What the Williams Sisters Mean to Tennis

Will the sport ever be the same? Could they be even greater?

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As the U.S. Open kicks off, the press is focused on one team: the Williams sisters. The Serena and Venus Williams are only one of the most successful sibling pairs in sports, their story--sisters from the wrong side of the tracks with the wrong skin color go on to dominate a traditionally white, upperclass sport--is one of the more compelling American tales around. Sports writers from around the globe are weighing in on what the siblings mean to tennis and why you should be tuning in to watch them.

  • Sport Changed Forever, says Karen Crouse in the New York Times. Noting the sisters' style of play, she says their "power games yanked tennis kicking and shrieking into the Big Babe era," and she quotes fellow American tennis player James Blake, who echoes this sentiment: "Before them, girls like Martina Hingis were able to kind of dominate just with kind of skill and finesse. Those girls just turned it into a power game and just started kind of ripping through. Anyone that didn’t have the power to hit them off the baseline, they were going to be in trouble, because they were just so physically dominating." 
  • Believe the Hype, says Howard Fendrich from the Associated Press. He says that CBS Sports "began carrying the U.S. Open women's final in prime time in 2001, a move widely attributed to the sisters' ascension in the sport. Venus beat Serena that year for the championship, and nearly 23 million viewers tuned in, giving the final the largest TV audience of any program that night, including a football game between Notre Dame and Nebraska." Crouse adds to this sentiment by quoting CBS commentator Mary Carillo, who says, "Even now, the single highest ratings getter for us is Serena. More than Roger Federer, more than Andy Roddick, more than Rafael Nadal."

  • Unsung Heroes, says ESPN's Rick Reilly. "Do you realize a Williams has six of the past 11 women's majors? That they've outlasted not one generation of rivals but two? Martina Hingis, Justine Henin, Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati. All gone." He adds, "It's the single most underplayed story in American sports in the past 25 years."

  • A Nation's Last Great Hope, says the Sport Review. Alluding to the lack of currently talented underlings in the US, it says, "No one from the United States besides the Williams sisters sits inside the top 60 – and only three Americans are even ranked between 60 and 100. As things presently stand, American women’s tennis will effectively retire with them."

  • A Force to be Reckoned With, says SNY TV's Adam Zagoria. With former rivals now retired, he says, the "Williams' have rebounded and remained at the top of their games, a threat to win just about every major." He goes on to quote Tennis Channel analyst Martina Navratilova: "When the guys [Federer and Nadal] are winning we say they are so good. But when the women are not taking it to the Williams sisters we're saying the women are not that good. Maybe it's because the Williams sisters are that good and take it to another level at the Slams."

  • Underachievers, says Fanhouse's Greg Couch. He notes that while the sisters "have been the best thing to happen to American tennis in years, no doubt," he also says that they could have done (and be doing) more for the sport besides winning grand slams. He says, "they haven't lived anywhere near up to their potential, especially Serena. They should have been more than tennis stars."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.