By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - Venus Williams' father will brook no argument - the five-times Wimbledon champion is doing just fine despite slumping out of the tournament in the opening round for the first time in 15 years.
At 32, the graceful American is fighting her way back to fitness after being diagnosed with the autoimmune, fatigue-inducing illness Sjogren's Syndrome but looked flat on Monday when she was beaten 6-1 6-3 by Russia's Elena Vesnina.
Gone was the air of invincibility that was so evident in the last decade, when she and sister Serena dominated women's tennis.
But their father, Richard, bridled at any suggestion it was time to start writing tennis obituaries for the powerful player who has won seven grand slam titles.
"Venus will be alright and Jehovah, that's the god we serve, will take care of Venus. I think she is coming along great. She just has to have time to make things work out," he told Reuters as he looked out from the media balcony at the sun-kissed courts where his offspring have rewritten tennis history.
His loyalties have never been divided and when the two met in four Wimbledon finals, he would make a point of flying home early so he did not have to watch the match. He did not want to know the result until he touched down back in the United States.
His constant mantra is: "There is life beyond the baseline."
Carefully nurturing his daughters through their careers, he has always sought to avoid the burnout that has struck down so many players and has always wanted them to have a life outside the lucrative but claustrophobic world of globe-trotting tennis.
"Venus and Serena have great business sense. They have made a ton of money. They serve God, they are very obedient, they listen to me and their mum. They will be alright. They went to college, they have education," he said.
"I always made sure that their education was much better than their tennis."
Venus will return to Wimbledon next month with her sister, where she hopes the pair will successfully defend their doubles title at the London Olympics.
"I am tough, let me tell you, tough as nails," she told reporters after her disappointing loss on Monday.
Venus, who returned to the tour in March after seven months out with her illness, added: "I have great tennis in me, I just need the opportunity."
Her father is also convinced there is plenty left in the tank, even if the evidence from the court has not been that positive.
"I don't see why she should retire. She has the biggest serve on this planet," he added.
"She runs faster than anyone else, she has a great forehand, a great backhand. I don't know a player who has as much speed as her. In this sport, speed is money."
(Editing by John O'Brien)