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  Monday, 9 July, 2001, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Williams' star still rising
Venus Williams
Williams is still not universally popular at Wimbledon
When Martina Navratilova won her first Wimbledon back in 1978 as a 22-year-old just out of what was still Czechoslovakia, she was a new kid on the Centre Court block.

With halting English and a game honed in eastern Europe, she was not exactly an overnight crowd favourite.

It took Navratilova several more appearances on the Centre Court before she finally felt at home on the most famous stage in world tennis.

She was not alone. Chris Evert may have a special place in the hearts of the British public but she too took her time to win over the Wimbledon traditionalists after bursting precociously on to the scene four years earlier.


Maybe there will be a day when they root for me
Venus Williams
Now it is Venus Williams' turn.

Her star may be starting to rise after her second straight triumph on the hallowed lawns of the All England Club but she has some way to go to reach the heights of popularity bestowed on some of her predecessors.

Maybe it has something to do with Williams' invincibility and lack of noticeable flaws that make her a less than worshipped winner.

English sports fans love an underdog and last year, when she beat then defending champion Lindsay Davenport, Williams had the crowd on her side.

A year on, however, and there were far more who wanted her to lose when she took on Belgian teenager Justine Henin in Saturday's final.

Controversial father

For some reason supremacy is a dirty word at Wimbledon - unless your name is Pete Sampras, that is.

It was almost cringing when Williams' winners were greeted with no more than polite applause.

Almost as if the crowd were trying to tell her that two titles, an equally famous tennis-playing sister and a doting if controversial father were not in themselves enough to achieve tennis immortality.

It wasn't the first time Williams, who has had to cope with frequent allegations of gamesmanship in the past, had found herself in that sort of atmosphere.

"I've had a lot of experiences like that," she said. "It doesn't seem that I'm often the player the crowd wants to win.

"Maybe there will be a day when they root for me."

Maybe, paradoxically, she will have to lose first.

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See also:

09 Jul 01 | Wimbledon 2001
08 Jul 01 | SOL at Wimbledon
08 Jul 01 | Wimbledon 2001
Links to more Wimbledon 2001 stories are at the foot of the page.


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