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In the Words of Father, Coach, and Manager ...

Richard Williams has a tendency to strut even when he sits. And he may have good reason. But what fascinates are the theories, pronouncements, analyses, musings, and general thumb suckings that define the father of Venus and Serena. In a rare interview, here's what he had to say.

On the girls growing up ...

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When Venus was four years, six months, one day old, Williams took her to the tennis court for the first time. "I knew she was a champion," he says. Soon, he'd show up at the court with 550 balls and Venus wanted to hit them all, even though "on maybe 300, she'd swing and miss completely." He figures she got four or five over the net. "That's determination," he marvels.

Six months later, Williams banned her from tennis "because she loved it too much. I wasn't looking to develop a tennis player, I was looking to develop a human being." When Venus was six years, seven months old, he allowed her back on the court.

Truth is, he swears, he desperately wishes both girls would quit playing tennis. "It's not important anymore for them to be good players. It used to be. No more. What I want is for them to be good human beings."

He used to give Venus $50 for every match she lost, trying to encourage her to quit.

On tennis in general ...

Williams hates it, says he never liked it, doesn't enjoy watching it, and calls it a "sissy sport."

On teaching tennis ...

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To learn about the game, he watched an instructional videotape by former star Stan Smith and the late Arthur Ashe, which included useful info like how to hit forehands, backhands, serves. He capped his learning by reading a copy of Tennis magazine.

He always has been Venus's coach, excluding several unsuccessful forays with real coaches. "What is a coach going to tell you today that he didn't tell you yesterday? I've been out there with them, and I can't say anything different. But I'm not that bright to begin with," he says. Tennis doesn't take much work. He believes in practicing "maybe an hour and a half a day on the court. That's enough. If it's not, I convince myself that it is."

No road training, no lifting, no conditioning other than playing. "It just wears the body out."

On Serena ...

Williams knows he walks a fine line, trying to build up both girls and putting down neither. In a perfect example of a man who may often be wrong but never in doubt, he says, "Serena is going to be better than Venus." On the one hand, he says that he sees Venus's greatest strength as her confidence and her greatest weakness as "being too confident." As for Serena, he says her drive is unbridled.

On Venus's celebrity ...

"I have never seen a girl that the public takes to as much as they do Venus," he says. "She reminds me of Ali."

On race ...

Whites have been taught "that all Africans might eat you up." He says that "no university teaches black people about themselves." Then Williams turns on people of his race, saying it's "time for everyone to stand up and be responsible. And that's the problem with most black people. In their minds, they are in chains. They are enslaved."

On money ...

"If she stays in tennis until she is 23, [Venus] will have $1 billion easy .... She will be the highest-paid player in the history of tennis."

She has an endorsement deal with Reebok, variously described in the media as worth $3 million or $12 million. Neither Reebok nor Williams will say, but Richard says the numbers quoted are "far, far too low."

There is vagueness when he discusses money. He has had Venus put $400,000 in a business involving bionic body parts that is going to produce "millions." Various deals in China will be making her $48 million a year, he says. Electronic medicine is big with him. He has her invest in Africa, he doesn't want to say in what, and he glows when he reports that "she'll make $28 million a year on just her pinball machines." There will be a book. There will be a movie.

Her official winnings this year: $484,710. Her career winnings: $983,358. Martina Navratilova won more than $20 million in her career.

On education ...

Universities are useless: "They can help you get your English together. They can teach you how to go to work, work like a mule, and live like a dog. But they don't teach you how to make money. They just teach you to get a job and in 25 or 30 years, get a watch, a pat on the back...."

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