Fri, Dec 22, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Williams sisters trial verdict expected soon

AFP , WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA

The Williams sisters did not breach a 2001 contract for an unplayed tennis tournament because the promise to play was a letter signed by their father and not the tennis stars, their lawyer said at the close of a trial in Florida on Wednesday.

"There is no contract which my clients entered into," Malcolm Cunningham told a jury of eight at the close of a US$9 million lawsuit brought by two promoters for breach of contract.

The first trial was annulled a year ago.

The jury withdrew and was expected to arrive at a verdict as soon as yesterday.

At the heart of the lawsuit is a written promise their father, Richard Williams, signed for the appearance of his daughters Venus and Serena in a 2001 tournament, billed as the battle of the sexes. The event never took place and the plaintiffs say the Williams sisters reneged on their promise.

Cunningham maintained that what the promoters' lawyers called a "valid and binding contract" was simply a letter of introduction to the private company that handles the sisters' business.

The so-called contract, the lawyer told the jury, "was signed by Richard Williams, not Venus Williams, not Serena Williams ... this letter is not a contract."

He went on to say that the Williams sisters signed their own contracts and that neither was aware of what their father had done.

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