Troubled times for Williams family

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The Independent Online

A year ago the teenaged Williams sisters contested the women's singles final here. Venus, the older sibling, won that time, but Serena went on to triumph on the Grand Slam stage, defeating Martini Hingis in the final of the United States Open in September. Today both sisters are taking stock.

Their father, Richard Williams, has advised Venus to stop playing for the remainder of the year in order to rest her wrists. Tendinitis has kept her off the WTA Tour for four months, and she is hoping to prepare for the French Open by playing in Hamburg on 1 May.

"If it was me, I'd take the rest of the season off," Richard Williams told Doug Smith, of USA Today. "She could go back to school or she could just relax, spend some of the money she's earned - not a lot - have a good time and come back next year."

He said he first learned of Venus's injury last November, a week before she lost to Lindsay Davenport in the semi-finals of the Chase Championships in New York.

"Venus had been hurting for seven months before she told us about it," Williams said. "She felt we might pull her off the court. That's why she never said anything. It took a long time for her to tear it up, so it's going to take a long time before she can play again."

Venus, 19, has refused to discuss her injury with the media, which has led to speculation that she may be about to retire from the sport.

She was a spectator at the Ericsson Open here on Sunday when Serena, 18, lost a keenly fought fourth-round match against an inspired Jennifer Capriati 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, a result which prompted the younger sister to seek parental advice. "I'm going to talk things over with my my dad," she said. "We'll evaluate things."

This is not to suggest that Serena is unduly worried about her game.

"Any time I lose, it shocks me," she said. "I feel I played OK today. She just played some great shots. Maybe I could have come in a little bit more and tried different things.

"Just yesterday people were asking me if I ever played in windy conditions. I said no. What do you know, the next day it's really windy. There's a first for everything. Today was my first. I'm still young."

Other thoughts of Gone with the Wind came to mind when Serena said she may not compete in the Family Circle Cup on Hilton Head Island next month after learning the Confederate flag is flying over the statehouse in South Carolina.

"I'm really not involved in politics," she said, "but what's right is right, and what's wrong is wrong. I mean, that's so long ago. I'm not going to support anything that's putting down my race. I'll have to talk things over with my dad again."

In the men's singles here yesterday, the Australian Lleyton Hewitt advanced to the quarter-finals after defeating Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the Russian No 3 seed, 6-4, 6-3.