William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Venus and Serena Williams – unprecedented

    [Author's Note: I originally wrote this in June of 2008, but feel this post still describes my thoughts on the Williams Sisters. I was reminded of it after seeing Venus Williams shockingly knocked out of Wimbledon's Quarterfinals, 6-2, 6-3 to unseeded Tsvetana Pironkova.]

    “A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves – a special kind of double.”

    –Toni Morrison

    Yesterday in England, Venus and Serena Williams woke up together, had breakfast together, and then went out and completely dominated the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament. In the women’s final at Wimbledon, Venus beat Serena in a scintillating match that showcased the sisters’ incredible power games and athleticism. And for good measure, later in the day the two teamed up to win the women’s doubles title.

    They also reminded us that they are the greatest sibling tandem in the history of professional sports. If forced to use just one word to describe Venus and Serena Williams, “unprecedented” is one of the first that comes to mind.

    There have been brilliant sibling athletes throughout history, mind you. Bobby and Al Unser are motor racing legends as the brothers combined to win the Indianapolis 500 an amazing seven times. Reggie and Cheryl Miller were both brilliant basketball players. Currently, the Manning brothers – Eli and Peyton – have each led their teams to Super Bowl championships, while Kurt and Kyle Busch have thus far combined to win 28 Nextel Cup races.

    But when it comes to greatness on the field of play – especially in an individual sport – no one can touch what the Williams sisters have accomplished.

    Both Venus and Serena have been ranked as the best womens tennis player on the planet. Combined they have won 91 tournaments, including 33 Grand Slam titles. Seven of those Grand Slam titles have come as doubles partners. Eight times in their careers the two have dominated Grand Slam events and met each other in the finals. Together they have won nearly $40 million for their on-court efforts.

    Together they have overcome racism, as well accusations of aloofness and other pretend controversies to become brilliant ambassadors of their sport. They are charitable, media- and fan-friendly and positive role models. They have attracted more new fans to tennis than any other players in the game.

    About the only thing that detractors can point to is that they each play moderate schedules, focusing more on the biggest tournaments. But they have always used their time wisely.

    Off the court, each have shown tremendous business acumen – Serena in fashion and Venus in interior design.

    As athletes, however, the two have changed the game, as individually both have to be ranked among the best to ever play the game. And neither has reached the age of 30, yet.

    Fans of tennis are well aware they living in a historical time, being able to watch the Williams sisters. But even for non-fans of the sport, there can be no doubt that Venus and Serena Williams have moved beyond being just great tennis players. Individually, each has transcended the game as Althea Gibson, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, and Martina Navratilova did before them.

    Combined, however, there just is no precedent to the Williams sisters. And despite myriad brilliant accomplishments by each already, their journey as tennis players, women and sisters still has a long way to go.




    Not saying they're better, but there's 6 (six) Sutter brothers from Viking Alberta who made the NHL in the same generation, who were really really good, a number of whom then went on to become coaches and GM's.

    Also, the Hull brothers. And Howe brothers - and two sons. And the Esposito brothers. Take the Esposito's. Phil set the record for most goals scored by a player... while his brother set the record for most Shut-Outs by a goalie... with both playing a completely innovative game, Tony bringing in the "Butterfly" style of goaltending, and Phil developing the "Garbage Man" approach to goal-scoring.

    Still, these aren't individual sports, so I'm just arguing for the sheer joy of it.

    How about the Stastny (sp?) Brothers. I remember seeing plenty of hckey scorelines that read "A. Stastnet 26 (Stastny, Stastny) "

    They were awesome. But Slovaks. Which is like being a Commie.

    So "family" doesn't mean as much to them.

    Probably atheists too.

    Probably atheists too.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that, right? Right?

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