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Williams fashions another win

Venus defeats 170th-ranked Sromova, 6-2, 6-2, and creates a bit of a stir with her outfit, although she's far from being the only one.

June 29, 2007|Chuck Culpepper | Special to The Times

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — Venus Williams clobbered an opponent and barged onto the Wimbledon fashion medal stand Thursday, displacing Maria Sharapova in the latter and vital competition.

Before Williams' 6-2, 6-2 win over 170th-ranked Hana Sromova, Sharapova's swan get-up had seemed to hold the bronze level of attention next to Roger Federer's elegant ensemble with the silver and Tatiana Golovin's red undershorts with the gold.

Then Williams turned up for her second-round match in white shorts that posed no threat to the world's thread supply, jostling the list so that Sharapova fell off and Federer's Jay Gatsby bit dipped to third, while Golovin's red undershorts remained insuperable at No. 1.

"I really haven't played in shorts before," Williams said, "but my skirt was so big, I couldn't fit it, so I had to move to the shorts immediately."

That pivotal verdict wound up making Williams' legs look even longer, presumed an impossibility. It also lent more stir to the stir of late afternoon, when the unassuming Court No. 18 went all Times Square as the Williams sisters played doubles at a Grand Slam for the first time in four years -- against a British tandem.

Fans stood four-deep on the overhang that provides a downward view. Other fans lined up 20-deep hoping for vacated seats even as every seat filled. As the Williamses brought their racket bags and their big gold pocketbooks onto the court, fans strained for a glimpse through the slats in a side fence.

At least two lads looking down from the roof garden atop the broadcast center used their zoom lens on Williams' outfit in an isolated reminder of Wimbledon's glorious absurdity.

The six-time Grand Slam doubles champion team of Williams and Williams, a wild-card entry, throttled Claire Curran and Anne Keothavong, 6-1, 6-3, and also may have indulged in gossip, which Serena Williams listed among their doubles techniques.

"We're always so positive with each other," said Venus Williams, who very well might combat a swan in a fourth-round doozy, and who did field two questions about her shorts.

The 17th-ranked Golovin fielded 17 questions about, on, of or clearly related to the undershorts, including, "Do you get the chance to shop a lot?"

Answer: "I'm from Paris."

In London circles, i.e. tabloids, her red undershorts from her first-round win vaulted her immediately into the pantheon of Wimbledon garb that includes Gussie Moran's phantasmagorical lace panties from 1949 and Anne White's white bodysuit from 1985.

It also dragged out the formal English term "red knickers."

It also raised the question of whether the red violated Wimbledon's sacred white-clothing policy, but Golovin eluded prosecution either because the garment didn't appear below the hemline, or from a ruling in the 1995 club notes that went thus: "The rule concerning players being dressed predominantly in white was clarified to mean 'almost entirely in white.' "

"I might be pushing it," she said, "but I'm still within the rules," but she's also without a place as she lost to Austrian Tamira Paszek, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, while saying her undershorts had not been a distraction.

James Blake said such things as, "I love a tradition ... I'm sleeveless everywhere else but here," and, "I shave my head. I don't shave my face that often" -- that, after he went six for six in sets and tore into the third round.

There, he joined five Americans of both genders, including Serena Williams, Venus Williams, the 75th-ranked Laura Granville and Andy Roddick in a round of 32 whose biggest enticement seems a Friday late-afternoon bout involving two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin and No. 1 Roger Federer.

Safin is the last man to defeat Federer in any Grand Slam tournament other than the French Open, winning an ancient-history 2005 Australian Open semifinal by 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 9-7. They've played once since, on grass in Germany in 2005, and Federer squeezed through that, 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-4.

So in the run-up to Wimbledon, the former has decried the quality of All England Club pasta while the latter has set quite possibly a global record for a No. 1 male athlete for longest discussion of his attire.

After the mercurial Safin won in three taut sets over the impressive Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, the first Pakistani man since 1976 to play in Wimbledon men's singles, Safin expanded on his complaints about overpriced food at the All England Club.

"For 10 pounds, which is $20, you can have a great pasta at Cipriani in New York," he said, stressing that All England Club pasta is "definitely not the Cipriani of New York."

That left Federer to wax for a whopping 12 sentences about the importance of clothing in light of his cream-colored white jacket, his cream-colored vest and his cream-colored slacks. "Yeah, well, I think it's important to look good on the court," he said.

Earnestly, he added -- well, he added a lot, including, "I see that players are more aware of the details, the headband matches with the shorts, so forth. I always thought that was important, you know, that the whole outfit matches together."

No one laughed at him because no one laughs at somebody who just crushed Juan Martin Del Porto to reach the third round in the minimum six sets, while running his Wimbledon win streak to 31 and rivaling even some miniature shorts and some red knickers.

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