First Among Equals


A shock defeat for Venus Williams. The defending champion won her first round match with ease but, for once, lost out in the fashion stakes.
All England Club officials were smiling. For the first time in several decades there was no football on TV. This was the day for Wimbledon to claim its rightful place in the spotlight. Even prodigal son Boris Becker was back for a flying visit in a short break from World Cup commentating duties with German TV.
Sadly, no-one had told Bethanie Mattek from Minnesota. Obviously aware the nation was missing its fix of Motty, she strode on to Centre Court dressed as a seventies footballer, complete with knee-high socks, tight white shorts and chandelier earrings.



Ms Mattek, 21, makes her own tennis outfits, although the socks came from Harrods, which also sells her favourite Krispy Kreme doughnuts. “I was going for kind of the soccer theme,” she later informed us. “I like to have fun. I like to be different.” It could have been worse. A cowboy hat and leopard-print dress earned her a fine at the US Open.
Bethanie also revealed how she did a last minute deal to advertise Belgian chocolate company Guylian and hotel review website Trip Advisor on her white vest. “I was paid a grand for each patch – if I wasn’t wearing a bra, maybe that would have gone up to five.” (And if any company executives are reading this, I’ll accept a similar deal for those two web links)
Venus was typically gracious after her 6-1 6-0 victory. Did her opponent win the fashion show? “Yeah, she looked real cute. I guess it was a close one, huh?”
As a first round loser, Bethanie walked out of the gates with £7,860, plus her £2,000 sponsorship cash. That’s a lot of doughnuts in any currency. But with a coach to pay, plus travel and hotel expenses, she’ll need that money to survive for the rest of the year.
A win in the ladies’ singles final a week on Saturday will net Venus a rather larger pay cheque of £625,000. The winner of the men’s singles gets £30,000 more. That divide rankles with all the top female players, including Venus.
As she was preparing to go out on court, Tony Blair was telling MPs he “fully endorsed” the women’s demands for equal prize money. Venus was up with the news. “It’s really exciting because this is something I personally feel very strongly about.”
Those who support Wimbledon’s policy point to the amount of time men spend on court compared to the women. Venus – who plays Lisa Raymond on Court One tomorrow – took just 52 minutes to dispose of her opponent. Over in the men’s draw, fifth seed Ivan Ljubicic finally defeated Feliciano Lopez 11-9 in the fifth set in a match lasting more than four hours.
But this is one Williams sister who can still scent victory. It’s not about the number of sets played or time treading the grass, she insisted. “What it’s really about is being treated equal as a human being.”