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Venus, Serena: Get out there and fight

You want to like them. You want to emulate them. And if you have a daughter or a niece, you want her to emulate them, too.

There is, after all, much worth imitating about Venus and Serena Williams. They are so much of what women athletes haven't been over the years. Athletic yet feminine, shrewd yet socially conscious, fiercely independent yet easily lovable.

With their blend of power, size and finesse, they have revolutionized the women's pro tennis tour and forever changed our views and attitudes about women athletes and women's sports.

They are arguably the most popular female athletes in the world today.

So, when it's so easy to embrace them, why do they keep making it so hard to get our arms around them?

Why do they keep pulling stuff like they did last week, avoiding a semifinal match against each other in Indian Wells, Calif., when Venus developed a surprising injury just before the match?

Supposedly, Venus had tendinitis in her right knee. Well, that was her story, anyway.

Personally, I would have gone with the old pulled hamstring, but I suppose tendinitis is a good excuse, too.

Anyway, the whole thing seemed fishy because Venus looked perfectly fine in her previous match, a 6-0, 6-3 snoozer the day before. If she plays this week at the Ericsson Open in suburban Miami, you can bet people will be even more suspicious.

"Everyone makes their own comments," Venus told reporters in Indian Wells. "That's how rumors get started. I guess rumors are more exciting than the truth."

The thing is, the Williams sisters pull stuff all the time. Granted, they aren't the only ones. Tennis players are notorious for dreaming up phantom injuries to get out of playing.

But we're not talking about the Maleeva sisters. We're talking about two of the game's biggest drawing cards.

Remember the stink they caused last year when Venus hinted she wouldn't play on the U.S Olympic team without Serena, essentially forcing captain Billie Jean King to pick Serena over Lisa Raymond?

And there have been repeated questions, even from big names such as Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport, about whether the Williams family pre-determines the outcome when Venus and Serena face each other. It came up again in Indian Wells.

After Elena Dementieva lost to Venus to set up the Venus-Serena semifinal, Dementieva was asked which Williams sister would win. She said it was up to their father, Richard Williams.

That's saying a lot. Under the disguise of sisterly love, the Williams sisters are threatening the integrity of the game. If that doesn't seem like a serious offense, ask Pete Rose.

Just think. Kim Clijsters lost to Serena in the final, but maybe she would have had a better chance against Venus. Then again, maybe she would have gotten smoked worse than she did.

The point is, it would be nice to know for certain the draw determined her final-round opponent, not Richard Williams.

WTA Tour CEO Bart McGuire said he is aware of concerns around the tour, but he hasn't been able to prove any wrongdoing. Fair enough.

But what about all the suspicion? Like it or not, sometimes perception can be just as damaging as the truth.

If I'm McGuire, I order the tournament trainers who treated Venus' tendinitis to answer every question thrown at them.

If I'm McGuire, I make sure those trainers bring X-rays and lab results and anything else that might further document Venus' injury.

And if Venus or any player refuses to have her injury documented by a tour trainer, then I would treat her the way anyone who refuses a sobriety test is treated.

Suspiciously.

If the Williams sisters have nothing to hide, they should welcome the extra inspection. Trust me, if my integrity were being questioned, no one would be shouting in my defense louder than I.

Still, if I were McGuire, one way or the other, I would make an example out of the Williams sisters. Then I'd leave it up to them to determine what that example is.

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