This is a guest post by our friend, loyal reader and contributor John Bolan.
Back in June 2011, I wrote an article titled Willams sisters don’t deserve the privileged status they have in women’s tennis, which has received so many comments, both pro and con, perhaps more comments than any other article on the Women’s Tennis Blog. A miraculous turn of events has occurred since the article appeared. I ask myself, did Venus and Serena actually read the article and then decide to change their attitudes? LOL– No, but here is what I think happened.
Both Serena and Venus had major health issues and, in fact, Serena’s issue could have been fatal. It seems they both rededicated themselves to tennis. A renewed determination to win on court and be the best ambassadors for the WTA and the game of tennis became evident.
Venus, older than all but a few players on tour, seemed ready to retire. After all, Venus has had Sjögren syndrome, a chronic autoimmune disease, which sapped her strength and endurance. Her fans would understand. Much younger players were retiring acknowledging their best tennis years were in the past. Venus had no such idea. She and Serena announced they intended to play doubles together in the 2016 Olympics. Venus has played top twenty tennis on the court and has actually increased her fan base and her efforts off the court. Just this week, she played in a Billie Jean King’s team tennis match. She spent more time with her fans and even signed her cover of the ESPN Body Issue for me last year in Stanford.
Serena – what more can I write about her that has not already been written about her this week? Ranked as one of the better women players in tennis history in 2011, Serena is now THE greatest woman tennis player and THE greatest woman athlete of all time. She has won eight Grand Slams since she turned 30! Imagine her in the hospital in very serious condition. What was she thinking? I remember when I was ten years old and being treated for a badly broken leg. I heard the doctors say my one leg may be shorter than the other and I would not be able to run again. My goal was to prove them wrong which I did by running track in high school. Serena must have said to herself she was going to go out and become the best player of all time. She was all business after her recovery, running sprints over and over, working out harder than anyone and upping both her mental and her physical game. Her press relations and interviews were so much better, too.
Serena overcame a huge hurdle in her life by agreeing to play at Indian Wells this year. She was my hero. I am a white man, but I understand the nastiness of racism. Serena defeated the racists. I also understand the battle women face on a daily basis. Gender slandering, body shaming, equal pay and equal opportunity are some of the issues women face. Serena defeated them all.
Serena and Venus have achieved their goals. There were no miracles and no luck involved. Hard work and determination were the key factors in their rise to the very pinnacle of sports. Go see them if you have the chance. Buy tickets for the Olympics women’s singles and doubles final. Let’s all hope 2016 won’t be the last year of their great careers. (photos: Jimmie48)