Saturday, Jul 5, 2008 3:21 pm EDT
The Williamses reaching their 'tipping point'
By Roy S. Johnson / Y! Sports Blogs
It's good to be a Williams. Finally.
And not just because the family will deposit up to $2.710 million in winnings following a very productive fortnight at Wimbledon.
It's been 14 years since Venus turned pro, setting the table for little sister to arrive shortly thereafter. In the decade since, the sport of tennis - from its governing bodies to the establishment elite to sponsors and fans in the cheap sets - has been, let's face it, ambivalent about them.
Sometimes they were cheered. Often they were booed.
They were sometimes hailed as "faces" of the sport. More often they were kept at racket's length by a sport that didn't know what to do with the braided girls from Compton and their father, Richard.
They were criticized for being less focused than we wanted them to be. Criticized for wanting to have well-rounded lives filled with goals beyond tennis. How dare they?!
And on Madison Avenue, they were never Maria Shaparova.
Their matches against each other were diced and dissected like none other, and the family battles never lived up to expectations. To hopes.
Venus' 7-5, 6-4 victory over Serena in the Wimbledon women's singles final was not particularly brilliant, which would have been difficult given the windy conditions. But it was dramatic. It was intriguing. It was filled with twists and turns.
And in the end "the best Williams won," as Venus had said going into the final. More important, neither Williams lost
. Fittingly, it moved their head-to-head record to 8-8.
Venus simply proved to be the better Williams on the surface where she has now won five championships. And sister Serena had nothing to be ashamed of.
And it seemed that on the sport's greatest stage, with two of the game's icons - Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova - cheering from the royal box, the Williamses were finally loved.
They saved the fortnight, just as they've largely carried women's tennis for the last decade. And for once it seemed as if those who watched didn't act as if they were let down or disappointed that a) the Williamses were facing each other in the final, or b) how it played out.
The Williamses have been through much as we watched them grow. Injuries crippled them. Family strife (their parents' divorce) pained them. Tragedy (the murder of their sister) broke their hearts.
And each time they played each other it seemed as if it was the last place either of them wanted to be - because, like loving siblings, neither wanted to cause the other to feel the pain of defeat.
They're now 28 and 26, respectively, still Big Sister and Little Sister, but full-blown women back at the peak of their games. And mature enough to compete with each other without reservation.
So now maybe tennis is finally ready to enjoy and appreciate them, finally ready to give the Williams sisters their long overdue respect.