“Thank Heaven for little girls, they grow up in the most delightful ways,” sings Maurice Chevalier in the classic movie ‘Gigi’. A most appropriate tribute song for tennis sisters Venus and Serena, only that refrain is best edited to…”they grow up in the most ‘winning’ ways.”
(Video of the song can be found at the bottom of this post.)
This story is about the time a man with a vision who saw it through to total fulfilment‼ Richard Williams, the father of tennis phenoms Venus and Serena, made the successful journey from a man who self-taught himself tennis fundamentals and then developed two Tennis Champions who changed the women’s game.
While only youngsters, the tennis world was swirling with rumblings about their athletic ability…
but only Father knew best about their champion acumen.
Early on Richards describes Venus as a Champion-To-Be, he said: “…she possesses the four qualities all champions have naturally – Rough, Tough, Strong; and mentally, unbelievably Sound.”
Yet he reserved speaking of greatness for his comments about Serena. Father Richard predicted her tenacity would enable her to soar: “…so strong, once she gets a hold of you she never let’s go and plays with anger better than any athlete‼
Watch and listen to the Williams Sisters, though adolescents, speak boldly and clearly of their dreams. Venus at the time only 12 had won all 63 of her junior tennis matches.
And not to be outdone in accomplishments 11-year-old little sister Serena had claimed victory in all but two of her 52 matches.
Let’s speak of dreams…the dream of Venus then was to win the title on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon; and, for Serena, the desire to lift the trophy at the grand slam of her home country, the US Open.
The rest is a kind of amazing history, the achievement of both an America Dream along with a father’s belief he had champions-in-the making…still being played out, before our very delightful eyes. The sisters now in their 30s, continue to stun the tennis establishment and fans the world over.
For now…let’s go back to the time of the beginning of the careers of Venus and Serena Williams – two little girls from Compton – and their musings as they look to the future:
AND THANK HEAVEN FOR VENUS AND SERENA WILLIAMS…
and all joy they’ve given to us on court, bringing excellence in every match, and a reality that dreams matched with drive do come true‼ Now time to share that musical moment from one of my favorite movies – ‘Gigi’:
Much respect to Charlie Eccleshare for his insightful article in The Telegraph.
Permit me to share eight specific things I greatly appreciate about his piece.
#1: He begins with an acknowledgement that as a sport, tennis, is most unforgiving on the body. Indeed it is a remarkable feat that at 34 Serena Williams is again at the World #1 ranking and has remained at the top for 100 weeks and counting! And with the 2015 Australian Open Title she has moved on from the ‘Elite 18’ grand slam club.
Juxtapose that with her elder sister’s rise once again to the top echelon all while battling the debilitating fatigue effects of Sjögren’s syndrome – which cannot be cured – only managed.
#2: The media seems blind to the historical significance of the new ground the Williams sisters are forging into as their careers continue past age 30! All the while praising Roger Federer’s continuing achievements at this point in his 30s. Quite confounding is this fact, since Serena and Serena alone is the only player in the entire tennis world who continues to dominate past age 30! And if you missed her match in the quarters of the Australian Open, defeating Cibulkova 6-2, 62, you damn straight missed tennis played with finesse and greatness!
#3: All but ignored is that Venus’s renaissance is nothing short of amazing, as he points out that despite having seven majors, her desire is to keep playing; as she chooses to push past the pain and required sacrifice. Quoting the writer: “When it was Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors doing similar things, the pundits were falling over themselves reaching for the superlatives.”
#4: He lays to rest the chatter that swirled nonstop about the “outside interests” of the Williams Sisters. Though many questioned their commitment, the records speak loudly in response: Serena wins the US Open to claim her 18th singles grand slam title 15 years after her first. And Venus won her 46th title in Auckland to begin the year.
#5: I join the author in his admiration of how for 17 years Venus and Serena remain positive, classy examples in how they handle the media and naysayers. Yet like him I too am disheartened by recent treatment at Grand Slams, with tournament schedulers showing a lack of respect due these champions. [My example: World #1 Serena was not scheduled on Centre Court for her first match at this year’s Australian Open. Un.Believe.Able.]
To highlight this point further he cites this fact: “…when Pete Sampras had to play just one match on Court Two in 2002, he complained of a lack of respect. At last year’s Wimbledon, Venus, who has won five singles titles and five doubles titles at SW19, was shunted to Court Two and then Court Three for her first two matches.”[Un.Believe.Able.]
#6: He challenges the double standard applied to the Williams sisters, who at the start of their careers, were described as bold and confrontational, it continues today especially for Serena. He mentions two incidents that detractors speak of ad nauseam, the disputes with US Open officials, first in 2009 and 2011. And he answers the double standard treatment with a question: “Didn’t John McEnroe and Connors use to do this sort of thing pretty often?” To which I’m adding this, it wasn’t just several incidents, they built their entire careers on being loud, angry and confrontational. And at the time were adored and revered for it, same is true to this very day.
#7: We are encouraged to value watching and enjoying them while we still can. A personal aside, it was most disappointing to hear the American tennis media, pundits and the new head of the USTA [who tweeted] immediately announcing a “changing of the guard” right after Madison Keys won a three-set victory over Venus in the quarters of the Australian Open.
Two things come to mind: it was disrespectful treatment of one of American’s top two players for almost two decades who soon will rise in world ranking to close to top 10( if not within); and questionable wisdom – putting such pressure on the talented Madison Keys, as I recall what happened when the same was done to Melanie Odum and Donald Young.
#8: When contemplating answering the question: “So why are the Williams sisters treated differently?” Readers are admonished to consider media coverage of Nick Kyrgios as he shares this example: “– I personally like the Aussie’s swagger; a friend who I normally agree with on such matters thinks he’s “a bit of a p—-“. [About this…I have only one word in response – WELP]
Obrigado Charlie Eccleshare, heartfelt thanks to you for bravely challenging readers to look beyond answers that include only gender (it’s inferior women’s tennis) and personality (double standard that only men accepted as bold and confrontational)!
It is, sadly, a continuing divide in this world – race and color – and at the same time it is undeniable that the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, are ‘supremely talented athletes’ who happen to be Black!
Teaching as they go too… while it is certainly true that no one is forced to like them, it is only the whim of a fool who would continue denying their greatness as tennis players.
And I add, their greatness
as noble, proud, graceful,
charismatic and caring
women citizens of the world!!!
NOTE: To the Tennis Establishment, I became an avid fan of tennis via my adoration of the Williams Sisters and now enjoy watching the game no matter who is playing! Another contribution from Venus and Serena…expanding & diversifying the tennis fan base.
humbly submitted by guestBlogger and devoted fan of the Williams Sisters…@BlackPearlMoi (twitter account)
Good thing happens when two women who are members of the “Elite 18″ get together for a chat? ESPN was kind enough to make it happen, when Serena Williams sat with Chris Evert recently to discuss her goals for 2015. I found the interview quite wonderful, as Evert in a delightfully relaxed interview style, had Serena reflecting on this year; as well, as opening up about friendships, disappointments and the joys of the 2014 season.
The two even bantered quite jovially about meeting up on the tennis court someday. ”
“One time in my life I would love to hit a ball with you,” said Evert.
Which made Serena ponder the thought, before replying in her witty, winning way:
“It would be different to play someone who’s won 18 grand slams. I don’t know how I would feel. Do you want to play, Chrissie? Let’s play this weekend so I can feel how it feels.”
From the interview we are made privy to one of the many (but not often spoken of by the tennis media) reasons why Serena values deeply her friendship with Caroline Wozniacki. Though they both have tennis in common as a career pursuit, their journey to professional tennis play differs.
Serena shares that the friendship enables her to gain insight about junior tennis; where Caroline, like most women on tour, got her start.
“We talk about how things are different for different players growing up. For me and Venus, not playing junior tennis was good for us. I asked her, “What was it like to play the juniors?” I never knew Junior Wimbledon existed until I was a few years on tour, I’m embarrassed to say. I didn’t realize that there was actually a junior event.”
About 2015 and Changes in Her Game
We gain insight into the coach-player relationship Serena has with Patrick Mouratoglou. She began working with him shortly after an early exit from the 2012 French Open. Evert put his question to Serena: “You turned to Patrick Mouratoglou for some coaching, then had a dynamite year in 2013. What did he see in your game?”
“It wasn’t what he saw, it was just what he did. He didn’t make me feel like I was changing anything. I think my foundation was strong enough that we just added to it.”
“I was recently watching my old matches on YouTube. I found matches in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and I definitely have to say I think I’m a better player than I was then. I’m smoother. I move better on the court. I’m lighter on the court. My game looks a lot easier, like I’m not trying as hard. It’s a lot more effortless.”
Evert reminds the World#1 that going into last year, her expressed goal was to make fewer errors. Revealing her commitment to greatness in her game; Serena expounded in specifics about changes in her game that will be her focus in training.
“Well, I want to move a lot faster on the court. I want to be more dynamic and just completely awesome out there. And I need to bring my serve back. My serve in 2014 was a little disappointing for me. I want my 2013 serve back, but a better version of that for 2015. I had so many double faults this year: I was hitting, like, seven in a match, and it was driving me insane.”
Enjoy reading the full interview at espnW’s Impact 25 and ESPN The Magazine’s Interview.
As for me and the 2015 tennis season…can’t wait! Having reached the record 18 grand slams and joining Navratilova and Evert in that elite club; Serena expressed her perspective on winning more grand slams and perhaps reaching the ultimate…22.
Chris Evert: “Eighteen Grand Slams now. You’re in the club. How much further can you go?”
“Serena Williams: Well, it’s no secret. I’m going for the gusto. I’m going to try to catch up with Steffi (Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam titles). But right now I’m really focused on 19, which will begin in Australia. Whether I get there or not, I don’t know. But I know if I get to 19, the second it happens I will be thinking of 20.”
Note to Serena: Your legion of fans have nothing but faith in you accomplishing that which you desire! And I know I speak for many when I say: wish it – you on court – would never end!
Serena Williams, in the world of women’s tennis, is the most charismatic player! Serena herself has declared that there are many sides to her personality. Read on to discover why I define her as the most compelling player to listen to; and most definitely, to watch.
Take for example her surprising response in Italian, after winning the 2013 Rome Final! How she charmed the crowds with her language dexterity. And staying true to her–this gurrl loves to have fun–side; watch as she engages in some hilarious champagne popping.
Now let’s talk….about the Serena who tests and goes beyond possibility. Like when she enters the Serena zone. That’s when historical moments occur! Wimbledon 2012: Serena set a record number of 102 aces, topping all other players( men & women) in this category. She won this tournament with 248 winners(102 were Aces).
Ever the perfectionist, Williams demands of herself an extremely high level of performance. And when she doesn’t reach it, frustration can erupt like a volcano! Remember the WTA finals in Singapore? After committing many errors during her Semi Final match against Caroline Wozniacki, watch how the racquet suffers the wrath of Serena!!!
Along with her extraordinary exploits on the tennis court, Serena is all woman. And when she vamps it up, all stop and stare at her beauty: as my MoMsy used to say “proof is in the pudding”; so gaze upon her, wearing Michael Costello, at the 2014 Vanity Fair Post Oscar party. BELLEZA!
I am forever grateful to Serena, and her accomplished sister Venus, for being the initiation to my love of tennis. Humbled am I to witness the unrivaled power, grace and elegance they exude. The tennis world is all the more richer, as are we who witness!
Without Venus and Serena on the scene for the remainder of the season is really tough on this tennis fan. The Williams Sisters Rock! Now on the women’s side it’s back to that ping-pong mess – I’ll hit the ball to you, then you hit it back to me, and then I’ll hit it again back to you! Pleggonit! Anyway good news, reports are that Venus has announced her intention to play the Australian Open.
Venus withdrew from the US Open prior to her second round match; after announcing she’s been diagnosed with the auto-immune disorder, Sjorgen’s Syndrome. Prayerful the treatment available for this disorder (there is no cure) enables Venus a healthy return to the game. How soon? Hopefully in January when she travels down under!
Below Venus expresses regret about missing play in the Far East!
In 2002, James Blake was named the world’s sexiest athlete by People magazine. If he wasn’t already a tennis player, his good looks could have made him a successful model. As it is, Blake has a modeling contract with IMG models, posed in GQ and Teen Vogue, and modeled fashions for DKNY and Kenneth Cole.
Named the comeback player of the year in 2005 after Blake overcame three devastating events to become one of the best tennis players in the world. Blake again defied the odds in 2011. Due to serious knee problems Blake began his 2011 comeback tour ranked out of the Top 150 for the first time since 2005. His ranking plummeted to 175 only to rise to number 63 as of August 2011!
It’s October 2011, and one thing remain the same,
James Blake is still “Fine as Wine in the Summertime!”
Roger Federer and Serena Williams
make headlines around the world
by having a birthday –
only this one meant turning 30!
These two Super Tennis Professionals have a lot in common besides birth months! They both hold more singles Grand Slam titles than any other active player. Roger has won a record 16 Grand Slam titles (all in a seven-year span). He is also one of only seven men to have achieved the Career Grand Slam. Serena also completed the Career Grand Slam (better known as the ‘Serena Slam’) and her Grand Slam count stands at 13 titles. She is the ninth woman all-time to have won each of the four Grand Slam singles titles at some point in their careers.
2003 was a significant year for both players in terms of career highlights and record setting achievements.
Federer Wins his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon 2003
Winning the 2003 Australian Open – Serena achieves her Career Grand SlamSerena added this Grand Slam title to the French Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon crowns she won the previous year, all against her sister. Her “Serena Slam”, as she called her four grand slam victories, made her the fifth woman in history to win all of the Grand Slams consecutively. Her dominance of the game was unquestionable! http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/tennis/2003/australian_open/news/2003/01/24/serena_venus_final/
FAST FORWARD TO 2011 Roger Federer announced he was far from finished at this year’s French Open! With awesome Federer-like-play he ended Novak Djokovic’s hot winning streak;
becoming the first man to beat Djokovic this year, as he inflicted on
him a 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 defeat. In addition to reaching the finals at Roland Garros; Federer reached the semis of the Australian and the US Open and the quarters of Wimbledon.
Williams reached the final of this year’s
US Open after a year’s absence with injury and illness. During the six months
she played in 2010, she won two Slams (Australian and Wimbledon) and reached
the quarters of the third.
More about most successful active woman in tennis, the sixth most successful of all time Serena Williams
Serena in 2011: the Williams story of year-long injury and illness is an extraordinary one! She recorded a 22-3 win-loss run that takes
in two titles after tremendous physical turmoil. When she returned to the grass this summer after her 12-month absence, she looked as fit and strong as she had in winning her previous 13 Slams. With back-to-back wins in Stanford and Toronto, she immediately became the favourite for New York, even though the lowly seeding of 28 made her path seem too difficult to overcome.
Nevertheless, she progressed with ease, pausing for one tiebreak against No4 seed Azarenka before taking out No16 Ana Ivanovic,
No17 Pavlyuchenkova and top seed Wozniacki—all without dropping a set. The loss to Sam Stosur in the final of the 2011 US Open is like a small blemish on the landscape of Serena’s phenomenal comeback!
GOING FOR THE GOLD Serena will return, I predict with even greater determination, to win more titles. Plus knowing how she likes her fine jewelry (remember the diamonds at this year’s US Open) Serena will be going for the gold! Both have won Olympic doubles gold;Serena with sister Venus and Federer in 2008 teaming with Stanislas Wawrinka
2012 Federer and Serena their eyes are on the prize – that one title missing – the glitter of Olympic singles gold!
Wimbledon champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams pose for photographs prior
to the 2003 Wimbledon Ball