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Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tennis

IT’S ONLY A GAME
- Why Venus and Serena get so much flak from the tennis world
Mukul Kesavan

When Elena Dementieva, having lost to Venus Williams in the semi-finals of this year’s Wimbledon, suggested that the finals between the two sisters would be fixed before the event in a family conclave, she was doing what the tennis world has been doing for a decade now: trashing the Williams sisters. When reporters ran Dementieva’s comment past Venus, she said she found the comment insulting to her commitment as a tennis player; when the moderator tried to find an alibi for the Russian girl’s insinuation, Venus cut the question short. She had been listening to rubbish like this for years now, and she had had enough.

As someone who thinks Serena and Venus have transformed women’s tennis for the better in the past ten years, I’ve often wondered why they get so much flak from their peers, ex-players, the press, and yes, even spectators. Given that they’re the most exciting players to watch since Martina Navratilova in her prime, why is the tennis world so reluctant to give them their due? Roy Johnson, a sports journalist for Yahoo Sports, summed it up neatly: “... the sport of tennis — from its governing bodies to the establishment elite, to sponsors and fans in the cheap seats — has been, let’s face it, ambivalent about them.”

Ambivalent is a nice way of putting it: snide, patronizing, resentful and jealous would better describe the hostility they’ve encountered. The trash-talking began early. It took a curious form: their peers suggested that they were taking advantage of the fact that they were black, that their being black was in itself an unfair advantage.

This must have come as news to the sisters who grew up black and poor in Crompton, one of the roughest parts of Los Angeles, playing on public courts that boasted amenities such as drive-by shootings and used hypodermic syringes. Richard Williams once thanked Vijay Amritraj on television for arranging practice facilities for his girls when the public courts became too dangerous to play on. Martina Hingis couldn’t have seen that programme because in a 2001 interview she declared:

“Being black only helps them. Many times they get sponsors because they are black. And they have a lot of advantages because they can always say, ‘It’s racism’. They can always come back and say ‘Because we are this colour, things happen.’” When asked about this, Serena said that journalists could look at the transcripts of all the interviews she had done in her career to judge the truth of the allegation. She had never once brought colour into the equation. About the sponsors: she said, as she was entitled to, that she got endorsements because she worked hard and won matches.

Hingis can be dismissed as a serial offender: she once put Amelie Mauresmo’s success in the women’s game down to the fact that “she was half a man”. But it’s harder to explain away Navratilova’s willingness to go after the Williams family. In an interview with Time magazine in 2001, Navratilova criticized Venus’s father, Richard, for doing a jig, courtside, after his daughter beat Lindsay Davenport. As a great player with nine Wimbledon singles titles, Navratilova’s views on court decorum might have been taken seriously if she hadn’t dragged race into the conversation: “If Mr Williams had been white and done that victory dance in front of Lindsay Davenport, he would have been reprimanded much more. People have been afraid to criticize them because they don’t want to be called racist.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that it was Navratilova who had Richard Williams’s skin colour on the brain. Notice how Navratilova moves from her specific criticism of the father’s behaviour to the general allegation that legitimate criticism of the Williams sisters had been inhibited by a fear of political correctness. The trouble with this generalization is that it isn’t true. Serena and Venus have been at the receiving end of more critical comment than any other player of similar standing. In an essay in The New York Times in 2003, Sara Corbett spoke of the “relentless criticism” the sisters have faced. John McEnroe, declared that Venus and Serena were “as cold as ice”. Davenport and Monica Seles complained that Venus didn’t say ‘hi’ to anyone. Navratilova accused them of being “...afraid to show any kind of humility.”

In 2006, both Navratilova and Chris Evert took it upon themselves to chide Serena for a lack of commitment to tennis. Venus and Serena both play an average of roughly ten tournaments a year, well below the tour norm of fifteen, even twenty tournaments. Evert went to the extent of writing Serena an open letter in Tennis Magazine. Referring to Serena’s much-publicized interest in couture and cinema, Evert wrote: “I don’t see how acting and designing clothes can be compared with the pride of being the best tennis player in the world.” Navratilova echoed Evert’s reproach. Apart from the daftness of legislating other people’s preferences, the odd thing about this gratuitous advice was that neither Evert nor Navratilova had been particularly supportive or appreciative of Serena and Venus earlier in their careers, which made their intervention seem like carping rather than well-meant concern.

Even if the advice was well-meant, it was misplaced. Venus and Serena’s strategy of playing fewer tournaments has allowed them to outlast many of their more ‘committed’ contemporaries. Anna Kournikova, Justin Henin, Martina Hingis, Kim Clijsters have all retired from the game, burnt out by injuries and their monomanical commitment to competitive tennis. Pam Shriver, Navratilova’s doubles partner and once Venus’s mentor on the tour, has come to believe that the Williams sisters might have pioneered a new and better way of handling a tennis career. “There’s something to pacing. You have to be willing to face criticism from the tour and the establishment to play 12 to 16 tournaments a year.”

Shriver’s comment is a clue to the animosity that the Williamses face. Here’s Richard Williams, a man who declares when his daughters are thirteen and twelve that they’ll grow up to be the two best players in the world. But unlike the usual obsessive tennis parent, he doesn’t allow them to play the junior circuit because it might interfere with their education. He teaches them the importance of a life outside tennis and tells the world that he expects his daughter’s to walk away from the game they’ve dominated to pursue other interests.

And Venus and Serena go on to bear out his beliefs. They do everything he predicted. They win fifteen majors between them without obsessing about being No 1. And they win the big tournaments on their own terms. Serena, for example, after two years of injuries left her out of shape and adrift at a rank of 95 at the end of 2006, won the Australian Open by thrashing tennis’s favourite golden girl, Maria Sharapova, 6-1 6-2 in the final. Along the way, Venus sets up an interior design company, V. Starr Interiors, while Serena creates a new apparel line, Aneres.

Over the past five years, we’ve heard that the Belgians were coming, then it was the Russians who were coming, and now it’s the Serbs who are coming. Someone forgot to tell the Williams sisters. Because the Belgians have come (and gone), the Russian girls seem to have lost the plot and the Serbs didn’t last till the business end of Wimbledon, so Venus and Serena, after being exiled from the show courts in the earlier rounds, found themselves playing each other again, on Centre Court.

That’s why Hingis, Davenport, Navratilova, Seles, Evert, McEnroe & Co. don’t like the Williams. That two girls and their dad could take the women’s game by the scruff and shake it into new life and take it to another level without treating tennis as a sacred vocation, galls them. It diminishes their lives, it makes their immersion in tennis seem one-dimensional and obsessive. In March this year, Richard Williams criticized McEnroe for playing tennis for twenty years and then commentating on it for the next twenty. It was as if he had learnt nothing else in the course of his life, said Williams. Given that McEnroe has said plenty about Venus and Serena in the past, he can scarcely argue that Richard should mind his own business. That a black man who doesn’t know his place should say this, a black man with two champion daughters who have brought his prescriptions to life, must be intolerable. But after this all-Williams Wimbledon final, it’s time for their critics to learn the two Commandments that the family’s been trying to teach for a decade now.

Tennis is only a game. And the Williamses own it.
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post #2 of 176 (permalink) Old Jul 10th, 2008, 01:32 PM
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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

A very interesting article but he ruins it by his last comment. The Williams' don't 'own' tennis. Venus hasn't reached a Grand Slam final outside of Wimbledon since 2003 and Serena has won only a single Grand Slam in 3 and a 1/2 years. They are not at the top of the rankings. That is not 'owning' tennis.

What would be more sensible would be to say that they are dominant on grass and can beat anyone on their day. They might have owned tennis around 2002-03, but until similar results happen again, they don't.

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post #3 of 176 (permalink) Old Jul 10th, 2008, 01:37 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

I doubt an article like this one would "ever" be published in the United States though. The American media just doesn't want to admit the negative attitudes against the Williams Sisters ARE racially motivated. The apologists always say BUT...and make a gazillion excuses. Being a foreigner it is just astounding the disrespect the Williams Sisters receive just because they are black women and not white. Pam Shriver, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Tracy Austin and Mary Carillo are the biggest offenders. And no surprise the biggest critics of the Williams Sisters are drum roll please.....WHITE AMERICAN WOMEN. Thank goodness for black feminism because we know how WHITE WOMEN OPERATE.

Why don't they go after the white American girls Davenport and Capriati? Oops I forgot Davenport and Capriati are white Americans so that means they are free from the intense criticism.


The Williams Sisters are two black girls from Compton that did NOT play junior tennis but went on to become great champions in a white dominated sport. Tennis is still a sport for the privileged and rich people. Yeah, there are more programs available for youth but not enough. Tennis is still very expensive to play it costs money for rackets, court time, coaching, clothes.

It is interesting the Americans like to think racism can't be COVERT they are all looking for OVERT racism. This article points out the COVERT racism in tennis is obvious for international people such as the author to see. People AROUND THE WORLD know how racist some of these white American tennis experts are and this writer just pointed out the OBVIOUS TRUTH. Instead of being celebrated in America as the only Americans still winning grand slam singles titles the Williams Sisters still get grief. The author of the article is right the Williams Sisters way was the "right way" they outlasted the competition and are still racking up grand slam titles in singles and doubles hammering the competition.

Last edited by Morrissey; Jul 10th, 2008 at 01:53 PM.
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post #4 of 176 (permalink) Old Jul 10th, 2008, 01:55 PM
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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

bullshit. when the tennis become a sport for privilige and rich people??????
get a life.



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Originally Posted by Morrissey View Post
I doubt an article like this one would "ever" be published in the United States though. The American media just doesn't want to admit the negative attitudes against the Williams Sisters ARE racially motivated. The apologists always say BUT...and make a gazillion excuses. Being a foreigner it is just astounding the disrespect the Williams Sisters receive just because they are black women and not white. Pam Shriver, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Tracy Austin and Mary Carillo are the biggest offenders. And no surprise the biggest critics of the Williams Sisters are drum roll please.....WHITE AMERICAN WOMEN. Thank goodness for black feminism because we know how WHITE WOMEN OPERATE.

Why don't they go after the white American girls Davenport and Capriati? Oops I forgot Davenport and Capriati are white Americans so that means they are free from the intense criticism.


The Williams Sisters are two black girls from Compton that did NOT play junior tennis but went on to become great champions in a white dominated sport. Tennis is still a sport for the privileged and rich people. Yeah, there are more programs available for youth but not enough. Tennis is still very expensive to play it costs money for rackets, court time, coaching, clothes.

It is interesting the Americans like to think racism can't be COVERT they are all looking for OVERT racism. This article points out the COVERT racism in tennis is obvious for international people such as the author to see. People AROUND THE WORLD know how racist some of these white American tennis experts are and this writer just pointed out the OBVIOUS TRUTH. Instead of being celebrated in America as the only Americans still winning grand slam singles titles the Williams Sisters still get grief. The author of the article is right the Williams Sisters way was the "right way" they outlasted the competition and are still racking up grand slam titles in singles and doubles hammering the competition.
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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

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That two girls and their dad could take the women’s game by the scruff and shake it into new life and take it to another level without treating tennis as a sacred vocation, galls them. It diminishes their lives, it makes their immersion in tennis seem one-dimensional and obsessive.
This is why the sisters face so much criticism.

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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

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bullshit. when the tennis become a sport for privilige and rich people??????
get a life.
A) That is clearly not the general thrust of the article anyway
B) You would think differently if you lived in other parts of the word...like where I do, where tennis is a middle or upper class sport for the most part.

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I think with her serve and her athleticism, her power, her court mobility, I just think when she’s on, she’s the greatest player we’ve ever seen, ever. Now, whether her record is the greatest remains to be seen because she hasn’t retired yet. But I think she is really the greatest player. I have seen Martina and Steffi at their best. There are little chinks in those players’ armor, but it was a different era, where you didn’t need to be the perfect player.
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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

The examples cited in that article are so pathetically weak to prove covert racism. If the article focussed moreso on horrible scenes such as Indian Wells i would pay it some attention. If the article focussed moreso on how Vee and Rena are only ever given credit for being good players because of their athleticism, and not their intelligence, then I would give it come credence.

But using the example of criticism of Richard Williams for the on court jig in Davenports face after she just lost a tough match to Venus, is such a pathetically weak example that I lose interest in the rest of the article.

That was inappropriate behaviour, and classic OVER INVOLVEMENT of a tennis parent. Plain and simple. Crying racism over that only undermines legitimate cases of covert racism the sisters have suffered.
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post #8 of 176 (permalink) Old Jul 10th, 2008, 02:07 PM
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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

i lived and worked enough in third world countries and i disagree that tennis is a sport for privilege and rich only. but it is true that some people need to think about providing food for their families rather then playing sports.


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Originally Posted by DW--Serenafan View Post
A) That is clearly not the general thrust of the article anyway
B) You would think differently if you lived in other parts of the word...like where I do, where tennis is a middle or upper class sport for the most part.
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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

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i lived and worked enough in third world countries and i disagree that tennis is a sport for privilege and rich only. but it is true that some people need to think about providing food for their families rather then playing sports.
LOL I don't even live in a thrid world country, we are nicely developed thanks and even here tennis is not played by people from backgrounds similar to those of Serena and Venus. Only people able to afford expensive memberships to swank clubs, pay for raquets and other equipment etc....it can be relatively affordable but it certainly unaccessible here. Played frequently by the upper classes and rarely by lower classes.

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I think with her serve and her athleticism, her power, her court mobility, I just think when she’s on, she’s the greatest player we’ve ever seen, ever. Now, whether her record is the greatest remains to be seen because she hasn’t retired yet. But I think she is really the greatest player. I have seen Martina and Steffi at their best. There are little chinks in those players’ armor, but it was a different era, where you didn’t need to be the perfect player.
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post #10 of 176 (permalink) Old Jul 10th, 2008, 02:10 PM
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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

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As someone who thinks Serena and Venus have transformed women’s tennis for the better in the past ten years, I’ve often wondered why they get so much flak from their peers, ex-players, the press, and yes, even spectators. Given that they’re the most exciting players to watch since Martina Navratilova in her prime, why is the tennis world so reluctant to give them their due? Roy Johnson, a sports journalist for Yahoo Sports, summed it up neatly: “... the sport of tennis — from its governing bodies to the establishment elite, to sponsors and fans in the cheap seats — has been, let’s face it, ambivalent about them.”
Interesting. It may surprise many people who do not happen to have a lot of, and I hate the word, 'coloured' friends, that if you happen to have a girlfriend (or boyfriend) of a particular race, not white European, you may be barred or told openly you are not welcome in this establishment, or just given a second class seat.
Even Indian people face this sort of 'shaping' and by the time they are adult, they have learned to avoid the worst of it by not being confrontational. It really saddens me.
For a long time it seems, and I was too young to notice, Stephie Graff dominated tennis simply because she was the best. Then she retired, but no one woman could do that today, largely I believe because the Williams sisters have made women's tennis into a different game, much more like men's tennis, and in doing so have made women more equal, even to the point that Sharapova and others now earn more than the best men do. It isn't all sex appeal. Black players could only take the game so far in a racist America where the game is still largely dependent upon American corporate sponsors, but fortunately there are now a lot more women in powerful corporate positions which means they do not have to ask and be subject to the men's prejudices and whims, and that is a breath of fresh air. it won't be long before the women's equivalent of (VJ) Singh, the Fijian Indian golfer make an impact in the game, simply because they now know what is possible to achieve with persistence.
I think this is a very balances article.
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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

That was a really great article, very incisive. Both Martinas had some nerve to say what they said. I think Hingis kinda grew out of that (not that she'll ever be miss congeniality) but Navratilova has a long way to go. Though last week she seemed to have started on her path.

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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

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Originally Posted by Morrissey View Post
IT’S ONLY A GAME
Over the past five years, we’ve heard that the Belgians were coming, then it was the Russians who were coming, and now it’s the Serbs who are coming. Someone forgot to tell the Williams sisters. Because the Belgians have come (and gone), the Russian girls seem to have lost the plot and the Serbs didn’t last till the business end of Wimbledon, so Venus and Serena, after being exiled from the show courts in the earlier rounds, found themselves playing each other again, on Centre Court.

That’s why Hingis, Davenport, Navratilova, Seles, Evert, McEnroe & Co. don’t like the Williams. That two girls and their dad could take the women’s game by the scruff and shake it into new life and take it to another level without treating tennis as a sacred vocation, galls them. It diminishes their lives, it makes their immersion in tennis seem one-dimensional and obsessive. Given that McEnroe has said plenty about Venus and Serena in the past, he can scarcely argue that Richard should mind his own business. That a black man who doesn’t know his place should say this, a black man with two champion daughters who have brought his prescriptions to life, must be intolerable. But after this all-Williams Wimbledon final, it’s time for their critics to learn the two Commandments that the family’s been trying to teach for a decade now.

Tennis is only a game. And the Williamses own it.
One of the best analysis of the treatment of the Sisters over the decade. I think this article should be e-mailed to Tracy, Martina, Evert, McEnroe, Carillo and Co. with the above highlighted.

Anyway, I guess all that they have suffered have only made their victories better and more remarkable. It is without doubt that for this decade the Sisters have been the two most outstanding women's athlete in the world.

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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

Well, I am sorry but Ireland is expensive wherever you look it. My partner is Irish, but we just visit the in laws.
I dont think the class is determining what sports someone's play. There are free courts available eveywhere and as longer someone has the desire, everything is possible.
have a good day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DW--Serenafan View Post
LOL I don't even live in a thrid world country, we are nicely developed thanks and even here tennis is not played by people from backgrounds similar to those of Serena and Venus. Only people able to afford expensive memberships to swank clubs, pay for raquets and other equipment etc....it can be relatively affordable but it certainly unaccessible here. Played frequently by the upper classes and rarely by lower classes.
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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

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A very interesting article but he ruins it by his last comment. The Williams' don't 'own' tennis. Venus hasn't reached a Grand Slam final outside of Wimbledon since 2003 and Serena has won only a single Grand Slam in 3 and a 1/2 years. They are not at the top of the rankings. That is not 'owning' tennis.

What would be more sensible would be to say that they are dominant on grass and can beat anyone on their day. They might have owned tennis around 2002-03, but until similar results happen again, they don't.
Clearly, you don't understand what "own it" means in this context. By "owning" the writer of the article is implying that Venus and Serena dictate how they deal with tennis, not the other way around.

Given your example, though, what other active players have done as well as they have in the Slams? Serena has more than any other player, and Venus is second.

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post #15 of 176 (permalink) Old Jul 10th, 2008, 02:18 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Article From telegraph Newspaper In India The Truth About Racism In Women's Tenni

The article points out the "ambivalent" attitude is COVERT RACISM. But given the fact some people on this board are too stupid, ignorant, or whatever they don't have good reading comprehension skills. COVERT RACISM is not "in your face" but it is there. It is REAL and it EXISTS.

The article is basically pointing out the WHITE AMERICAN TENNIS EXPERTS don't like the fact the BEST American BORN women of this tennis generation are BLACK WOMEN AND NOT WHITE. They also don't like the fact the Williams Family do things THEIR WAY and they PRODUCE the RESULTS. What can Navratilova, Austin, Carillo, or Shriver or Evert say now? Venus has 5 Wimbledon titles in singles and three Wimbledon titles in doubles. Despite the off court problems in their lives the Williams Sisters ALWAYS dominate Wimbledon. The Williams family strategy of playing less EVENTS was SMARTER in the end. Yet the White American tennis critics bashed them for their limited schedule. ONLY NOW because the RESULTS are the facts are these COVERT RACISTS suddenly changing their tune but TOO LITTLE TOO LATE.

As the writer of the piece pointed out the biggest critics of the Williams Sisters are DRUM ROLL PLEASE...WHITE AMERICAN WOMEN. Davenport and Capriati never got grief for being lazy and fat. I remember when Davenport was as big as a house she was so fat and out of shape and not dedicated to the game. Davenport and Capriati NEVER got the criticism the Williams Sisters received because they are WHITE AMERICAN WOMEN. Venus and Serena do have a 4-0 RECORD against Davenport in grand slam finals though. And that's the part that upsets that loser Tracy Austin the most. Austin has been the biggest critic of the Williams Sisters and that's why Richard slammed her and Chris Evert earlier this year. So the William Family do things their way and it works for them they did OUT LAST the competition. Where is Hingis? Oops I forgot Hingis is smoking crack somewhere in Europe. Henin is a ZERO and a QUITTER that couldn't handle some tough times in her career so this bad sportswoman quit the game. Clijsters where is she? RETIRED. Henin has a couple of bad losses this year and this quitter "flees" the game. Good tennis is better off without her I say.

Capriati where is she OUT OF THE GAME. Where are the Russians? The only Russian to really "make" it was Sharapova and she basically was developed in AMERICA NOT RUSSIA. And the Serbs out in the first week of Wimbledon this year. The Williams Sisters are the biggest stars in women's tennis and they HAVE THE RESULTS.

Last edited by Morrissey; Jul 10th, 2008 at 02:33 PM.
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