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Williams Debuts And Exits Early

By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 29, 1997; Page D6

WIMBLEDON, England, June 28—Serena Williams was reading Charles Dickens—"A Tale of Two Cities," to be precise—in the Court 1 stands while her sister, Venus, dismantled Poland's Magdelena Grzybowska in the first set of their first-round match at the All England club this afternoon. In the second set, Serena put the book down. In the third, she crossed her arms and stared at the court worriedly.

And on Sunday she can fly home to South Florida with her sister, just in time for the first day of summer school. Venus, the much-hyped 17-year-old prodigy from Palm Beach Gardens, flamed out in her first Wimbledon appearance, falling to the lower-ranked Grzybowska, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Grzybowska, who is ranked 91, had lost her previous six matches.

Her beaded braids clicking much more often than her service game, Williams, No. 59 in the world, started the match with confidence, then spiraled in the second and third sets—at one point losing seven consecutive games. She lost the match by getting broken at love in her final service game. She also recorded 11 double faults.

"Everyone does have high hopes and everyone wants to win," said Williams, who lost in the second round of the French Open, her first Grand Slam appearance. "I'm not too disappointed. It's my first Wimbledon and there will be many more to come and I think I tried to do my best and I never gave up during the match."

After waiting through five days and a massive amount of rain for her first Wimbledon appearance, Williams seemed relatively cheerful in the postmatch news conference—at least until it was suggested that her father, Richard, had been lax in his role as coach by not accompanying her here.

Williams, who traveled to both the French Open and Wimbledon with Serena and their mother, admitted that she wished her father had attended this tournament, but bristled at the implied criticism. Richard Williams has said that he will not be a traveling tennis father and instead will pick the matches he attends. "My mother is here, she is just as much my coach, almost as much as my dad," said Williams, who flatly stated that her father is "competent" when asked if she had thought about working with a more experienced teacher.

"We work together as a family, doing things," she continued. "So she knows the game also. It's not like I'm here all by myself, striking it out."

Richard Williams has been alternately praised and criticized by tennis watchers for keeping his daughters—Serena, 15, also is a player—out of the traditional junior tournaments and on a limited professional tournament schedule while they attend school. This summer, Williams is scheduled to finish her requirements for a high school diploma by taking two credits of summer school in Florida, although she is scheduled to play three tournaments in preparation for her U.S. Open debut in late August.

Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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