NWA dropped straight outta Compton in 1988 and then a decade later The Williams Sisters dropped…straight — outta –Compton, winning their first career Grand Slam over Natasha Zvereva and Jana Novotna’ in Doubles play. They were the most undeniably black beauties the tennis world had ever seen. They were structured and designed to go against the grain and transcend the game. At a time when American women’s tennis was lagging in stature and charismatic champions, they burst upon the scene as talented, tough, tennis titans, molded by a relentless, controversial, protective and ambitious dad, to be the impenetrable forces and faces of American women’s tennis.
The Williams Sisters have gotten older and their iconic presence, incomparable influence on tennis culture and celebrity cache is now really working off the interest. There’s nothing new to say about the Williams Sisters that hasn’t been covered by some media outlet around the world.
There are a handful of aging legends in every sport who still command the same respect when they walk the streets today as they did when they were in the prime of their dynamic careers. The difference between those cats and The Williams Sisters is the fact that the racket wielders from California are still very relevant and major players in today’s game. At times, they are still as dominant as they once were at 18 years old. Before the hundreds of matches and Grand Slams and the celebrity and riches and gossip and the age and injuries and psychological pressure that comes with being pioneers and holding a banner for an entire race of people and beyond that limited scope, holding a banner which preserves the international integrity of America’s proud tennis culture.
As kids soaking in tennis jewels from Dad Richard on a municipal court, it was the older and stronger Venus, who usually prevailed in one-on-one battles. As they progressed in their individual careers, it was clear that younger sister Serena would be the one to ascend to the “greatest ever” category. When these two girls were on the tube, the tennis world tuned in to love em’ or hate em’; but they tuned in and had an opinion, whether it be about their fashion choices, crip walking, attitude or just unprecedented play.
The novelty of the Williams Sisters facing off in Grand Slam competition has worn off over the years, but Monday’s showdown at Wimbledon was special because it might be the last time it happens. At Wimbledon’s Centre Court in England, in the 26th all-Williams contest on tour but first at a major in six years, No. 1-seeded Serena (a five-time Wimbledon champ) beat No. 16 Venus (a five-time Wimbledon champ) 6-4, 6-3 and reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals, closing in on the third leg of a coveted calendar-year Grand Slam.
It was Serena’s sixth win in the last seven matches against her 35-year-old big sis and 15th win overall against Venus, who really hasn’t been the same since she was diagnosed with an energy-sapping autoimmune disease in 2011, three years after her last Wimbledon title. Serena is no young buck either and every time these sisters step on the court for a classic confrontation it’s a must see, because no matter how much Serena defies mother nature, this golden-brown era of women’s tennis will eventually come to an end.
“I just thought, ‘Wow, I’m 33, and she just turned 35,” Serena said in a post match interview. “I don’t know how many more moments like this we’ll have. I plan on playing for years, but you never know if we’ll have the opportunity to face each other. I just took the moment in, and I thought, ‘We’re at Wimbledon.’ I remember when I was 8 years old, we dreamed of this moment, and it was kind of surreal.”
Don’t get it twisted. Venus is no slouch and has been playing that Wu Tang razor sharp tennis in the tournament, winning all three of her matches in straight sets. It’s not like she’s Seth Curry. She’s a boss and all-time great too and she laid the blue print and was the driving force behind her younger sister’s rise to tennis alien. Venus’ historic presence and impact on tennis culture is indisputable because she is the originator. She’s Wilma Rudolph 2.0
Venus was also the guinea pig and crash dummy for father Richard’s method of molding champions. She turned pro in 1994 at the tender age of 14 and eight years later she became the World No.1 for the first time. As the first black American woman to achieve this feat during the Open Era, Venus is credited with transforming the sport and sparking a new era of women’s power tennis based on an athleticism and Compton-city grit that shifted the sport’s energy and flipped the tennis landscape.
Not to pour it on, but Venus isn’t served her due propers by a lot of front-running folk who tend to act as if Serena was born an only child. Venus is also regarded as the best grass court player of her generation and her seven singles Grand Slam titles (22 overall) ties her for seventh on the WTA’s all-time list. That’s more than any other active female player except for Serena. That’s pretty good for a woman who won two Grand Slam titles before she even got “motivated” to be a champion.
Don’t forget the four Olympic gold medals for good patriotic measure. In her prime, Venus had a 35-match winning streak from the 2000 Wimbledon Championships to the 2000 Generali Ladies Linz tournament final and it stands as the longest winning streak in tennis since January 1, 2000.
Now, with that being said, Serena isn’t quite ready to reminisce like Pete Rock and CL Smooth. She is a blazing 36-1 this season and has won 25 Grand Slam matches in a row. If she guts past former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka on Tuesday, then wins twice more, she would complete a “Serena Slam” of four consecutive major championships, something she also did in her (first) prime in 2002-03.
If we want to get ambitious and look even further ahead, Serena could go to the U.S. Open with a chance at the first true Grand Slam four majors in a single season since the dominating German racket master Steffi Graf in 1988.
The Williams Sisters’ head-to-head matchups have always added intrigue, a uniqueness and legendary complexity to their relationship to each other and the tennis community. But they are indeed two individuals who have made contributions to the sport in their own way.
“They’ve been unbelievable for the sport. I’ve said that many times,” said Roger Federer, a seven-time Wimbledon champion who also advanced to the men’s quarterfinals on Monday. “Their head-to-heads, I don’t know how much that has to do with it. I think it’s more their individual play.”
Anyway you slice it, tennis will never be the same when they’re gone.