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Serena and Venus: A Class Act of Sisters

© Harry Collins

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

It is fair to say that not even Wimbledon has ever witnessed anything like the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. Between them they have won the Ladies Singles Championship for the past three years (not to mention the doubles crown twice) and have monopolised the Grand Slam circuit for the past 12 months until the recent French Open brought an end to that domination.

Going into the French Open, Serena had defeated Venus in each of the Grand Slam finals since Roland Garros 2002. No two women had previously achieved that, never mind a couple of sisters. If you add to that potent mix the sight of their father and coach, Richard, cavorting at courtside, the whole set-up is indisputably unique.

Venus, who will celebrate her 23rd birthday just before this year’s Championships, was until last year more successful than the 21-year-old Serena. When they met in the final of the 2001 US Open, Venus won the title for the second straight year. That match, three days before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, marked the first time sisters had met in the final of a Grand Slam event since Maud and Lilian Watson, daughters of a Midlands clergyman, contested the first Ladies’ Singles final at Wimbledon back in 1884.

However, as Serena has grown stronger and become quicker and more experienced, she has come to dominate the sisterly rivalry. Venus had emerged on top in five of the first seven matches they contested on the professional circuit but the counter-attack got under way at the Miami tournament, close to their Florida home, in the spring of last year when Serena triumphed in the semi-finals.

Then came that devastating sequence of four wins in four Grand Slam finals, as stupendous as it was historic, which left Serena sitting on top of the rankings and Venus surprised but not, she insists, downhearted.

Serena, too, readily confesses surprise at what she had managed to pull off. “As confident as I always am, I never thought I would actually end up holding all four titles,” she said. “But I just set my goals to the sky and if I land on the moon, that’s OK.”

Having reached for the sky and touched it, Serena was not slow to place credit where she considered it belonged. “Most of my fight and courage and my ideas I get from Venus,” she said.

In turn, Venus put her finger on what has made Serena the senior sister in Grand Slam terms: “Serena is mentally tougher. That’s the main thing that has dropped off in me.”

It is true that other things have contributed to what is only a comparative decline in Venus. She is tall and long-limbed and therefore prone to stress and injuries on joints like wrists and knees. Then, as an intelligent and ambitious woman, she is heavily into the study of interior design.

What is certain is that luck has not been a contributory factor in the rise and rise of the Williams girls. Serena scoffs when the word is mentioned. “Luck has nothing to do with it. I spent many hours, countless hours, on the court working for these moments.”

It all started on the decrepit public courts of a Los Angeles ghetto as their father carefully prepared them for fame, largely bypassing junior competition in readiness for an assault on the pro circuit when the time came.

And how spectacularly that time has come. But it has not been without price. In addition to Venus’ assorted injuries, Serena concedes, “Sometimes I feel like an old woman in a young woman’s body.”

Neither of them can see all this going on for too much longer, which is probably a relief to the rest of the women’s circuit. “I don’t have long-term goals,” said Serena recently. “I don’t want to play tennis for 15 years.

“Anyway, it’s impossible for anyone to have a long career nowadays. The matches are longer, conditions are harder, it’s just a different time.”

But the Williamses are intent on leaving their imprint on the sport. “We want to be legends,” said Venus, “and go into the Hall of Fame.”

7,257 Posts
Great article. I guess Serena considers 7-8 more years as not long.
I think they've both already made it into the Hall of Fame. But just in case, they should win many, many more GS titles!!!! :p ;)
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