Serena and Venus: What's Next for the Williams Sisters?

Marcus ChinCorrespondent IJuly 7, 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27:  Serena Williams of the United States reacts to a play during her fourth round match against  Marion Bartoli of France on Day Seven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 27, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

One of the larger questions that have come out of this year’s Wimbledon championships must have been that over the Williams sisters.

For the first time in five years, and before that for five more, a Williams failed to grace the Wimbledon final. The women's game is changing, adapting and the time for the new to root out the old seems to have just about come.

So, Petra Kvitova is tennis’ first really newly-made star—practically the lucky-drawn winner of the lottery that has become the women’s game at Grand Slams (no offense meant to Kvitova, or her very, very fine efforts, of course).

The end of the Williams’ run here at Wimbledon just seemed to coincide so well with everything that had happened up to that point.

The fourth round at Wimbledon in 2011 will perhaps be a most fateful day in the history of the women's game—it was the first time both sisters were eliminated before the quarterfinals, and on the same day.

They were over 30, many will remember, laden with the weight of years, and beaten off the court in symbolic fashion, their once untouchable power games combated and bested by the revived youth of the European Old World—one a reincarnation of Monica Seles (Bartoli), and the other No. 58697 from an Eastern European female tennis player manufacturing firm (Pironkova).

It has all happened so rather serendipitously.

The power games of the Williams failed them, for once; but there were mitigating factors, and we can’t lose track of them.

Serena, of course, was coming into Wimbledon after a year of layoff, and seeking to regain some of that Serena Williams-mojo. There was plenty of hinting of that in the last set she played, when she very nearly eked it out against Bartoli.

It was in fact a match that Serena, in years past, might very well have won. It was that well-worn tape played all over again—Serena down a set and a break, facing match points, but somehow mustering the energy to self-apotheosise. We’ve seen it too many times to need repeating (Australian Open vs. Azarenka 2010, or here, even, in the semis in 2009 against Dementieva?).

Alas, a year off is a year off, and it probably accounted very fully for her collapse, or inability to take advantage of the psychological blow to Bartoli, who had just had three match points, in that tiebreak. An uneasy dropshot, and some misses, just about characterised the uncharacteristic.

Venus, too, had some interesting subtexts to her match. Pironkova, perhaps, is becoming something of a nail in the foot for her career, the bane of the champion. Venus is still the five-time champ at Wimbledon, but was certainly expected to avenge her humiliation last year.

Instead, we were only treated to the repetition of the bygone—indeed, an act of mimicry, as Tsvetana replayed the script of 2010 exactly, down to the scoreline. If only they had played a round later—no one then would have doubted they were back in 2010.

Clearly, Venus had psychological scarring to deal with, and didn’t. It was a blowout, and indeed a rather tragic way to end a day which ended, ultimately, in much disappointment for the Williams sisters. That we might speak of decline seems only the logical path for discussion; but tennis is so much more than that.

The Williams sisters are legends of tennis, and nothing will take away that from them.

For all the drama, and trauma (which one doubts ever existed in their minds) they had to undergo, the Williams are still the leaders on grass. They were the pioneers of the power grass game at the beginning of last decade, and will begin this one still with the same weapons that started it all.

There is something innate about the Williams, and possibly this is best said of Serena. Few have such awesome, clutch, sniper-like serves as those possessed by the Williams sisters. It will surely pull them through in many matches more on grass in the future.

For the next few months, however, things can only get better, the sun can only shine that bit brighter, every day.

A loss at Wimbledon can be a shocking thing for such self-confident, buoyant beings as the Williams sisters—especially if they have won between them nearly 10 titles here. But it is also a moment to start from scratch; nothing alas is so much lost as when one loses at the greatest tournament in tennis.

The American hard court season, however, should be a time for convalescence—weary and reeling from injury, with broken and disheartened spirits. Fast courts will bring easier gifts, and a chance to hone again their craft.

Tennis is endlessly about that, and the Williams sisters, ever positive and forward-thinking, will surely not stop thinking about that for some time yet.


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