Venus mulls retirement

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The Independent Online

For Venus Williams, 19 could be retirement age.

Williams, who has yet to play a match this year, may give up tennis to focus on her education and investments, her father said on Tuesday.

"She's considering that very seriously," Richard Williams said. "On a scale of 10, I'd say she's a 7 or a 7 1/2 (to retire)."

Williams said he advised his daughter to take at least the rest of this year off. She has been sidelined since November, citing tendinitis in both wrists for the layoff.

"She has been playing a long time now, and she needs time off to rest," Richard Williams said. "She needs to get more education.

"She has enough money now for sure. She has some unbelievable investments paying off very well. She's in a great position right now."

Venus, who finished last year ranked No 3, has career earnings of nearly $4.6 million. That doesn't include her lucrative endorsement contracts.

"If Venus retired from tennis, she'd be making a statement," her father said. "That's why it's time to walk away. I've seen too many black athletes come out of the ghetto and earn all that money, and four or five years later they're broke and no one cares who they once were."

Venus' 18-year-old sister, Serena, is the reigning US Open champion. She may retire when her endorsement deal with Puma expires in three years, her father said.

"Because of the planning we've done with these two girls, they don't need tennis any longer," he said. "When they're 30 years old, they'll have 10 or 12 businesses. The things they'll be doing when they're out of tennis will surpass tennis so much."

The sisters' mercurial father acknowledged that his attitude regarding their retirement might seem surprising. He taught them the game and has long touted them as future No 1 players who will dominate the women's tour.

"Maybe I'm crazy," he said. "Do you think I'm crazy?"

Speculation that Venus Williams might be tired of tennis has been building in recent weeks. She has postponed her return to the WTA Tour three times, most recently last week when she withdrew from the Ericsson Open two days before the tournament.

Serena, eliminated on Monday in the fourth round by Jennifer Capriati, last week said she would be surprised if Venus retired.

"I expect to see her back and competing soon," Serena said.

Venus, reached at her home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, declined to be interviewed. Her next scheduled tournament begins May 1 in Hamburg, Germany.

Lindsay Davenport, who has dominated the women's tour in recent months, put little stock in Richard Williams' remarks about Venus.

"I wouldn't take anything he says too seriously," Davenport said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we saw her playing again soon

Venus is attending a fashion design school in South Florida and is interested in computers, her father said. Serena has studied at an art institute. The elder Williams would like to see them both get involved in politics.

"Why wait until you're 27 to retire?" he said. "No one gives a damn about you when you get that old. People are waiting for the next 14-year-old girl to bring excitement. So get out of it and start your career someplace else now."

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