EleVen By Venus: Hits & Misses
Venus Williams started her clothing line EleVen By Venus in 2007. During its formative years, the line featured some truly horrid designs, often ill-fitting and deploying questionable prints and fabrics. But, resilient like its designer, EleVen By Venus has rebounded quite nicely in recent times.
Let's take a look at some of Vee's best and worst looks over the years.
10 Of The Best
Venus's current look for the French Open (first pic) plays so well against the red clay in Paris, the colours so vibrant and the dress fitting her perfectly. Other favourites include: 2012 Sony Open (9), 2013 U.S. Open (10), and 2014 Duabi (2).
10 Of The Worst
2011 was a difficult year for EleVen By Venus. She began with the yellow midriff cut-out dress in Australia and followed with #8 in Paris, #1 at Wimbledon and finished with #9 in New York. It must be very difficult to design something unique within the all-white constrains of Wimbledon, but Venus' 2011 outfit was likely my least favourite tennis dress ever.
What do you think? What are your favourite and least favourite designs from EleVen By Venus?
The French Open is finally upon us; the lead up to the premier clay event has been a long and eventful one this year. Rafael Nadal has looked vulnerable on clay for the first time in his career, and Novak Djokovic appears in prime form to finally complete his career Grand Slam. Yet, Nadal has won this tournament eight of the last nine years; he is still the King of Clay until he is not. Rafa has been able to thwart Djokovic's attempts at his crown the last two years - can he do so one more time?
The Men's Draw, released on Friday, is definitely more favourable to some than others. Here are my reactions to the draw, some of the key early round matches to look out for, and my picks for the quarters.
Early Round Matches To Watch
Raonic vs Kyrgios - 1st Round
Nishikori vs Klizan - 1st Round
Thiem vs Mathieu - 1st Round
Almagro vs Sock - 1st Round
Seppi vs Girlado - 1st Round
Wawrinka vs Garcia-Lopez - 1st Round
Nadal vs Thiem - 2nd Round
Murray vs Brown - 2nd Round
Youzhny vs Stepanek - 2nd Round
Bautista Agut vs Berdych - 3rd Round
Nishikori vs Dolgopolov - 3rd Round
Almagro vs Haas - 3rd Round
Wawrinka vs Lopez - 3rd Round
Monfils vs Fognini - 3rd Round
Nadal vs Ferrer
Wawrinka vs Murray
Bautista Agut vs Federer
Nishikori vs Djokovic
Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are the defending finalists in Paris, and likely the two biggest favourites to win the title. Unfortunately for them, and fans, there will be no rematch of last year's final. The two are on course to meet in the quarters of the top half of the draw, due in large part to Maria's dip in the rankings this spring. Li Na and Simona Halep are the top two seeds on the bottom half.
The Women's Draw is filled with intrigue; there are so many early round matches that promise great entertainment. Below are a few thoughts regarding the draw, some early round matches you should pay attention to, and my picks for the final 8.
Early Round Matches To Watch
Ivanovic vs Garcia - 1st Round
Errani vs Keys - 1st Round
Stosur vs Puig - 1st Round
Townsend vs King - 1st Round
Venus vs Bencic - 1st Round
Date-Krumm vs Scrabble - 1st Round
Stephens vs Cepelova - 2nd Round
Kerber vs Lepchenko - 2nd Round
Pennetta vs Kirilenko - 2nd Round
Kvitova vs Kuznetsova - 3rd Round
Petkovic vs Li - 3rd Round
Stosur vs Cibulkova - 3rd Round
Serena vs Sharapova
Radwanska vs Bouchard
Ivanovic vs Halep
Jankovic vs Li
The French Open is only four days away! Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, while favourites, are not locks to defend their titles. Serena's battled exhaustion from a frenzied schedule over the last year, and Rafa's encountered an untimely lack of confidence during the clay season. The "Booty Twins" spoiled tennis fans with their dominance last year; that they've been unable to match that pace should not come as a surprise. Nonetheless, their results have panicked their respective fanbases this spring, and allowed for compelling stories to develop on both tours.
Let's examine some of the players and storylines we should all pay attention to in Paris:
Side Note: Below is a prime example of the blatant and systemic sexism in sport & society.
I'll be rooting for Caro next week!
Also deserving: Dustin Brown, Nick Kyrgios, Donald Young, Marin Cilic, Roberto Bautista Agut, Lleyton Hewitt.
Stuck In The Middle:
Also deserving: Jana Cepelova, Casey Dellacqua, Andrea Petkovic, Belinda Bencic, Flavia Pennetta, Simona Halep, Jelena Jankovic.
Stuck In The Middle:
All sorts of emotions here as Michael Sam learns he’s been drafted, the burden of a trailblazer lifted.
Below: A piece I wrote after Sam first came out, in anticipation of this historic night.
Michael Sam & the Promised Land of Big 4 Professional Sport
Reactions from folks on Twitter:
Venus Williams and Martina Hingis are 33 years old. More than half their lifetimes have passed since they first burst onto the WTA Tour. So much has happened for both women since the mid-90s. Martina has retired twice from singles play, the second time in 2007 as she faced a drug suspension. She’s currently an active player on the doubles circuit, winning Miami this year partnering Sabine Lisicki. As for Venus, she hasn’t made a Grand Slam final since Wimbledon in 2009, and has had to reconstruct her career after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome in 2011. Neither woman has been able to script the back ends of their careers as they would have imagined, but their accomplishments still secure very special places in the annals of tennis.
Martina and Venus emerged during a time of transition for the WTA Tour. By 1997, Steffi Graf was mostly absent due to injury, and Monica Seles returned a fraction of the player she was prior to being stabbed in 1993. The hierarchy of women’s tennis was up for grabs, and the era of “big babe tennis” had yet to fully materialize. They were also part of a soon-to-be extinct breed of tennis prodigies; teenagers are no longer able to thrive at the highest level like these young women did. There was a window through which new talent could force their way to the forefront of women’s tennis. These two arrived at the right time, amidst the perfect storm, to form a brand new and scintillating rivalry on the WTA Tour.
This rivalry was also complicated by race. Venus and Serena’s blackness was an affront to the tennis establishment and its fans. Their brash power game threatened all who preferred a more elegant femininity on court. Martina was the anti-Williams. She employed a deft touch and a knowledge of every inch of the tennis court to combat players who sought to blast her off the court. Her phenomenal success as a 16-year-old was a heralded resistance to the power game that threatened to overtake women’s tennis. That she was white only solidified her role as chief defender against a Williams invasion.
It didn’t help that Martina did not shy away from talking about race and the Williams sisters. She famously opined that the sisters benefited from being black and that any slight they perceived, they could easily point to race as its cause. I don’t expect any 19-year-old to have a nuanced understanding of how race works in America, and so I won’t hold that against Martina, but her words furthered an already volatile situation in women’s tennis. I also believe that Martina knew what she was doing. She wanted to get inside Venus and Serena’s heads. She understood that if she could puppeteer the sisters mentally, she may benefit once she had to meet them on court.
Another element of the rivalry that elevated it to must-see status was the vastly different worlds that Venus and Martina came from. Venus grew up in Compton, California with unconventional tennis parents. Richard Williams told anyone who would listen that his daughters would dominate the tennis world, and kept a level of mystery surrounding them by refusing to have them play on the junior circuit. Meanwhile, Martina was a known entity, winning the French Open Junior title at 12, and finishing 1994 ranked #87 as a 14-year-old. When Venus emerged at the 1997 U.S. Open, with noisy hair and Richard photographing her every move from the stands, nobody knew what to make of her. Venus’ blackness was difficult for a mostly white tennis audience to understand, and even harder for them to identify with.
Martina dominated that 1997 U.S. Open final and much of the early going against Venus, winning 9 of 14 matches between 1997 and 1999. In her prime, Hingis enjoyed toying with her opponents; she knew she had superior skills and court intelligence to counter anything her opponents could muster. This dynamic was no different with Venus in their early matches. Even though Venus could out-hit her, Martina could count on all her intangibles to neutralize the booming serves and blistering groundstrokes. But, by the end of 1999, Venus seemed to be getting closer to solving the Hingis riddle. Although Venus had yet to beat Hingis at a Grand Slam, she was fresh off a 3-set tussle in the U.S. Open semis, and followed that up with a breathtaking win at the Grand Slam Cup.
Below: Watch highlights of Venus' 3-set win at the 1999 Grand Slam Cup.
For the remainder of their head-to-head, Venus led Hingis 5-2, including wins at Wimbledon and the U.S Open on her way to both titles in 2000. This period coincided with Venus’ peak, Martina’s struggles against the ever increasing power game, and a slew of injuries that would eventually force her first retirement from the game in February 2003. When she returned to the tour in 2006, the two split a pair of meetings before Martina disappeared once more. Of their 21 meetings, 10 were decided in three sets. Their respective styles complemented each other so well, but their rivalry was more than that: they both had such confidence in themselves and wanted to win so badly, those emotions (more often than not) spilled over into their tennis.
I’d love for Martina to give singles another go just so this rivalry could get a third renewal; there seemed to be so much unfinished business between the two on court. The majority of their matches occurred during their precocious teens/early twenties when both were prone to drama rather than keeping a level head. I often wonder what the two could muster against each other in the twilight of their tennis years, as more mature and evolved versions of the players we first met. With Hingis’ successful return to the doubles circuit this year in Miami, perhaps we will have get one more high stakes battle, in a doubles final with Martina against both sisters. Even though Venus and Martina’s rivalry feels like it was way too brief, the two electrified tennis during a distinct period in the history of the WTA. However short their rivalry, their contributions to the sport loom large.
This is the fourth in a series on great tennis rivalries:
Pistol Pete & The A-Train: American Tennis Royalty
Steffi & Monica: Ill-Fated Rivalry & Story of What Might Have Been
The Sisters Williams: Beyond Tennis Rivalry