Like other modern-day heroines -- Madonna, Hillary, Mia -- they need only one name. They are the stars of professional tennis -- the young, brash, and often reckless women who hold court, and serve.
The last several years have seen such a seismic explosion in women's tennis that you might be surprised to learn there's still a men's game. Fans flock to the high-voltage matches, which come packaged with tales of infighting, family squabbles, and, of course, Anna Kournikova's micro-miniskirts. In Venus Envy, Sports Illustrated investigative reporter and tennis columnist L. Jon Wertheim draws back the curtain on the soap opera that is the women's professional tennis tour, with its primal plotlines driven by ambition, sex, and revenge.
Here are the stories behind the stories: the tragic Garbo-like star who whiles away hours in a midwestern hotel room because she's afraid to go outdoors; the teenager who tries to cope with the pressure of the big time as well as an abusive father; the brilliant number one who plays out her adolescent tantrums on the public stage; the coquette who launched a thousand Web sites; and a little-understood African-American family who proved that they could play by their own rules and still win the game -- not to mention the endorsements.
The biggest story in sports in 2000 was Venus Williams. Forced to the sidelines for the early months by injuries to both her wrists and her psyche, she stormed back to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and two Olympic gold medals. Not since the glory days of Martina Navratilova -- and the historic days of Althea Gibson -- has women's tennis seen such a dominant champion with the rare combination of athleticism, intelligence, and competitive fire. By the time Venus signed the biggest endorsement deal ever for a female athlete, her opponents' sentiments could be described in just two words: Venus Envy.
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L. Jon Wertheim is the executive editor of Sports Illustrated. He is the author of seven highly praised books, including the New York Times bestseller Scorecasting. He is a regular contributor to CNN and National Public Radio and is a commentator for the Tennis Channel.From Publishers Weekly:
If you think only male professional tennis players exhibit less-than-mature behavior on and off center court, you're in for a surprise with Wertheim's candid tell-all account of a year spent following the superstars and also-rans on the WTA Tour, from the 2000 Australian Open to the 2000 U.S. Open. Wertheim (senior writer for Sports Illustrated) pulls no punches as he profiles the egos, catty repartee, emotional battering and dysfunctional family relationships that drive Venus and Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, Monica Seles and some lesser-known professionals. Women's tennis is now "the world's most popular and financially successful women's sport," surpassing men's tennis in television viewership, but still lagging behind the men in prize money. The outspoken sportswomen are not unaware of their sex appeal and appear, for the most part, willing and eager to cash in on it. Sound bites range from petulant to downright insulting (Hingis), while a model-pretty player like Kournikova can exude icy diva vibes and garner huge bonuses even though she has yet to win a major tournament. After winning the 2000 U.S. Open, Venus Williams "talked smack" to then-President Bill Clinton, asking him to lower her property taxes. But underlying the bravado of these successful athletes is the specter of abuse and dysfunction. Wertheim is unafraid to name names and reveals that the "tennis dad" is even more dangerous than the "stage mother," among other unpleasant truths. The book should hold more than just tabloid interest for young women who aspire to tennis careers. 8 pages of color photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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