The Williams Sisters: Past Champions

Whatever happened to…., I started thinking about the Williams sisters the other day when it was reported that Venus Williams was pulling out of next week’s Australian Open, the first leg of tennis’ grand slam. It seems that Venus and her sister Serena have been off my radar screen for a long time now. There was a time that whenever one of them was playing it was appointment viewing for me. Well, its been a year and a half since Venus last won a tournament, and two years since Serena’s last victory. Venus is ranked number 48 in the world, Serena has dropped all the way to 94th.

I don’t know how to feel about their fall. On one hand I feel sad that two of the best players to ever play women’s tennis who just happen to be sisters are on the downhill side of their careers. On the other hand I’m angry that both through the need to do everything but play tennis have allowed their great talents to atrophy. I once felt that they owed it to the historic paths carved out by Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe to dominate tennis and continue to knockout sterotypes.

They arrived on the tennis scene just over 10 years ago as teenagers to all appearances perfectly created for the game by their misunderstood Svengali-like father Richard Williams. They were big, cute and intimidating. For the first few years it was Venus threatening to redefine the game. Then it was Serena who finally upended her sister to run roughshod over all the girls in her path. Then as brightly as they’d shown in those peak formative years their tennis stars slowly started to fade. Serena turning to Hollywood to become an occasional actress and Venus distracted by her business goals as a fashion designer.

It seemed the Williams sisters were involved in everything but tennis. Eventually their distracted attention spans seemed to cause them to lose focus on the tennis court. Both were getting beaten by no names. And both had a laundry list of excuses why they were losing.

For the record, Venus will turn 27 years old in June. The five-time grand slam champion and winner of 33 tour titles is at an advanced age for today’s tennis stars. Serena will turn 26 later this year. The seven-time grand slam champion will play in the Australian Open, but reports are that as has been the case in recent years, her weight remains a problem and her will to win is still questionable. Serena’s last victory came two years ago at the Open down under.

Let me be clear the Williams sisters owe me nothing. But I must admit I really wanted them to be great. Tiger Woods great. Focused on destruction and titles. Boring all of us with finals between only each other with the rest of the tennis world forced to watch enviously. And us fans at home and in the stands saying – ‘that damn crazy-ass Richard Williams sure knew what he was talking about!’

Unfortunately, it appears that my tennis dream for the Williams sisters will not happen and that’s a shame.

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