For Venus and Serena Williams, the end is here.
The Williams sisters were knocked out of Wimbledon this year before the start of Monday’s second week, seven days in which the brightest stars on the tennis circuit assert their dominance. In the early part of the millennium, the sisters owned the second week of Wimbledon, as their 10 championships prove.
The 34-year-old Venus hasn’t been a Week 2 threat in years, and Serena, 32, has shown this season how venerable her game is. While she remains relevant, her big sis hasn’t been relevant on the tour for years.
What we’ve come to know about women’s tennis we learned, in large part, from watching the early versions of the two sisters. During their wonderful years, they displayed a combination of athleticism, height and power that fans had never seen.
Their games had flaws. Their ground strokes would betray them, and both had health issues. But no one could have foreseen that both sisters would become fodder for lesser players to move around the court like a pawn.
When she lost to Petra Kvitova last week, Venus Williams showed us again that she will never play at the elite level. She might have flashes of her past here and there, but the consistency she will need to hold a champion’s trophy again will elude her the rest of her career.
Serena is on that path as well.
That’s a pity. We never want to see greatness give way to mediocrity, but that’s what happens to every athlete who hangs around a sport too long.
We’ve seen that happen to Roger Federer, once seen as the greatest men’s player ever; we saw that in Muhammad Ali, as he became a punching bag in his boxing nadir; and we saw it in Shaq O’Neal, as he played on when he should have put his size 23 sneakers in a box and retired.
No one ought to tell somebody else when to bid adieu to something they still have passion for, but is it proper to suggest she retire?
If not proper, then pardon me if I step outside the lines and urge the Williams sisters to retire.
Venus Williams should retire because she can’t win Grand Slam tournaments like Wimbledon. She should retire because she can’t recapture her past excellence. She should retire for the same reason that many great champions have left their sport: They lose out to youth.
Her little sister lost to youth on Saturday, though she has more of her game left than her big sister does.
We hate to see the sisters perform like journeymen. Yet that’s all Venus Williams is, a performer that this next wave of tennis players looks forward to playing. No one fears her game, because her game has nothing in it to fear.
Until recent years, she and Serena often won matches before they took the court. They struck fear in an opponent, whose game fell apart under the pressure of the superior player’s presence.
Venus Williams doesn’t beat anybody in tennis who is somebody. And Serena is losing to players who best can be called nobodies.
That’s not what the end of Hall-of-Fame careers should look like.
The Williams sisters should not want a public, which used to view their tennis as spirited, flamboyant and powerful, to see them as grinders in a sport that chews up players whose games feature a bushel of unforced errors and a handful of artful winners.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Alastair Grant/AP Photo)
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