Serena Williams and Venus Williams Vanity Fair Oscar Party Held...

Serena Williams and Venus Williams Vanity Fair Oscar Party Held At Mortons in Beverly Hills. (March 5, 2006) Credit: AP

There's something about the Williams sisters that makes them seem larger than life.

And it's not just their sheer talent as tennis players (Serena, who pulled out of the U.S. Open with a foot injury, has been ranked No. 1 in the world; Venus, who played Monday, No. 5). These women are style icons. Consider the gutsy way they flaunt their physiques and style on the court - denim, boots, a catsuit (Serena); skin-tone boy-shorts, the cancan ensemble (Venus).

"They have a unique form of celebrity relative to other tennis players today, no doubt about that," says WFAN sports talk radio host Lori Rubinson. "What makes them interesting is the fact that they have other interests," she says. "We're used to tennis players in the past being far more single-minded."

Venus credits her family.

"Serena and I were brought up with a different philosophy on life," she said in an interview last week. "We were taught to be complete people. To explore who we were outside of the court. To have that entrepreneurial spirit."

So they both studied fashion design.

Venus continues to build her apparel line, EleVen. (The brand, once found at the now-defunct Steve & Barry's chain, is currently sold online at semiannual sales on Gilt Groupe - fans can become members at giltgroupe.com/eleven - and may soon be at a major retailer. She's in talks and can't reveal names.)

Venus even collaborated on a limited-edition dress this season with Ralph Lauren, which was, "as a designer . . . a dream come true," she says.

Meanwhile, Serena, who has a line of clothes on HSN, has been training to be certified as a nail technician in Florida. She's No. 1 and does manicures? Hey, she's loved nails since she was a teenager, and plans to develop her own nail line.

Besides, she learned years ago that she needn't always do or be what others expect.

"I don't look like every other girl," she told Harper's Bazaar. "It takes a while to be OK with that. To be different. But different is good."

 

Teaming up with Ralph Lauren

 

Venus Williams may be known for her, well, offbeat style sense on court. But she's also embracing the sport's classical side, thanks to a collaboration with Ralph Lauren.

Last week she hosted Lauren's Legends Clinic, a virtual tennis camp where she offered online tennis tips, wearing the limited-edition, racerback U.S. Open Stretch Venus Dress, $198, designed in collaboration with Lauren and her EleVen line. (Fifteen percent of sales will be donated to the Women's Sports Foundation.)

Polo Ralph Lauren is also once again the official outfitter of the Open, which means you can look as sporty as the ball boys and girls. The Venus dress and other Open merchandise, like this custom-fit Polo, $98, in breathable performance mesh, can be found at the on-site Lauren shop at the Open, select Ralph Lauren shops and department stores, and ralphlauren.com. 

Fashion history on the court

 

1. French champ René Lacoste - nicknamed "the crocodile," for his toughness - put the li'l critter on the first Lacoste polo shirt in 1929.

2. Scandal erupted at Wimbledon in 1949 when Gussy Moran showed up on court in lace-trimmed panties under her tennis skirt.

3. Andre Agassi, one of the greatest players of all time, didn't need a can-can outfit to get tongues wagging - he did it with denim shorts, neon shirts . . . no shirt at all.

4. Bethanie Mattek could be considered the Dennis Rodman of tennis, wearing a cowboy hat at the 2005 U.S. Open (she got fined) or other gems: skimpy gym shorts, sausage-casing halters, tube socks, gold lamé.

5. Rafael Nadal - the Spanish superstar - first caught attention on the courts in muscle tees and clam-digger pants.

6. Roger Federer - his white blazer (which he often wears at Wimbledon) matches his playing style: classic, elegant, old school.