Updated: 08:04 AM EDT
Tennis-Open-Williams sister act loses its lustre
By Ossian Shine, Reuters
PARIS, June 2 (Reuters)
- There was a time, not long ago, when the defeat of a Williams sister at a grand slam tournament was big news.
To lose Venus and Serena, on the same day, before the semi-finals would have caused shockwaves in the players' locker room.
However, their veneer of invincibility has been eroded to such an extent that twin defeats at the French Open on Tuesday caused merely a ripple of surprise among their contemporaries.
The sister act which contested four straight grand slam finals between the 2002 French Open and the 2003 Australian Open has lost its lustre over the past year.
Prone to injury and susceptible to nerves, Venus and Serena are shadows of the players who dominated women's tennis so completely.
"I mean, these days it's not really shocking, you know," Jennifer Capriati said after eliminating Serena from the Roland Garros quarter-finals.
"It's not that surprising. There's a lot of girls that have been playing a lot more tennis than they have," she added, highlighting one of the problems faced by the sisters.
Injuries sidelined both of them from the all-Williams Wimbledon final last year until the end of the season.
Venus returned to the tour in January, Serena in March, but they are desperately short of match play and, crucially, confidence.
Venus's conqueror Anastasia Myskina nodded when asked if their mystique had gone. "Oh, definitely, right now, yes, because they have just come back.
"They lost a lot of months, the other players kept practising. Now everybody believes at least that they can fight with them," the Russian added.
"All the girls are really tough right now. I don't think Venus or Serena are finished... they are just not at their best level."
The pair have often been criticised for playing too little tennis through choice and for being distracted by their off-court interests. Venus owns a design company and Serena is embarking on an acting career.
However, the sisters bristle if it is suggested tennis does not come top of their priority list.
"I've been working really hard, I mean, every day for the past few weeks so if that's distraction, I don't know what's focus," Serena snapped.
"If I was (more interested in her acting career than tennis), I'd be on the set of a movie right now, but I'm at Roland Garros.
Venus says she just wants to return to winning ways.
"Well, for me, losing a match is not normal, so I'll just move on to the next tournament and get back to what's normal for me, which is winning matches."
Any talk of their immediate demise would be premature, though, a fact acknowledged by Myskina, the world number five.
"They will be back for sure. I don't think they like to lose," she smiled.
"I don't think they're done. I mean, they were the best - they can be the best again."
The Wimbledon championships could prove crucial to their future. Three of the last four grand slam finals have been contested by Belgians Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters.
If Serena fails to retain her Wimbledon crown or Venus fails to win it for a third time, the Williams household will be without a grand slam title for the first time since 1999.
From that perspective, the road back may seem a little too steep.
06/02/04 08:02 ET
Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited
Just in case anyone didn't know, this writer doesn't like the Williams sisters. He/she has never really written anything positive about them. BTW, this person must have ESP to know that the sisters aren't playing the USO because if they do and one of them wins it, then they will have a Grand Slam title.