â€œI definitely couldnâ€™t have done it without my dad,â€™â€™ Venus said. â€œI donâ€™t know what Iâ€™d be doing.â€
Injuries and other interest (Venus – fashion design; Serena – acting) kept the celebrated Sisters Act from becoming the dominant duo of the past decade. Though theyâ€™ve played sparingly in recent years – mainly at the Grand Slam events – theyâ€™ve continued to be serious contenders for the gameâ€™s most coveted titles. Both now are focused on adding another U.S. Open title to their already impressive collections. No. 12 seed Venus, seeking her third U.S. Open title, advanced to the third round Wednesday, defeating Ioana Raluca Olaru 6-4, 6-2; No. 8 Serena, also seeking a third U.S. Open, struggled in the first set, defeating Maria Elena Camerin 7-5, 6-2. If the sisters stay on course, they would clash in the semifinals.
â€œIf Serena is able to stay healthy, sheâ€™ll win the tournament,â€ Richard said. â€œIf not, Venus will win. Right now, Serena is having some problems â€“ with her thumb and another problem that showed up (Monday) night when she was playing.â€
Richard prepared each daughter for their respective matches this week. He scheduled their practice sessions and oversaw their separate workouts, which usually last no more than 25 minutes.
â€œI donâ€™t believe in a lot of practice,â€ Richard said. â€œI believe if your foundation and technique are good, you donâ€™t need a lot of practice. And I donâ€™t believe in scouting a player, either.â€
Serena sometimes practices a bit longer but Richard says he rarely overrules his more volatile daughter when sheâ€™s on the court.
â€œWhen Serena practices during a tournament, itâ€™s best not to get too close to her,â€ he said. â€œShe has a way of separating herself from everything once sheâ€™s out there. Ask her a question and she wonâ€™t answer, but she acknowledges what you say by doing what you ask her to do. While Serena hardly says anything, Venus will be talking and laughing. Itâ€™s hard dealing with two different personalities.â€
Noting another difference, Richard said: â€œIf a player hits a ball out of Venusâ€™ reach, she tries to get it anyway. She runs like the wind. If somebody hits a ball that Serena canâ€™t reach, sheâ€™ll wait for the next point and nail it as hard as she can. Sheâ€™s one of the greatest fighterâ€™s Iâ€™ve ever seen. And mean! I always said that she was like a pit bull and a young Mike Tyson. Sometimes, I have to tell her she has to be calmer, that she has a lot going for her in life. If that doesnâ€™t work, than you can always step in as a father. But when sheâ€™s off the court, you wouldnâ€™t think you were dealing with the same person.â€
Richard says pulling double duty is demanding and often stressful, but satisfying.
â€œItâ€™s not about money anymore,â€ he said. Itâ€™s about how good a job I can do. I try to do the best job I can because I know Venus goes around bragging about the job I do. But you know, the one thing I love about my girls more than anything: they love playing the top players. Whoever is No. 1, 2 or 3, they love playing them. And itâ€™s hard to beat my girls. Theyâ€™ve got too many shots.â€