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Court match between promoters, Williamses begins

11/17/2006 - Tennis

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Tennis stars Venus and Serena
Williams reneged on a deal to play in a 2001 "Battle of the
Sexes" match, costing the promoters millions of dollars, an
attorney claimed Friday during opening statements in a
breach-of-contract lawsuit against the sisters and their father.

"This case is about the sanctity of a contract, a case about
men and women giving their word," said John Romano, attorney for
promoters Carol Clarke and Keith Rhodes, who are suing the sisters
and their father, Richard Williams, for alleged breach of contract.

Clarke and Rhodes, owners of a company called CCKR, allege that
Richard Williams committed his daughters to play in the match and
that they reneged on the deal. The promoters had not yet secured
agreements from any men's stars, Romano said. The promoters are
seeking unspecified damages.

The Williams sisters claim their father could not make such a
commitment because he did not have the authority to enter into the
deal.

"Not one time, not one document will you see where Venus
Williams signed any agreement, signed any note, signed any letter,
obligating her to participate in a battle of the sexes," the
sisters' attorney, F. Malcolm Cunningham, told jurors.

"Similarly, Serena Williams did not sign anything," Cunningham
added. "The case begins and ends there."

A first trial in the case ended in a mistrial in December after
more than two weeks of testimony. This second trial, before Palm
Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey A. Winicoff, is expected to last
five weeks.

The sisters were present in the courtroom Friday, sitting at a
table with two silver laptop computers in front of them. Their
father also was present.