For more than 20 years the burden of women’s tennis (oh for heaven’s sake go ahead and admit it men’s tennis, too) in the United States has been carried on the capable shoulders of Venus and Serena Williams. Following their women’s final match against each other in the Australian Open earlier this year, I wrote this:
I am awarding Venus and Serena Williams The Red Man’s Memorial Paw Snaps and Twirls – the highest honor possible for two American women who personify persistence and perseverance to be the very best in their sport and in so doing, prove repeatedly that they are both the images of true champions. Their love of family speaks volumes about their character, and their love of playing tennis is a gift we can all appreciate and be grateful for.
You rock, girls – keep going. Records are made to be broken.
Serena did win her history making 23rd. major at the 2017 Australian Open but made even bigger news when she announced her pregnancy following the tournament. The tennis world gasped at the possibility of a French Open, Wimbledon and even an US Open without its reigning diva who struck fear into the rackets of any player unlucky enough to see her name on Serena’s side of the draw.
Oh, what to do…woe is me…and woe is certainly what the organizers of the major tournaments were saying to themselves as they contemplated their events without the reliable brilliance of Serena Williams.
Now this is why I love sports in general – and tennis in particular. Into the void stepped a brash teenager named Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia who stunned everyone except herself when she marched on to the courts of Roland Garros and became the first unseeded player to win the French Open since 1933. Her idol when she picked up her first tennis racket? Serena Williams.
The Spanish player, Garbine Muguruza, who won the French in 2016, found her championship form again to win Wimbledon in 2017 as she eliminated (guess who?) Venus Williams in that grand slam final on the grass courts of the All England Club.
And speaking of Venus, the 37-year-old sister of Serena who is still playing tennis with a vengeance…she may have lost the Australian Open final to her sister but the remainder of her 2017 season has been victorious as she broke records for longevity at championship levels in tournament after tournament in a sport that demands physical fitness and mental toughness to win at these high levels.
But for all their individual trophies, career earnings, and tangible achievements I believe the legacy of Venus and Serena Williams will be the women who come to play tennis today.
Last night at the US Open both semi-final matches were played by 4 American women – amazing really since 1981 was the last time the United States had 4 women in our own major: Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin and Barbara Potter. Evert, Navratilova, and Austin now serve words instead of balls as they offer commentary on the ESPN and Tennis Channels.
One of the four women playing last night was Venus Williams. Her opponent was 24-year-old Sloane Stephens who defeated her in 3 jaw dropping sets and who said at an interview on the court following her victory that she and the rest of women’s tennis owed much of their winning attitudes and power games to the examples of Venus and Serena Williams.
Now the US Open women’s final is set for tomorrow with Stephens playing Madison Keys who defeated Coco Vandeweghe in straight sets. You can bet Pretty and I will be in the bleacher seats watching that final, and we know one thing for sure.
The winner of the US Open on the women’s side this year will be an American, and although her name won’t be Williams, she’ll be standing on their shoulders.
Venus and Serena Williams – Australian Open – 2017