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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

Gold Is Venus' Favorite Color

Tennis: Williams blasts her way past Dementieva in less than an hour, running winning streak to 32. Doubles is up next.

September 27, 2000|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — Two bright gold earrings . . . and two bright gold medals?

Maybe Venus Williams knew something special would happen at the Olympics. She once wore a silver outfit at the U.S. Open, the year she first reached the final, but, frankly she is starting to like this golden look.

Ears, followed by medals.

Williams is the best female player on the planet--please ignore those out-of-date rankings--and is on the verge of making history. If Williams and younger sister Serena defeat the Dutch team of Miriam Oremans and Kristie Boogert in Thursday's final, she would be the first female in the open era to win the Olympic singles and doubles.

One other American woman accomplished the feat: Helen Wills in 1924.

The second-seeded Williams picked up gold medal No. 1 in less than an hour, defeating 10th-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia, 6-2, 6-4, this afternoon. Teammate Monica Seles took the bronze medal.

The more surprising moment occurred during the medal ceremony. During the national anthem, Williams smiled widely, but as the music kept playing, the moment truly moved her as she wiped tears away. She admitted she felt emotional.

"With the Grand Slams, you have so many opportunities. But this gold is just every four years," she said. "And who knows, maybe in 2004, I won't be chosen. So this is one moment in time for me, and for my country and for my family and for the team."

Williams said it had been a dream of her father, Richard, for her to win a gold medal. She recalled watching the Games at home as a child.

"You see it on TV," she said. "The competitor bows their head, they put the medal on, and it was really great. It was me."

Williams, 20, has won 32 consecutive matches, including titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and now the Olympic gold. Her last loss was to Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario of Spain in the quarterfinals of the French Open on June 6, and Williams avenged that defeat here, beating Sanchez-Vicario in a difficult three-set quarterfinal.

So you can call this Half a Golden Slam. Steffi Graf completed the Golden Slam in 1988 when she won all four majors and the gold at Seoul.

Williams has had an incredible year, by any measure. Long forgotten was her early-season absence, missing the Australian Open and those rumors of retirement.

"I guess I've graduated to a different level, where I can be like some of the greats," she said.

That has been evident when Williams was winning matches, not playing her best tennis. But she was on against Dementieva, who reached the U.S. Open semifinals, and is improving on a weekly basis. The 18-year-old could not match Williams' baseline power, however.

"It was difficult to play against her," Dementieva said. "She played very well today, very well this week, I'm happy to be in the final. She is very strong, especially this year. She has won so many tournaments. It was a great experience for me to play against her. I wasn't nervous. It was a bit exciting. It was my first final in a big tournament."

Dementieva, who beat Williams a year ago in the Fed Cup final, noted the dramatic difference since then.

"She goes to the net, she does everything on the court," she said. "One year ago, very conservative on some shots. Now she is doing everything."

If it wasn't for her quick reaction, the Russian teenager might have been knocked out by a Williams serve in the first set. She quickly ducked her head, getting out of the way, and laughed about it later.

"I wasn't ready for the second serve, it was like a first," she said.

For both players, the importance of the Olympics increased with each round. Williams, almost by herself, has made the tournament relevant.

"This is much more meaningful," Williams said. "I knew I was playing in the Olympics. I knew I'd be playing for my country, for pride, playing for a medal. I knew it would be a long road. It's meant a lot to me."

Two other medals were awarded. Arnaud Di Pasquale of France defeated Roger Federer of Switzerland in the bronze-medal match, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (7), 6-3, in 2 hours 23 minutes. Di Pasquale secured the bronze despite squandering a match point in the second-set tiebreaker.

The Spanish team of Alex Corretja and Albert Costa took the doubles bronze, beating the David Adams and John-Laffnie De Jager of South Africa, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. That match had been postponed because of rain the previous day and finished today, with the Spaniards leading 3-2 in the third set.

Seles won the women's bronze Tuesday by beating Australian teenager Jelena Dokic, 6-1, 6-4.

"I'm just happy I won a medal," Seles said. "Away from the gold, a bronze is good."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Medal Winners

Tennis Women's Singles

Gold: Venus Williams, U.S.

Silver: Elena Dementieva, Russia

Bronze: Monica Seles, U.S.

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