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BigTennisFan
Jul 11th, 2002, 05:11 PM
If this has already been posted, I apologize.

Williamses, Yankees Should
Not Be Criticized for Winning
Sisters, Yanks Simply Doing Their Jobs

By JOHN FEINSTEIN
AOL Exclusive

Let's see who has gotten bashed in sports in the past few days.

The New York Yankees.

The Williams sisters.

What do the two have in common?

Simple: They win too much.

Let's begin with Venus and Serena, who have gotten into the habit of ending major championships by playing against one another. Three of the last four majors, dating to last year's U.S. Open, have ended with Williams vs.Williams for the title. Venus won the Open but Serena has come back to win the last two: The French Open last month and Wimbledon on Saturday.

After the sisters had routed their semifinal opponents, Amelie Mauresmo and Justine Henin, each had a different crack about their dominance. Henin wondered if people were getting bored with seeing Williams vs. Williams. Mauresmo commented that she couldn't even begin to count the number of people who had come up to her and said they hoped she would win so that someone other than a Williams would be in the final.

Well, wha-wha.

To say that this smacks of petty jealousy is an understatement. If you think it is bad for tennis to see the Williams sisters win all the time DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. When Martina Navratilova won six straight singles titles in 1983 and 1984, Chris Evert didn't whine about how boring it was to see Navratilova win all the time or claim it was bad for tennis to have one dominant player.

Evert had little to prove at that point in her career, having won 16 Grand Slam singles titles--exactly 16 more, by the way, than either Mauresmo or Henin have won.

But she didn't want to slink away from the sport without seeing if she couldn't beat Navratilova again. So, at the age of 30, she got into the best shape of her life, worked on her serve and volley game (at least a little) and twice beat Navratilova in classic French Open finals (1985 and 1986). She also lost three-setters to her great rival in the U.S. Open final in '84 and at Wimbledon in '85. No moaning and groaning, just fabulous tennis.

What the Williams sisters are doing represents a unique opportunity for their sport. Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport are both out injured right now.
Each is still young enough to come back rejuvenated, mentally and physically and see if they can't raise their game to another level and challenge the Williams sisters. Jennifer Capriati is certainly capable of challenging them, too.

There's nothing better for a sport than athletes who force their opponents to get better. Navratilova certainly did that; Tiger Woods is doing that in golf right now. Sooner or later someone -- he may be 15 at the moment for all we know -- is going to emerge to challenge him and the level of play will be higher than it has ever been.

The one legitimate beef against the all-Williams finals in the past has been the quality of the tennis when they face one another. The matches, dating back to their Wimbledon semifinal two years ago, have been filled with tentative, error-filled tennis.

No, it wasn't because Richard Williams was pulling strings and deciding who would win and who would lose. It was because the sisters knew each other too well, cared about one another too much and simply couldn't take the kind of kill or be killed approach that they take in other matches.

The other problem -- and this is an ongoing one -- is that for a rivalry to be truly great, people have to line up for or against someone. They need an emotional rooting interest. Some people root against dynasties. Others always root for the underdog. But they root, one way or the other.

No one was ever neutral when Evert played Navratilova or when Jimmy Connors played John McEnroe or when Jack Nicklaus dueled with Arnold Palmer or Gary Player or Lee Trevino or Tom Watson.There's no baseball fan who doesn't have an opinion about the Yankees.

Williams vs. Williams is different. It is as if they are the same team, so when they reach a final, it almost feels like an intramural. How does one choose between Venus and Serena? Clearly, THEY have trouble choosing so why shouldn't the rest of us have the same difficulty.

The Wimbledon final was easily the best-played of the matchups to date, a sign that the sisters now understand that the other is CLEARLY her chief rival to be No. 1 and there can be no holding back. The blood is a lot less thick now than it used to be and that's good for tennis. Serena's victory gives her three major titles and the No. 1 ranking. Venus has four majors.

They've now won four of the last five between them and there doesn't seem to be any let up in sight. The best news -- at least for the moment -- is that Richard Williams is staying home, staying away from the spotlight and keeping relatively quiet. That allows the sisters, who are both bright and articulate, to be the center of attention. Which is as it should be.

Serena's improvement this year may take both of them to higher levels than in the past. Remember, they're still just kids; 22 and 20. So, if the other players think it is boring or bad for the sport for the two of them to be in every final, they better start getting better. In a hurry.

. . . And it is not Venus or Serena Williams' job to worry about whether their presence in every major final makes people happy or unhappy. It is their job to keep getting there until someone figures out how to stop them.

Period.


:bounce: :bounce:

:) :D

eshell
Jul 11th, 2002, 05:59 PM
That's a good article! :)