Vee had an injury at Wimbledon
Williamses’ Wimbledon Final Was Also a Classic
By WILLIAM C. RHODEN
Published: July 9, 2008
“I’ll help her with anything,” Venus Williams, left, said of her sister Serena. “I just won’t give her tips on how to beat me.”
Headlines and radio broadcasts trumpeted the exhilaration of a Wimbledon classic.
Lost beneath the majesty of Nadal’s victory was the significant women’s singles championship on Saturday between Venus and Serena Williams. In a match that allayed concerns that the sisters would never play tough tennis against each other, Venus won her fifth Wimbledon championship. And a sisterly competition became a rivalry.
When they played for the Wimbledon title in 2003, Venus and Serena were represented by IMG. Serena, 26, has since signed with William Morris; Venus, 28, remains with IMG. There are those outside the family with a vested interest in who wins and who loses.
Venus, who revels in her role as big sister, said Saturday that she reveled more in the role of defending Wimbledon champion.
“For the first time, I really enjoyed it and I didn’t want to let that go,” she said Sunday, referring to the singles title. “I still wanted to be the champion another year, so it probably was one of the toughest finals, competitively, emotionally, for me and my family.”
The sisters were at their best, hitting thunderous shots. Venus said that after one particular exchange she stepped out of the moment for a split second to savor what was unfolding.
“I thought, ‘Wow this is some serious power tennis,’ ” she said. “There were shots of mine that hadn’t been returned all tournament that she was returning. Some of her shots that had been winners, I was returning.”
Although the Williamses shared a house during Wimbledon, they did not talk tennis. Neither asked how the other felt about a point or a previous match. They did not talk about injuries. In her semifinal match against Elena Dementieva, Venus fell and sprained her thumb. She didn’t tell her sister.
“We had to play doubles the next day, so I acted like nothing was wrong,” Venus said, adding, “I didn’t want her to hit to my backhand because I sprained it.”
Would Serena really do that?
“I would expect her to — I mean, I would understand,” Venus said. “You have to maintain your competitiveness. If she’s playing someone I’ll say: ‘Oh, yeah. Serve her out wide, hit to her forehand.’ I’ll give her the scouting report every time.
“I’ll help her with anything. I just won’t give her tips on how to beat me.”
Now posterity is beginning to matter. Serena has a fashion line and aspirations to model and act. Venus also has a clothing line, and last year completed a degree in fashion design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.
Just before Wimbledon, Venus released a book in London, a stunning collaboration with the photographer Koto Bolofo. The photos in this coffee table book, taken in New York, Paris and Istanbul and at Wimbledon, combine Venus’s passions — tennis and fashion.
After the women’s final Saturday, Serena was so glum that her mother chided her about having to learn to be a better loser.
Two hours later, Venus and Serena were back on the court, winning the women’s doubles title.
“I think we both see the bigger picture,” Venus said. “We came back for the doubles and blew it out the court. We want to do things after tennis, and our tennis stage is a great platform to set up the next stage for whatever we’re going to do.”
Critics wonder how many more championships Venus or Serena might have won if each had totally focused on tennis. The more important question is: Would they be around if they had?
Look at the players they have outlasted:
¶Martina Hingis, a five-time Grand Slam singles champion, retired because of a foot injury in 2002. Her comeback, which began in late 2005, was cut short after she tested positive for cocaine. She retired again last fall at 27.
¶Kim Clijsters, winner of the 2005 United States Open, retired last year, a month before she turned 24, her body broken down from the strain of powerful play.
¶Justine Henin, the winner of seven majors, was still ranked No. 1 when she retired before this year’s French Open at 25.
But Venus has yet to achieve the consistency of roaring through a Grand Slam season, playing injury-free and dominating in a way critics perhaps felt she and her sister should have.
Wimbledon may be the start.
“I want the opportunity to build on this, to go to Beijing, be in another pressure situation, get through it, be successful,” Venus said, referring to the Olympics next month in China.
“I feel like I haven’t had a chance to be in those situations because of all the injuries. I win a tournament, then three months I’m sick or injured. You don’t get to build on success. That’s what I’m looking for next.”
If the sisters stopped playing tomorrow, they would leave an awesome legacy. Serena has won eight Grand Slam singles titles and Venus has won seven. Together, they have collected seven major doubles championships.
Theirs is one of the most phenomenal sports stories of our generation. Phenomenal but underappreciated because great female athletes are often undervalued, and because we live in a fast-moving world of great moments.
There will always be exceptional moments; we won’t see the likes of the Williams sisters anytime soon.