Serena and Venus Williams have participated in the Olympics since the 2000 Summer Games were held in Sydney.
London marks the fourth Olympic appearance for Venus, the third for Serena.
At the the next Olympics, Venus will be 35 and Serena 34. It stands to reason that the London Games could be the last time the sisters appear on such an international stage.
The sisters, along with most in the tennis world, believe another gold medal is awaiting them at the end of Olympic competition. What has made Venus and Serena Williams such champions?
Venus Williams thrived playing tennis as a youngster under the supervision of her father. They decided that 14-year old Venus should turn professional in 1994.
The singular impact of her attacking style altered women's tennis, forever changing the game.
Venus played tennis like a man with power, speed and precision. Aggression was a primary staple in her game.
Finally in 1997 the oldest Williams sister reached the finals of the U.S. Open utilizing her power game. He opponent in the final was the current reigning queen of women's tennis, Martina Hingis.
Even though Venus lost that first battle with Hingis; nonetheless, she had arrived at the top of the women's game.
Both finalists were teenagers at the time. In very short order, however, Venus would make the dominant Hingis game obsolete.
In fact, the Williams sisters would soon turn back most players whose fastidious attention to detail on court could not also counter the brute force of serves coming at them over 120 mph backed up by consistent ground strokes that bounced high and deep.
The game now was about speed and power. Every stroke was hit full out.
With her quiet serenity, Venus Williams, ruled on court. Nothing ruffled her resolve nor did anything get past her on court with her long legs, long reach and foot speed second to none.
Even today Venus possesses intricate timing on her strokes. But most importantly, her serve is the fastest in the women's game—once clocked at over 130 miles per hour.
Her fluid movements are deceptive as she controls the pace of the game forcing her opponent to bend to her will. Throughout her career, Venus evolved into one of the most powerful base-liners in the game. Doubles play helped her develop volleying skills in her quest to perfect her all-court game.
Recent illnesses have slowed the elder Williams sister down. She has found it difficult to maintain the mindset necessary to win during many matches. But Venus never quits even when she struggles.
Early on when she entered the "zone" she became unbeatable. One of the greatest reasons for her success was her ability to stay calm no matter what happens on court.
Her best playing surface is grass. She is the winner of five Wimbledon titles.
Sister Serena entered the professional ranks in 1995 at the tender age of thirteen years. It was 1997, however, before Serena began playing the pro tour in earnest. Entering the year ranked No. 304, Serena climbed to world no. 97 by the time the year ended.
Serena’s serve remains the foundation of her game. She has retained the most consistently powerful serve in the women’s game. The fluidity of her service motion remains unequaled. Seldom does her opening salvo misfire. When it does, it can be a very long day on court for the younger Williams sister.
Yet Serena has other weapons like her return of serve and her forehand, also considered one of the best and most powerful in the game.
The younger Williams sister is more emotional on court than sister Venus and, at times, lets the moment interfere with her tennis. That is one of her few weaknesses.
Generally, however, Serena remains focused and self-assured on court going for her shots with aggression and with control.
Serena has won grand slam titles at each venue winning a “Serena Slam” in 2002-2003—holding all four grand slam titles at one time.
She only needs an Olympic gold to allow her to add a “golden slam” to her list of triumphs.
When you think about the talent of the Williams sisters, the first and most obvious weapon in their arsenal is the serve.
Those who have lived long enough to see tennis played before the Williams sisters came on the scene saw much less power and aggression on court. The pace of the game was slower and the second serve often a little toss across the net.
The sisters patterned their game after the men, making it all about speed and power. This was achieved primarily by blasting the opponent off the court with big serves. The sisters quickly began dominating.
But the Williams sisters not only dominated the women’s game in singles, they hold multiple records for their doubles play, including two Olympic gold medals and 13 grand slam women’s doubles titles.
Ultimately, it was Serena who won the first Grand Slam title when she defeated Hingis at the 1999 U.S. Open. She was 17 years of age at the time.
Venus would come back in 2000 to capture the Wimbledon championship for the first time.
This was a harbinger of things to come, as Serena grew into a more prolific winner of Grand Slam titles than her older sister.
The true stumbling block came when the sisters inevitably began playing each other. It seemed difficult for the two sisters to compete at major championships.
Early on, Serena was able to overcome her anxiety of defeating her older sister—or so it appeared. Venus seemed to have a harder time winning when her younger sister was on the other side of the net.
In the early years, people who watched the two sisters play on the big stages would murmur that neither one tried very hard. They complained that the outcome had been decided in advance. Such talk filtered through the locker rooms often showing up in the media.
No doubt such talk reached the sisters and further complicated their relationship on court as well as their matches. In time, the accusations stopped as the sister's matches became more competitive.
Venus and Serena eventually learned how to separate their sibling and professional rivalries.
One particularly ugly episode sparked a huge debate in tennis circles. In 2001, as people continued to insist that there might be some "match fixing" between the sisters, fans at Indian Wells spoke out by publicly booing Serena Williams on court.
Venus had been scheduled to play Venus but withdrew before the match. Serena and Venus were deeply disturbed by the boos and have boycotted the tournament at Indian Wells since that date in 2001.
The sisters have played each other 23 times and their record stands at 13-10, with Serena holding the advantage. Venus and Serena met eight times in grand slam finals with Venus winning twice.
Since the Williams sisters began dominating women's tennis, a new breed of tennis players began entering the game. The big servers like Maria Sharapova and Lindsay Davenport broke into the ranks. The new dominating players had to be tall and had to possess a big serve and a powerful forehand. Once in a while an exception would come through like Justine Henin but even the lady from Belgium had to beef up her serve.
Venus and Serena Williams dominated primarily from 1999 through 2003.
After injury and illness interrupted their professional tennis life starting in 2004, the sisters would return to win a major, such as Serena’s win as an unseeded player at the 2007 Australian Open and Venus' win at the 2007 Wimbledon Championships.
Today, whenever they are entered in a tournament, the Williams sisters are part of the conversation since the sisters continue to display the discipline and desire to win. Venus and Serena bring the best weapons and the most complete game to the table.
Between them the sisters have won five gold medals from the the three previous Summer Olympics,. Venus leads with three including her gold medal in singles from the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Teamed with sister Serena, Venus captured two more gold medals during doubles competition in 2000 and again in 2008 in Beijing.
That also gives Serena her two gold medals in doubles.
So far in the 2012 Olympics in London, Serena has advanced to the third round where she will face Vera Zvonareva of Russia. The two players have met eight times with Zvonareva winning twice. The first was on the hard courts in Cincinnati in 2006 and the last was at Eastbourne on grass in 2011. Expect Serena to advance again.
Venus played her second round match on Tuesday where she met Canadian Aleksandra Wozniack. The two had met only once before—this year in Miami when Venus scrambled to win 4-6, 6-4, 7-6. Venus continued to play well defeating Wozniack and advancing to the third round to meet German Angelique Kerber—a very tough match.
In doubles, the sisters advanced to the second round where they defeated the dangerous German team of Sabine Lisicki and Angelique Kerber. In the quarterfinal round they will face the Italian team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci for the chance to advance to the semifinals.
So far both are playing extremely well—they are winning.
Now with Venus age 31 and Serena now 30, you might imagine that their best days of competition on the tennis courts will soon be behind them.
Yet, even today, Venus and Serena Williams are the most naturally talented women playing tennis. It explains their dominance over the past decade. They have persevered and can still dominate as they proved at Wimbledon in 2012 with Serena winning the singles title then teaming with Venus to win in doubles.
Venus and Serena will continue to compete and win until they decide they have had enough...
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