By Josh Kramer
A “Williamsless” Grand Slam final? Over the better part of the past decade, a Grand Slam final without both or at least one Williams’ sister has been an absolute rarity. Now I realize that it has been a very odd year for the WTA. Nobody knows who is going to win the next tournament, much less the next match. The WTA tour is the most parity filled sport on the market these days. Especially with the NFL entering the 100th day of their strike.
After the first few days at the Championships though, one thing is obvious. The Williams sisters are not nearly what they once were. Now I realize that both Serena and Venus have had a very tough year where they have dealt with various injuries and rust is to be expected. But over the past decade, both sisters have made it seem effortless while cruising to Grand Slam final after Grand Slam final. With 20 Grand Slams between the two, and 9 of the last 11 Wimbledon titles, it has just come to be expected to see at least one Williams, possibly two, playing in the finals at the All England Club.
Both sisters never fully focused on their tennis games the way that much of the tennis world desired. Yet they still won. Venus and Serena did things their way. They had television shows. Fashion lines. Guest star appearances all over the place. And despite a seeming “lack of focus,” when it was time for the big matches, both would generally come through. Well I hate to say it, but I do not see that being the case anymore.
Yesterday, I was very happy to see Serena pull out a tough three-setter. Seeing her tears of joy really made it a special win and I think the majority of fans understood the significance. Serena, once the most dominant player in the world, has had the most trying year of her life. The determination and perseverance that she normally shows on Centre Court, she had to pull out off the court during the course of the past year. In Round one, as we have grown accustomed to, Serena gutted out a tough three set match. But this was Round one, and she was playing against 52nd ranked Aravane Rezai. There is a reason why Serena has never lost a first round match at a Grand Slam Tournament during her amazing career. She is Serena Williams. The post match tears showed just how deep she had to dig to get by the little known 52nd ranked player in the world. Now I hope to be kicking myself for saying this in a week, but barring a near miracle, Serena is not capturing her 5th Wimbledon title. At the age of 29, she is no longer the dominant force we once knew.
Then there is Venus. Venus is the older sister, yet she never really dominated to the extent that her baby sister did. Either way, she has won seven Grand Slam titles in her career, including five at the All England Club. Venus, despite looking pretty tough in her first match showed vulnerability in a big way today. The 57th ranked player in the world, who also happens to be 40-years-old, yes I said 40, had Venus on the brink of elimination. Kimiko Date-Krumm put up a monumental effort and gave us a memorable three-setter. Venus showed no quit. She also showed that she is not a shell of the former Venus that we once knew and loved. The 31-year-old appears to be at the end of her amazing career.
So as much as I am pulling for Venus and Serena to give us one more “All Sister” Championship Battle, I would almost go as far to say that I have a better shot of winning the lottery tomorrow than that happening. We have been spoiled over the past decade by two phenomenal athletes. Who also happen to be sisters. No longer can they just show up and cruise to the finals of Grand Slams with ease. Those days are long gone. The real question now is who will carry the torch for American tennis. In the post Sampras/Agassi era, the Williams’ sisters have really put American tennis on their backs, with the occasional aid from Andy Roddick.
Sadly, the Williams’ sisters reign is almost over. I hope there is one last great run left though.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.