Serena Williams couldn’t move to the ball. Venus Williams couldn’t hit it onto the court. This was the worst day ever at Wimbledon for the Williams sisters, and maybe their worst tennis day anywhere. For the first time, they both lost on the same day at the All England Club. Is it the end of their era, the end of their Great American tennis story?
Best bet: For Venus, it is. For Serena, it probably is not. But that’s going to be up to her. It won’t be so easy anymore, and will be about what’s inside. That’s not to question Serena’s fight, but instead her desire to commit to a game after worrying about her life. A few months ago, doctors discovered blood clots in her lungs.
“I can only get better,’’ Serena said. “That can potentially be really scary, because I can only go up from here and I can just do so much more.”
That sounds great, and she surely meant it. But the truth will come on the practice courts on hot days, and in the less-important tournaments. Those haven’t been her best places over the years. And now, she’s three months from turning 30.
In the end, maybe it was too much to ask either of them to win Wimbledon again this year.
Serena Williams is stealing the tournament. Her touching tears of joy after her first round followed by her complaints about being shoved to an outer court after her second round and then her complete domination in the third round, with this proclamation:
“Don’t bet against me.’’
The idea that this is an amazing comeback, after a year away with foot injury and then illness, is hard to argue with. But I always thought she was going to win the tournament anyway. She’s great. The rest of the tour is not. Two statements are being made here.
The question is this: Which is the more amazing comeback? Williams’ or Kim Clijsters?
Clijsters retired for a while, then had a baby, then came back. After two warmup tournaments, she won the U.S. Open. Williams had two surgeries, she said, for cut ligaments in her foot. Then, forced to sit around while she healed, blood clots formed and worked their way up into her lungs. She played one warmup tournament. Continue reading
The big question about why Serena and Venus Williams have been pushed to an outer court at Wimbledon, away from the main show courts, isn’t whether it was justified. It isn’t, so tournament officials tried to explain it away with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. The real question is this:
Was it sexist or was it racist? Or maybe both.
Serena complained about it Thursday, tweaking lightly after winning her second round match 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 over Simona Halep.
“They like to put us on Court 2, me and Venus, for whatever reason,’’ she said. “I haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out.’’
Meanwhile, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have all played their first matches on Centre Court or Court 1.
“They’re never moved across,’’ Serena said. “Actually, Venus and I have won more Wimbledons by ourselves than a lot of the players. . .So you know, at the end of the day, I don’t know. Like I said, they’re not going to change, doesn’t look like.’’
With the sharp and automatic divide that comes with anything to do with the Williams sisters, it’s a safe bet that the two strongest reactions to that comment were 1) eye-rolling about a prima donna or 2) outcry. Continue reading
Serena Williams in tears after winning in 1st round at Wimbledon
It hit Serena Williams somewhere as she approached the net to shake Aravane Rezai’s hand. Her head out of the battle, it went back to her year away from tennis with injury, then illness. She won her return to Wimbledon Tuesday, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, and couldn’t even get to her chair before she started crying.
She sat down, buried her face in her towel and cried some more. She walked off the court, stopped to talk to BBC, and yes, kept crying.
“I usually don’t cry, so I don’t understand it,’’ she said. “But it’s just been so hard. . .It’s been a disaster year. I didn’t expect to play; I didn’t expect to even do anything. This is, this is, just, I’m excited. I never cry with joy for anything.’’
Through the years, we’ve seen Williams happy and mad, funny and sad, grumpy and, well, the point is, we’ve never seen her like this, so vulnerable. She is such a mix of hyper-emotions that, frankly, it was nice she let us see this side.
Maybe “let’’ is the wrong word. It just happened. So unfamiliar with it, she thought at first that there was just something in her eye.
So Williams is back, and so is her sister, Venus, who missed nearly six months and then won her first-round match on Monday. Women’s tennis desperately needs the Williams sisters. Continue reading
A bunch of quick-hit thoughts on certain players going into Wimbledon:
Serena Williams: This might not even be that hard. Better beat her early, before she gets momentum. Only concern: When she has trouble catching her breath, will she be able to keep her mind off the blood clots? Prediction: Winner.
Rafael Nadal: This “clay court specialist’’ hasn’t lost a match at Wimbledon since 2007. Won’t this year, either.
Andy Roddick: Conflicting thoughts. Done winning majors; that’s an awfully nice draw. Last chance? (I’ve probably said that about him before).
Venus Williams: Didn’t look that great at Eastbourne. Kind of off-balance. Still good enough to make a deep run, though.
Roger Federer: The big-bashers who were pushing him backward aren’t doing well. He might have figured out Novak Djokovic. If Nadal loses before the final, this tournament could be his. If not, it’s not.
Caroline Wozniacki: Prove it already. Quarterfinals against Sharapova, good place to start. Prediction: Sharapova.
John Isner-Nicolas Mahut: Straight sets for Isner. But stop picking him as a darkhorse. If you can’t return serve, you can’t win Wimbledon.
Her thigh was cramping, so she kept hitting it with her racquet in hopes of loosening it up. She was tired. She couldn’t run much any more. She barely had enough energy to do more than just dump her second serve in. This is Serena Williams rusty.
So is this: No. 3 Vera Zvonareva def. Williams 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 Wednesday at Eastbourne in a Wimbledon warmup. The news seems to be that Williams lost. To me, it’s that she almost won.
A year away from the tour with hardly any practice, and Williams just walked back in the door at the top of the game. She beat a top-40 player a day earlier, and now almost beat the player who will be the No. 2 seed at Wimbledon.
Meanwhile, Venus Williams, after six months off, returned to beat the No. 11 player in the world the first day, and then crush Ana Ivanovic 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday.
It is a sign of their greatness. It is a sign of the rest of the tour’s lack of greatness.
The Williams sisters are fine. People wonder if they’re too rusty. I’m just wondering which one of them is going to win Wimbledon.
I’ll take Serena.
“It would be monumental in my mind if Serena pulled off a win,’’ Chris Evert said in an ESPN pre-Wimbledon conference call. Evert is a new analyst. “You can never, ever count her out. But I personally. . .don’t know how it’s humanly possible for someone to take a year off like that and have gone through what she’s been through physically with her ailments, and really hasn’t had a tremendous amount of practice, really a one‑tournament warm‑up (and then win Wimbledon). It would almost shock me if she did.’’ Continue reading
Serena Williams is back, and will play at Wimbledon after a quick warmup event. She’s 29 now, and surely rusty after being gone for a year. Who knows what kind of shape she’s in. It’s going to take some time and. . .
Oh please. Williams had to be watching the women’s tour these past few months thinking how easy it would be for her to own this game, even sick, even on a sore foot, even out of shape. Site unseen, Williams goes into Wimbledon as the huge favorite.
Venus Williams, who is also coming back after a long injury break, is among the favorites, too.
The truth is, Serena could have been dominating the tour for years. But maybe more than ever, it’s there for her taking, if she wants. No one took over while she was gone, though Kim Clijsters came closest. Maybe Li Na is about to. Caroline Wozniacki will drive Serena crazy if Williams can’t keep the ball on the court. Maria Sharapova could be an issue.
That’s about it. I expect Williams to step back in immediately and start winning majors again. She’s that great. The rest of the tour is not. Continue reading
I don’t know how to put this, but Venus Williams must be bored to death. First, she flew to Germany to sit there and watch a Fed Cup team she doesn’t care about lose 5-0. It was all a way to skirt rules to get into the Olympics.
Now, the news is that she’s spending time on court, while recovering from injuries, giving lessons to Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie.
Really Venus? Meanwhile, Serena Williams is creating a national buzz by producing photos of herself in a pink bodysuit, hitting Miami Heat games and being seen out on the town.
Serena, who recently went over two million Twitter followers, Tweeted today a plea to start following Venus, who has just over 700,000.
“Let’s get her to 1 MILLION followers,’’ Serena wrote. “Smart, beautiful, CRAZY athletic, classy….the list goes on’’
Serena has nearly three times as many Twitter followers as her sister? It might have something to do with Serena always searching the spotlight, tweeting goofy things regularly. Venus, meanwhile, hasn’t tweeted in 2½ weeks.
It’s another great example of the contrasts between the sisters. Someone pointed out a long time ago that Serena was dating a rapper (Common) while Venus was with a golfer (Hank Kuehne).
Whatever happened to that relationship, anyway?
Well, McKinnie told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he’s trying to drop 20 pounds, from 360-340 – though his listed weight is already 335 – and improve his lateral movement. He has asked for help from his friend, Venus, and he says he’s getting hooked on the game.
A look at the video shows that he has real potential, and maybe a future in the game.
Actually, that’s just the polite thing you’re supposed to say in a story like this. He can’t move. His forehand is wrong. His backhand is decent, though.
“One thing I learned with Venus,’’ McKinnie told the St. Paul paper, “you have to be ready for a long lesson.’’
Well, yes, tennis can be hard work. But it would be easier to stay in shape if you didn’t drink $100,000 worth of champagne in one night. In February, TMZ reported that McKinnie had dropped that much money on alcohol at an NBA All-Star party hosted by rapper Rick Ross and model Rosa Acosta.
Apparently, McKinnie had all the Beautiful People at the party in awe when he bought 15 bottles of expensive champagne, including, reports said, one so large it had to be brought to him with a forklift. Theoretically he shared some of it.
But that doesn’t exactly sound like a guy too worried about getting into shape.
Considering who she’s hanging out with, maybe Venus is leading a little more wild life than we realize, and just keeping in private. Probably not, though.
Serena is having fun and Venus is playing tennis with a 355-pound man.
See if this passes the smell test: The US Tennis Association announced Tuesday that Venus Williams has officially “made herself available’’ to play for the U.S. Fed Cup team next week in Germany. Yet she has no intention of playing.
She will travel all the way to Stuttgart to be with the team for the big match, but is still too hurt to play.
Loyalty to the team? Uh, no.
“She’s been rehabbing her injury from Australia,’’ Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez said Tuesday. “Hopefully, she’ll be able to practice. I don’t expect her to play, but obviously in the next 10 days if she’s playing great and feeling fit, then there’s always that possibility.’’
Sorry, but I’m going to have to call b.s. here on Venus Williams, Mary Joe Fernandez, and most of all, the USTA. Just go with the truth. Williams is out.
At this point, there is a very real possibility that the Williams sisters will not be allowed to play in the Olympics. That’s what this is all about.
The only reason Venus is flying overseas for a team and match she has no interest in, is to manipulate rules so she can stay eligible for the 2012 London Games.
Serena Williams was considering the same thing, making herself “available’’ and traveling to the same event she wasn’t going to play in. But while she recovers from blood clots in her lungs, travel isn’t safe. So she’s staying home.
The USTA is in full-out panic mode. Why? Because if the Williams sisters don’t get into the Olympics, then it’s likely the U.S. will not have any women ranked high enough to play singles in the Olympics at all. Continue reading
Oracene Price, mother of Venus and Serena Williams, has not tweeted in six days. I wanted to make sure I was the first to report that news. It is clear she’s embarrassed and angry by what she had tweeted before the women’s final of the Australian Open.
If you missed the little storm she created last week on Twitter, she said she was hoping Li Na would beat Kim Clijsters because she thought it “would be cool for a Chinese to win.” She also wrote, “Let’s say I’m not pulling for the other one. I dislike dubious people.”
It’s clear she hates Clijsters. People wrote to Price on Twitter, complaining that it was clear she’s racist against white people. Price also made some sort of comment comparing Clijsters to Medusa, clearly stating she thinks Clijsters is funny looking.
Look, the truth is that nothing is clear here at all, possibly not even to Price. This was a study in modern media and in Twitter itself. There is an entire Twitter world, and it’s unclear what it even is.
It means different things to different people. Tennis moms can use it in varying states of consciousness. Media types are using it mostly to try to stay on top of the game, and also to give instant analysis.
I use it, too, and can be found @gregcouch. To me, it is mostly for little throw-away, stream of consciousness type of thoughts, but not always. You don’t do much in-depth analysis in 140 characters, including spaces between words, to make your point. That’s all you get on Twitter. This paragraph blew past tweet length about two sentences ago. Continue reading
Greg Couch is an award-winning sports columnist based in Chicago. He covers college football for BleacherReport.com, NFL for RollingStone.com and freelances at several other places, including The New York Times. Lots of tennis, mostly here. He has traveled the world covering tennis and is a member of the International Tennis Writers Association. A former sports columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times, his tennis writing has been in the book "The Best American Sportswriting."