Serena and Venus Williams

The New York Times has an interesting article about Serena and Venus Williams and the impact they’ve had on tennis.

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For a sizable portion of nearly two transformative decades, one family surname has competitively dominated tennis and continually inundated its news. Think about how an emerging generation of female players has never known a tour without the headlining Williams sisters, Venus and Serena.

Some telling perspective on the subject from Garbiñe Muguruza, 21, who grew up in Venezuela and Spain:

“When I was 4 or 5, I turned on the TV, and they were playing,” said Muguruza, Serena’s victim in last month’s Wimbledon final. “Today, I turn the TV on, and they are still playing.

“So I am saying, how is this possible?”

Who could resist occasionally posing that question since the late 1990s, when the sisters — born 15 months apart, African-American outliers from gritty Compton, Calif. — began to lay siege to a sport historically and overwhelmingly trending wealthy and white?

Back then, there was resistance to the takeover. Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine women’s tennis without Venus, 35, its elder stateswoman, and Serena, going on 34 and a United States Open title away from completing tennis’s first calendar-year Grand Slam since Steffi Graf’s in 1988.

The sisters do not need Clarence the Angel to remind them that it’s been a wonderful sporting life, though not one without stumbles and setbacks. But the spectating world can grow impatient with the status quo, bored and resentful of its repetition. So let’s consider what a Williams-less tour might have been like had Richard Williams, the family patriarch, never created his most improbable blueprint.

And then there is this from Justine Henin:

While receiving an award recently in Toronto, Henin — who was probably Serena’s most challenging opponent, besides the younger Venus — predicted that Serena would win the calendar Slam, saying, “What I admire and respect so much still is that Serena remains the boss.”

But Henin added that the rest of the current field had become too interchangeable, too timid.

“There are many girls that can play good tennis, but it’s not consistent enough,” she said. “I wish the girls can be more consistent and believe that they can beat Serena, because some players proved in the past that it is possible.”

Years ago I remember Justine Henin making a comment about how tennis fans are tired of seeing the Williams sisters in Grand Slams.

“I think that maybe the crowd likes also to see the other players in different Grand Slam finals,” Justine Henin said after she was dismantled by Venus Williams on Thursday. “It’s a difficult situation.”

Of course Papa Williams struck back:

Difficult for whom? The fans or the players? Out of sight, but not far from a telephone, Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena, took time out from his list of Florida business ventures — including solar-panel assembly, filmmaking and nature photography — to offer a suggestion for the list of opponents who will not bother to watch his daughters play each other in their third major final when the women’s final at Wimbledon unfolds on Saturday.

“I know history,” Richard Williams said when reached today. “And I know that no one ever got tired of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert or Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

“I think what people are tired of is that they’re not able to beat these girls. They’re looking for excuses or a cop-out. If I were another player, I would watch Venus and Serena play with a pencil and a piece of paper. I would take notes and say to myself, `I’m going to beat you the next time.’ If you’re tired of it, do something about it.”

Thank you. I never heard anyone say they’re tired of Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal. Never heard anyone say they were tired of Pete Sampras before he retired.  Justine Henin got a serious side eye from me years ago after making her comment.

Check out the entire New York Times article.

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