By Ivan Speck Last updated at 10:06 PM on 04th July 2008
Conspiracy theories and Centre Court carve-ups may be the theme of today's all-Williams Wimbledon final, but in truth the match has other, more worrying, implications for women's tennis.
Sisters steamrolling their way to the final of a Grand Slam is not in itself a bad thing for the game.
After all, Venus and Serena completed the process begun by Steffi Graf in dragging women's tennis out of its cosy, frilly-knickered, pat-a-cake niceness into a dynamically physical era for which we should all be grateful.
When they fulfilled their father's prophecy that they would rise to numbers one and two in the world, the thumping quality of their play was an astonishing sight to behold.
When they slipped from their perch, women's tennis became poorer.
For all the wonderful storylines thrown up since their years of absolute dominance, the sad reality is that only Justine Henin truly bridged the gap to the level of play of which the sisters were once capable.
Kim Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Myskina and even Maria Sharapova were all able to achieve their lifetime ambitions of winning a Grand Slam title because Venus and Serena had fallen off their plateau of greatness.
They were not hollow victories - far from it - but had they encountered the pre-2004 vintage Williams girls, those ambitions would remain unfulfilled.
Henin's genius was that she harnessed natural technique and tactical brilliance to a steely resolve that even Venus and Serena struggled to match.
And now the sisters are back together in a Grand Slam for the first time in five years.
Back on top, but not back on top of their game. A worrying truth underlines an assertion which is painful to write - this has been the poorest Wimbledon women' s singles tournament in years.
Henin's shock retirement this spring, Mauresmo's loss of form and injuries to Jelena Jankovic and Lindsay Davenport robbed the event of much of its intrigue, while Ana Ivanovic's understandable emotional fuzziness after winning her first Slam at the French Open less than a month ago explains her third round defeat to Jie Zheng.
At least world No 1 Ivanovic played a starring role in the match of the women's draw - a net-cord inspired comeback for the Serb in three pulsating sets against France's Natalie Dechy.
Sharapova did not have even that consolation, losing wildly to little-known fellow Russian Alla Kudryavtseva.
Consider that the average world ranking of their opponents this fortnight was 83 for Venus and 79 for Serena and you see they have barely been tested.
Neither of them has dropped a set, but only Serena's quarter-final defeat of Poland's Agnieska Radwanska took less than an hour.
A levelling-off, perhaps, yet unfortunately it is the sisters whose standards have slipped. What is needed is domination based on power and peak fitness.
That is not to criticise the Williams girls. Instead they should be lauded for their longevity.
At 28 and 26, respectively, the stars of Venus and Serena have burned brightly for much longer than most of us believed possible.
Elena Dementieva, beaten 6-1, 7-6 by Venus in the semi-final, said today's final would come down to a 'family decision', seeming to suggest the match might not be decided on merit.
And Amid the suspicion and apathy over today's outcome, the aesthetic numbness created by their tennis and in spite of interests outside the game - Serena's stalled acting career, Venus' interior design courses - they are still here.
The pay cheques they receive this afternoon will take their combined earnings from 12 years on the women's tour to £40m.
The crown will be the 15th Grand Slam title earned by the sisters. They have outlasted Henin, Clijsters and Martina Hingis.
Grand Slam champions, world No 1s, all of them younger than Venus and all now retired.
An ambivalent attitude - particularly from Serena - towards practice apart, there has never been a hint of discord within the Williams camp.
No rebellion towards pushy tennis parents, no branching out on their own, no unhappiness, just appreciation of their glorious lot in life.
Richard and Oracene Williams may have parted and divorced, but the family bond remains watertight.
It is the foundation block upon which every surge of enthusiasm and particularly this revival is built.
They still enter Grand Slams to win and their belief in themselves and each other has never wavered.
They warmed up yesterday by advancing to the women's doubles final, beating Dechy and Casey Dellacqua 6-3, 6-3.
Serena wore a precautionary strapping on her left thigh - more ammunition for those looking for evidence of collusion should Venus win today's final, of course.
Perhaps we should be grateful that we have an all-Williams final. After a fortnight of sterility, intrigue has supplied us with an entertaining diversion.
Gosh, what is it with these newspapers? Henin has been retired for 6 weeks now and journalists are still going on about her and the tour. There must be at least 5 articles a day about her not playing.
Shows how much of a weak era it is now that Henin has retired. All the journalists/commentators are saying it.