Both Williams Sisters Fall in France

By Jane Voigt

May 28, 2014 — Whether it’s an end of an era or a blip in the women’s pro ranks, Venus and Serena Williams are the standard by which all women’s tennis is judged. No one else matters but the Williams sisters. 

The truth of that statement could be heard and felt around the world today as they each lost in rapid succession. “This was [the] worst scoreline loss at a Major, not including WTA Tour events,” Pam Shriver, ESPN commentator, tweeted about Serena. 

And the icing on the cake … the top two women’s seeds — Serena and Li Na — are out of the tournament in the second round. That has never happened in the Open Era of any Major. 

Since Venus and Serena took their first steps on to the ubiquitous tennis stage in 1994 (Venus) and 1995 (Serena), they have have been under the microscope … beaded hair et al. They have been deservingly lauded. They have been berated for dealings on and off court.  

They didn’t take the usual route to pro tennis. They never played normal junior tennis tournaments, like most of their contemporaries: up, through and around the U.S.T.A. and I.T.F. (International Tennis Federation) circuits. Their ever-present father and coach, Richard, proclaimed his daughters’ talents before proven, as if atop a mount with a tablet in hand. 

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Venus Williams shows her frustration in her loss today to 19-year-old Anna Schmiedlova in the second round of Roland Garros, 26 63 64. Photo credit tennisclix.com

When Venus became the first black woman in 2001 to win back-to-back Wimbledon titles since Althea Gibson in 1957-1958, Richard held up a placard as he jumped up and down on the roof of the broadcast booth on Centre Court Wimbledon a smile so broad they saw it back home in Compton, Calif. “It’s Venus’ party and no one was invited.” 

There was six-one Venus Williams hugging the Venus Rosewater Platter in a white dress a smile so endearing opinion tipped in her favor, if just a bit. 

This was two years after little sister Serena claimed her first Grand Slam at the U. S. Open, her hair braided with beads, Venus politely and proudly cheering her on when sport expected Venus to be the first slam titlest. Yes, everyone stood witness as they have for close to two decades. 

In 2008 Pete Bodo of tennis.com wrote, "Everyone by now has to admit, whether fan or foe, that the Williams sisters are the best the WTA tour offers the world. They play the whole court and intuitively know the game better than any other players. Maybe their parents were right when they kept them away from junior tennis and all its complications. Whatever the formula, we have to admire them and acknowledge them. No two women play matches like the sisters play!"

They brought power to women’s tennis. They introduced it, perfected it, and beat the tennis skirts off the competition. They have a combined major trophy count of 24 (singles), 13 (doubles). They each have a record 4 Olympic Gold Medals, more than any one person in the history of the sport. 

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An extremely frustrated Serena Williams lets out a belly scream in her loss to Garbine Muguruza on Court Suzanne Lenglen today, 62 62. Photo credit tennisclix.com

In 2001 the U. S. Open struck it rich, revising the finals schedule to accommodate the match between the sisters. Viewing began 8 p.m. Saturday. It was a spectacle of American entertainment with value that broke the bank. Venus won. The pressure was on. They have met 24 times in their career, each time the press going crazy. It was revving up its engine for a Venus/Serena third-round battle in Paris, too, until today.

According to the WTA, Venus holds the record for the fastest recorded serve at 129.9 M.P.H. That was in 2007. Seven years ago. Serena remains, to this silly loss-of-a-day, to be the most powerful hitter out there. No one has a clearer edge in a match than Serena Williams. When she’s in a draw, she is the favorite. When she’s out, the draw opens for opportunities not foreseen, as is the scene in Paris this evening. 

They are the life blood of women’s tennis and they have touched millions off the court, as well. Roger Federer is a beloved champion with international name recognition. He earns the type of money from endorsements second only to Tiger Woods, according to Forbes. However, the Williams sisters matter most on court whether hard, red clay, green clay, or grass. They fill the seats because they are relevant, riveting, and ground-breakers. No one else matters. 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013