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WIMBLEDON NOTES

Venus Drops First Set but Still Wins

June 30, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WIMBLEDON, England — Maureen Drake made a series of volleys, putting away the final one to take the first set against the No. 1 player in the world.

The mother of the No. 1 player applauded Drake's shot-making. Oracene Williams, Venus' mother, often does this after an excellent rally, appreciating a fine shot. So often she looks bored in the stands, and why not? Her daughters usually don't face more than token opposition in the early rounds of Grand Slam tournaments.

Wimbledon has been different. Serena Williams needed two tiebreakers to get past qualifier Els Callens of Belgium in the third round Friday. Venus, the two-time defending champion, dropped her first set of the tournament Saturday but impressively raised her level of play, beating 110th-ranked Drake of Canada, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.

Venus had tape on her left knee and her mobility seemed suspect in the first set, as she went down, 0-3.

"I just felt I was playing too passive, a little too tentative," she said.

Drake, 31, has been one of the more interesting individuals on the tour, wearing dark sunglasses against Williams. She once spent time with a Caribbean support group and had a spiritual advisor, changed her name to Mo Majick and designed her own tennis clothes. This was her third main draw event on the tour, failing to get out of qualifying in seven other tournaments.

*

Boris Becker watched the way Pete Sampras sat and stared at his racket strings after Wednesday's shocking second-round loss to George Bastl. Becker, writing in a column in Saturday's Times here, said that he was so unnerved he had to stop in the middle of an interview.

"To me, his Wimbledon life stopped at that moment," Becker wrote. " 'That's it,' I said, 'He will not come back. That is the end of Pete.'

"We had a seven-time champion who had spent much of a second-round match reading a letter of inspiration from his wife--out in the open, on a show court at Wimbledon, not at the dinner table in the candlelight. I could not believe the whole thing. He had sunk into himself at the end of the match. Maybe he was shedding a tear, not in public but inside."

Sampras, who has not won a tournament since Wimbledon 2000, said immediately after the match he would return to Wimbledon.

"It was a natural reaction," Becker said. "He had not time to consider all the consequences, it had been so unexpected."

*

The WTA had been considering moving its headquarters from St. Petersburg, Fla., to either Atlanta or Los Angeles. But its board of directors, meeting here Saturday, opted to stay in Florida.

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