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Venus Envy: A Sensational Season Inside the Women's Tennis Tour Hardcover – August 7, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If you think only male professional tennis players exhibit less-than-mature behavior on and off center court, you're in for a surprise with Wertheim's candid tell-all account of a year spent following the superstars and also-rans on the WTA Tour, from the 2000 Australian Open to the 2000 U.S. Open. Wertheim (senior writer for Sports Illustrated) pulls no punches as he profiles the egos, catty repartee, emotional battering and dysfunctional family relationships that drive Venus and Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, Monica Seles and some lesser-known professionals. Women's tennis is now "the world's most popular and financially successful women's sport," surpassing men's tennis in television viewership, but still lagging behind the men in prize money. The outspoken sportswomen are not unaware of their sex appeal and appear, for the most part, willing and eager to cash in on it. Sound bites range from petulant to downright insulting (Hingis), while a model-pretty player like Kournikova can exude icy diva vibes and garner huge bonuses even though she has yet to win a major tournament. After winning the 2000 U.S. Open, Venus Williams "talked smack" to then-President Bill Clinton, asking him to lower her property taxes. But underlying the bravado of these successful athletes is the specter of abuse and dysfunction. Wertheim is unafraid to name names and reveals that the "tennis dad" is even more dangerous than the "stage mother," among other unpleasant truths. The book should hold more than just tabloid interest for young women who aspire to tennis careers. 8 pages of color photos not seen by PW.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Wertheim, a senior Sports Illustrated writer, examines women's professional tennis by focusing on the 2000 tour. Any professional sport is an insular, self-contained world with its own peculiar rituals and protocols, but women's tennis is more bizarre than most. Contributing to the show-biz atmosphere are the huge amounts of money at stake; the fragile egos of the competitors, often in their teens or early 20s; the sex appeal; and the very real sexual intrigue that permeates the tour. Among the tabloid-friendly incidents Wertheim recounts are the glamorous Anna Kournikova's bedeviling of Russian hockey stars; Wimbledon champ Venus Williams' grilling of President Clinton during the obligatory congratulation call; and the various antics of Williams' father, Richard, a combination of Daddy Dearest and Don King. Wertheim also explores the darker aspects of women's tennis, including severely dysfunctional families and sexual abuse of players by coaches. Michael Mewshaw explored many of these same issues in Ladies of the Court (1993); not much has changed since then, but Wertheim provides a fascinating update. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (August 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060197749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060197742
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,789,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

L. JON WERTHEIM is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and the author of five books, including Blood in the Cage, a chronicle of the rise of mixed martial arts, and Running the Table, about a bipolar pool hustler named Kid Delicious, which has been optioned for film by Tom Hanks's Playtone and is currently in development. His work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing numerous times.

Customer Reviews

I hate this kind of writing.
George H.
His style is very good and the book was a really easy read.
Interesting profiles on all the major players.
J.S. Silver

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J.S. Silver on August 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When I got this book, I couldn't put it down. If you have any interest in women's tennis, you must read this book.
There is more behind-the-scene information in it than you can get from any television broadcast. It's fascinating to hear about all the locker room activities. It's so much like high school with all of the cliques: the popular girls, the wannabees, the rookies, the pretty girl everyone hates. So interesting. Interesting profiles on all the major players.
Yet this book goes beyond gossip and give the casual tennis fan an insight beyond game-set-match. Tour politics. Money. Tournaments.
A great look at the year in Tennis. The anecdotal style makes for an easy read. The book went by so quickly, it could have been 100 pages longer and not gotten stale.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Too bad the author didn't get to conclude this book with the Williams sisters penultimate match against one another. Short of that, however, I can't imagine this book being more entertaining. Fans of women's tennis know that matches have gotten more exciting in recent years, arguably as entertaining as men's tennis. Author L. Jon Wertheim has managed to score a cup by getting into the hidden inner circles of the women's tennis world, spending a year with a tour. The result is a close-up view that is intriguing, exciting and impossible to put down and profiles the major players in tennis, including Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati and the Williams sisters.
What even the most avid fans of women's tennis don't get to see - the behind-the scenes gossip, intrigue and behavior that are part of the whole scene - are revealed here. Egotism, bitchiness and incredibly dysfunctional famililies add to the drama. I'd suggest that any family with an aspiring young tennis "star" in their midst give this book to that person and let her know what could await her in the future. If she decides to pursue the sport, anyway, maybe she truly has the determination to become the next star of the courts.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By edzaf on November 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Sports Illustrated" tennis writer, Jon Wertheim, has written a quick and very entertaining look at the 2000 women's tennis season. As a part-time tennis journalist/photographer myself, over the past several years I have been able to get a firsthand glimpse of the tennis world. From the cocky Williams sisters to the tempestuous Anna Kournikova to those wacky tennis parents, I can attest that Wertheim has accurately captured (warts and all) the many personalities that make up the WTA Tour.
Wertheim gives background information on many of the players to fill in those who do not religiously follow tennis, but he does so without boring those of us who do. There are juicy pieces of gossip that have certainly not made it into traditional sports reporting. One has to give Wertheim credit for penetrating this inner circle and somehow managing to add new material to these already very public personas.
The subtitle of this book is "A Sensational Season Inside the Women's Tennis Tour." It could have easily (and perhaps more appropriately) been called a "sensationalistic" season. While Lindsay Davenport has often expressed disdain for the "three-ring circus" that women's tennis has become, she, along with many others, certainly understand there is no such thing as bad publicity. A must-read for any tennis fan or even those who are just curious about these women--the "circus" is certainly in town in "Venus Envy."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bill Walsh on August 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I know Jon Wertheim as the CNNSI site's shoot-from-the-hip Gen-X tennis guy. He used to do a zippy little top-10 list but now just answers "mailbag" questions every week ... I've consistently enjoyed his stuff but have always suspected there wasn't a whole lot of knowledge or writing ability beyond the one-liners.
I was wrong. This is as engaging, perceptive and well-written a tennis book as I've seen in a long time. I'm reminded of Tennis magazine's legendary Peter Bodo, though Jon is funnier. He reveals a not-so-sweet side of Lindsay Davenport that only makes her more appealing, he explores the complicated friendship between Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova, and he walks an intelligent line in telling it like it is about the Williams family while giving them all the credit they're due.
The copy editing is atrocious (you could say that about just about any book these days), but that won't distract most people as much as it irked me -- and it probably reflects the quick turnaround Wertheim and the publisher were able to pull off. He's writing about the 2000 season in a book that came out only halfway through the 2001 season, and the freshness of the events he covers is a big plus, even if L'Equipe is sometimes L'Equippe and people are winning sets 7-1.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Kuykendall on August 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I flew through this book in one night. I am an avid tennis follower and fan of Wertheim's "mailbag" on He is a wonderful reporter, asking the right questions and taking certain people to task when necessary. His interviews are insightful and entertaining and this book was obviously very difficult for me to put down. It's a shame that the book is so poorly edited and errors abound. It makes the whole endeavor come off much less professionally than I believe it is. The book is also too short (when's the last time you said that?). I had the feeling that he could have added about a hundred pages to flesh out some of the players better. But this is an enjoyable and fun read. Anybody who is a fan of women's tennis will love the insights and profiles of big-named players.
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