June 23, 2010 / 12:57 PM / 10 years ago

Talent not looks puts bums on seats, says Williams

LONDON (Reuters) - For the father of the two most famous sisters in sport, the game of tennis is all about the player’s pulling power and not their looks.

Serena Williams (L) and Venus Williams of the U.S. slap hands after winning a point in their ladies doubles match against Julie Ditty of the U.S. and Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic at the 2010 Wimbledon tennis championships in London, June 22, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble

“You can look like a mule or an elephant or have a nose as long as an elephant’s, all they care about is can you bring people to put on those seats,” Richard Williams, the outspoken father of Wimbledon champions Serena and Venus, told Reuters.

“If you can do that and sell tickets, it doesn’t matter if you are number one or number 100 million.”

The sisters, who have their own fashion labels, have reigned supreme at Wimbledon across the 21st century.

Their power game dominates the headlines as much as the flamboyant strawberry and cream dresses and flesh-coloured underwear they pick to wear on court.

That is just fine with Richard, sunning himself on the players’ terrace where he seems as permanent a fixture at the All England Club as the Pimm’s drinks quaffed by thousands of fans.

“What I taught them was that there is a life beyond the baseline. I tried my best to teach them commonsense,” he said.

“Whatever decisions they make, I would be happy with it.”

With fashion houses pouring an estimated five million pounds into dressing the stars at Wimbledon, critics may complain that the world’s most famous tennis tournament has turned into one giant catwalk for television audiences around the world.

So have sharp-eyed marketeers taken charge? Is the sport more about entertainment nowadays than athleticism?

Nine-times Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova says she is no great fan of rising hems and plunging necklines.

But Richard Williams, whose astute daughters know a thing or two about what a potent mix fashion and sport can be, is phlegmatic about the way the game is going.

Asked if he thought the marketeers had taken over, he said “I don’t see that as being a problem at all. I really do not. I think the women playing today have made some great choices, some wise choices.”

Editing by Miles Evans

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