Re: Williams/Williams 2moro Night on AA. Great tribute or Too PC?
This might have something to do with it. Check out the relationship with the sisters and Althea Gibson.
From The Sunday Times
August 26, 2007
Ten years in orbit
The Williams sisters have lit up tennis for a decade and have high hopes for the US Open
Barry Flatman in New York
Tradition does not play such a prominent role at the US Open as it does at Wimbledon. The champions are not afforded the honour of beginning play on the main court, the players are not required to dress predominantly in white.
Even the men’s final, which will be held a fortnight today, cannot be given an exact starting time because nobody is too sure just how long the opening match of the American football season will run, and the fact is that the television coverage governs everything at this tournament.
But the relevance of the venue and the occasion will not be lost on Venus and Serena Williams tomorrow. The two sisters, who began 2007 as supposed spent forces and arrive at the concluding Grand Slam event of the calendar having collected two of the three preceding majors � Venus won at Wimbledon and Serena took the Australian Open. They play back-to-back openers here on what promises to be a very special first night.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) prides itself on putting on a show (chief executive Arlen Kantarian used to mastermind the Super Bowl’s half-time extravaganza before being head-hunted to liven up the tennis presentation), so a ceremony to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Althea Gibson becoming the first black tennis player to win what were then known as the US Championships will be a spectacle as grand as anything staged in the 23,000-seat Arthur Ashe stadium.
Aretha Franklin will sing, fireworks will fly and a few tears may be shed in a dazzling salute to black women pioneers in sports, entertainment, politics and the arts. For Venus it would be the perfect launch pad for two weeks, which, if successful, would herald a feat worthy of another festival-like celebration. Belying her image as the more reticent of the sisters, she maintained: “If I can match my form at Wimbledon, I will be unbeatable here. I’m one of the main contenders for the US Open.”
In the preOpen era, Gibson, who died in 2003 aged 76, was the first black athlete � male or female � to win a Grand Slam event when she defeated Britain’s Angela Mortimer at the 1956 French Championships at Roland Garros.
She followed that by winning two US titles, in 1957 and 1958, after taking the Wimbledon crown on both occasions. Her legend has served as a career-long inspiration for both Williams sisters.
Serena once wrote a high-school project on Gibson and even faxed her some questions, while Venus developed a long-distance relationship on the telephone, nurtured by an Englishwoman, Gibson’s former doubles partner and long-time friend Angela Buxton.
Before Venus’s first US Open appearance 10 years ago, which produced a memorable run to the final, Gibson informed her: “Be who you are and let your racket do the talking. The crowd will love you.”
In the prelude to the 2000 Wimbledon final, in which Venus overcame Lindsay Davenport, Gibson telephoned some tactical instructions via Zina Garrison, the US Fed Cup captain. The message was simple: bend the knees, move the feet more. When the champion subsequently hoisted the trophy aloft, Gibson reportedly turned up the volume of her television set and toasted the victory with a glass of ginger ale.
When she watched the two sisters contest the US Open final 14 months later, Gibson acknowledged that the door she had nudged ajar nearly half a century earlier had been opened wide.
Following in the footsteps of Gibson and Ashe, who as an army officer cadet took the winners’ trophy back up the Hudson River to West Point in 1968, the Williams sisters have left their own special legacy in tennis.
This year more black American players than ever are contesting the tournament. As the USTA’s chief diversity officer, Karlyn Lothery, said: “People had a traditional thought of what tennis was supposed to look like. Venus and Serena changed that.”
Few people would have dared to speculate on what impact the pair of sisters raised in the Los Angeles ghetto of Compton would have, not just on the game of tennis but on American life. Another decade could see even more momentous change, but Venus held back when it came to speculation. “It’s hard to predict what will happen 10 years down the line,” she said. “I didn’t ever know how to think ahead to the next year.
“It’s still exciting and I will be here as long as I can. I’m really blessed, but if I want more, for sure, I’m not going to let go. I have always wanted to have a life outside of tennis and I think it makes my tennis greater because it makes me appreciate it more.”
Not surprisingly, the US television networks love the Williams sisters. When they contested the 2001 US Open final, it was watched by an incredible 23m viewers � one of the best tennis audiences of all time. The network bosses cannot expect a repeat this year because the sisters are in the same sector of the draw and could meet at the quarter-final stage.
However, there is the distinct chance that neither will get that far. Serena hasn’t played a match since Wimbledon because of a thumb injury. Last week her father and coach, Richard, insisted that the wisest option would be not to play at Flushing Meadows.
Venus, meanwhile, has been suffering with tendonitis in her left knee, but withdrew from the Toronto tournament two weeks ago complaining of tendonitis in her right knee as well as mild exhaustion.
Such claims are easy to ridicule. The pair have played a total of 71 matches this year, seven fewer than the workaholic Wimbledon mixed doubles champion and US Open third seed Jelena Jankovic has completed on her own.
However, the sisters’ exploits in Melbourne and on the lawns of the All England Club demand respect. Ignoring their credentials is folly.
Technically there have been a few changes to their games.
They are hitting their forehands � notoriously their more wayward wing � much better and their switch to thinner-beamed rackets has helped in that respect.
Their fitness will always be a mystery until they get into their stride.
As Pam Shriver, herself a teenage finalist in the late 1970s, said: “They could win the whole thing, they could withdraw before the tournament starts, or they could just as easily lose in the first couple of rounds.”
However, for the time being Venus and Serena will just be honoured to play a part in an evening designed to celebrate a woman who was in the vanguard for what they have gone on to achieve.
Perhaps even Wimbledon could learn that occasionally it is good to take a break from tradition and celebrate some exceptional exploits from the past.