[It's raining cats and dogs this late Sunday evening which means poor web access in my little corner of the world. I'm therefore posting the blog meant for Monday morning now because being the raining season in Nigeria, the clouds may not lift by today morning.]
What more is there to write about Venus and Serena Williams but to regurgitate information that is known to tennis lovers the world over but here is another go at the subject. Actually, it’s not my first. Tomorrow will be Serena’s alone as she has perhaps been the more hated and vilified sister. Considering the talent of the two sisters, especially Serena, her being hated is to be expected.
Picture taken 20 years ago in Compton, California where it all began.
There has never been anything like the Williams phenomena in tennis, and no matter how far Venus and Serena go during this tournament, they have already written their names in gold in not just women’s tennis but in tennis, men or women and in all sports. They’ve stuck together and held their heads high amidst all the personal and professional put-downs even by those whose accomplishments are way below what each girl has put together. Pressure? Tons of reasons for them to always be under great pressure but they’ve mastered the art of handling it with grace. They’ve endured “foot faults” that were only from the “faulty” calls of chair umpires and, incredibly, points that should go to, say, Serena going to her opponents, etcetera but they have soldiered on.
Their various injuries this past year had made doubters of even their most ardent fans that they would ever play again, especially Serena. How wrong we all were. One close-up camera shot at the pre-Wimbledon press conference and Serena’s eyes tell the tennis equivalent of the tale of the tape: I might have been off for several months but I’m here to compete – and you guys should note that!
Venus and Serena, of course, were coached by dad, Richard who famously planned with his wife to have more kids when he discovered how much money tennis players made. The babies followed in quick succession; Richard bought tennis books and studied them solely to teach his two little ones and, boy, did he drown out the critics but he made his way on to Tennis Estab permanent not-wanted-as-dinner-guest in the process but he has laughed last.
Doubles partners in the making. Braids sure add more cute-ness to the braces!
When Venus was being hailed as a new comer barely a teenager – these permanent critics had also faulted Richard for not allowing her on the pro tour earlier – he said something like – wait till Serena … they will one day be Numbers 1 and 2 in women’s tennis! What? Tennis? This is NOT basketball or football? Venus and Serena not only went on to become Numbers 1 and 2 but they’ve won an incredible nine of the last eleven singles title at Wimbledon. Think of that: since 2000, they’ve taken nine of the singles trophies and Serena got runner-up to Maria in a match that Serena lost even before the toss-up: I happened to have been in England and the relentless British press’ welcome for Maria – whom I happen to like – as blonde, beautiful … was almost akin to the Second Coming.
These two young ladies – loved by millions and hated by racists also in the millions (check out the blogs any time either is reported on) have not only done well for themselves and their family but they’ve done very well for tennis. They have single-handedly shown the world that no matter your circumstances,your child can become a tennis great if you are willing to put in the dedication to the work after developing the interest and know-how. They spurred the Russian Invasion which now has more ladies on the tour than any country; in fact, the U.S. seems dead in a sport that once featured mostly Americans at the top – males or females. Venus and Serena brought the power game to tennis which has taken the game to such a height that there are now, perhaps, as many fans of women’s tennis as the men’s game. They’ve brought more fans to tennis and dispelled – not by words but through their impressive achievements – that tennis is not a “whitey game”.
What athletes? Venus and Serena at a Tennis Ball gala look set to give a top model a run for her money.
And they have brought p-i-z-z-a-z. Oh, my, those funky clothes! Last year it was the white toned-down version of her 2010 Roland Garros red and black Can Can outfit that wowed the world but this year’s outfit? I pass and not because of my husband’s thinks “…The fabric is too weak for the zipper and is pulling the top part of the outfit out …!” I think Venus looks best when she can display her long lean body; I found the Can Can outfits smashing. You could almost imagine Tina Turner dancing in the white number at Wimbledon 2010. This year, I could almost imagine Caesar – not Caesar’ Palace in Vegas but Julius Caesar-era clothes modernized for the 21st Century.
I think Nick’s letter is also a testament to the Richard Williams’ greatness and achievement for a sports he loves. His academy has produced among others: Agassi, Sampras, Maria Sharapova, etcetera, and I believe Nick is saying: listen, tennis lovers, including the establishment of which I’m a member, many roads lead to Rome; Richard did it his way and the confidence he instilled in his girls produced results! Here are a few of his words in the Independent.
Letter to Venus and Serena:
“I want the entire world to know that Richard Williams never, never, not once raised his voice when working with his daughters. Over these years, since even before you turned pro Venus at the age of 14, many, many people, from the tennis establishment, coaches, former players, the media, put Richard down, down, down, right down man, when he did not let you girls play tournament tennis over your formative years.
“He’s crazy they said, the way he trains you. You know what I say? If only some of the tennis parents we see around today, from the very top level down, were crazy like that. I wish, and sometimes I even pray, that our tennis parents would follow the Williams’ philosophy.”
Thanks, Mr. B.
The real thing in real time: Doubles partners at Wimbledon 2010; they won for the umpteenth time at a Grand Slam final.
My opinion on these incredible careers – always seem to have one on sports? Venus & Serena, let’s call it two great careers at the U.S. Open and go girls to continue doing your own thing. Or, you may wish to sort of gear down by playing doubles for a couple more years. Oh, and about that snub on being made to play on Court 2 while Djokovich – Men’s No 3 – and never a grand slam or Wimbledon crown and Nadal and Federer AND Murray – Number 4 and never a grand slam, either – get Center Court or Court? Forget it. What’s more, the head of WTA Stacey Allaster, A has spoken what sounds very supportive and reasonable. Court 1, 2 or the Center Court, none can take what you two ladies have done for tennis.
And the records speak for the girls’ contributions: Serena – 13 singles, including FIVE Australian Open; Venus, the older sister has proved her winning ways,too by capturing seven singles of which FIVE were won on the grass courts at London’s Southwest. In Doubles, the sisters have paired to cart away 12 Grand slam Trophies. Check them out this second week of Wimbledon.
On Tuesday, the blog brings excerpts from a couple of old newspaper essays from my archive that wondered aloud back then about the intensity of hatred for Serena. This year’s snub is a continuation.
Picture Credits: Women’s Tennis Blog