© Ella Ling

Miami 2012 - Venus celebration

Vegan Williams - raw, uncooked and dangerous


V is for Vegan. The June issue of Vanity Fair has some insights into the uncooked, sometimes unfathomable world of Venus Ebony Starr Williams.

Her greatest ‘necessary extravagance’? “A vegan chef, a physiotherapist and an assistant.” She washes her hair with shampoos and conditioners “made of raw food products” and her favourite dessert is “a raw lemon cheesecake”. Venus has spoken of being a ‘chegan’ – “I started eating raw, and I started eating vegan, and I also cheat, so I’m a chegan” – but this interview would suggest she is serious about the changes she has made to her diet to counter the effects of an auto-immune disease which had left her low on energy and on-court prospects.

If Venus has one last great summer this season, and goes deep into the draw at Wimbledon or the Olympics (her qualification is not yet guaranteed), could we be looking at tennis’s first vegan champion? Forget the gluten-free diet; the next tennis fad would be to go easy on the cooking.

The French Open once dealt with the danger posed by Mickey Mouse (and the possibility that the tournament was going to relocate to EuroDisney), but how will it cope with Greeks saying no to austerity, with Angela Merkel, with the election of Francois Hollande, and with the possibility of France leaving the Euro?

The collapse of the European project would of course have huge consequences for the worldwide tennis economy – sponsors would become less keen to part with their dollars, pounds and reintroduced currencies – but there could be some small benefits for the everyman and everywoman in the locker-rooms.

Next May, the world’s tennis players could find themselves competing for considerably larger cheques at Roland Garros, with the prize-money to be paid in reintroduced, devalued, weakened French Francs.

Much was made recently of the Arab Spring in tennis’s player-lounges and locker-rooms, of how the French Open and Wimbledon significantly increased the money they pay to those who lose early. Many players, especially those who bank in stronger currencies such as US dollars or Swiss Francs, could find themselves earning more – once the money has been converted from Francs – from their efforts at Roland Garros. The elite, those who go deepest into the draw, could be the greatest beneficiaries if the French Franc was to come out of retirement.

Of course, there are greater considerations at this moment in European history than whether Sergiy Stakhovsky and his friends would be happy with their profit-loss column from a trip to Paris. But it’s worth considering: a financial crisis in the Eurozone markets doesn’t necessarily mean a financial crisis for tennis’s Everyman.

Vanity Fair has another scoop – that Andy Roddick’s wife, Brooklyn Decker, is named after a horse: “My mom’s best friend had a horse named Brooke, so my dad suggested ‘Brooklyn’ as a more formal version and it stuck.”