy as the youngsters showered her with saying “Venus, you’re awesome!”

In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Williams noted her experience with the Freedom.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to have some fun on the court. Not that I don’t enjoy myself when I’m playing on the tour, but this is an opportunity to really relax and feel the fans, enjoy the team… . It’s an awesome format that really works for the players and the fans.”

The Philadelphia Freedoms eventually won the 2006 World TeamTennis Championship. Williams later backed out of the U.S. Open.

The Loquitur welcomes your comments and questions on this story. Please send your comments to Loquitur@googlegroups.com. The editors will review your comments each week and make corrections if warranted.

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Patricia J. Sheehan

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