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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
True to its title, Venus Envy is a chronicle of a turbulent year in women's tennis. Sports Illustrated tennis columnist Wertheim also offers readers an in-depth look at the remarkable personalities off the court, from the dynamic duo of Venus and Serena Williams to the down-to-earth Lindsay Davenport.
As he records and analyzes the events of a season on the women's tennis circuit -- beginning with the Australian Open and closing with the spectacular battle between Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams at the 2000 U.S. Open -- Wertheim describes the background of the players whose talents brought them to the forefront of the 2000 season -- including Davenport, the Williams sisters, Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Mary Pierce, Jelena Dokic, Alexandra Stevenson, Anna Kournikova, Mary Joe Fernandez, and Jennifer Capriati. Examining the players' strengths and weaknesses both on and off the court, Wertheim allows readers to step inside the high-stress world of the WTA tour.
One of the main strengths of Venus Envy is its seamless mix of stories linking contemporary players to the legendary figures that preceded them. When discussing the lingering gap between prize money for male and female players, Wertheim reaches back in time to commemorate one of the first battles over the issue of equal compensation. In 1970, nine female players -- led by Billie Jean King -- boycotted a tournament because the women's purse amounted to $11,000 less than the men's purse.
But the real focus of the book is the intense, hard-hitting women's tennis being played on courts around the world. Brawn may never truly take the advantage over brains, but Wertheim asserts that players like the muscular Williams sisters are increasingly successful, while the cerebral strategists like Martina Hingis seem less equipped to handle this new evolution in women's tennis. Interfering parents also figure prominently in Venus Envy, from mothers who think that the WTA is full of lesbians to the frightening group of "tennis fathers" who, driven by greed or the need to fulfill their own thwarted ambitions, terrorize their daughters and the rest of the players. Locker room squabbles between players often carry over onto the court, and Wertheim describes the constantly shifting rivalries and alliances, as well as the rumors and half truths, that can affect the outcome of a match. The players, who were interviewed by Wertheim throughout the season, do some dishing of their own. Lindsay Davenport, known for speaking her mind even on tough issues, openly criticizes players who enjoy the fame more than the game, condemning the attitude-laden Williams sisters and dismissing bombshell Kournikova -- who has yet to produce a record that matches up to her hype -- as "a circus act."
Fast-paced and full of energy, Venus Envy is a riveting behind-the-scenes glimpse at the players, tournaments, and passion that make women's tennis the most popular women's sport. Perfect for fans, as well as newcomers to women's tennis, Wertheim's book encapsulates the most exciting aspects of the sport and its top players. (Julie Carr)