Venus Williams beat her kid sister Serena for her fifth Wimbledon trophy Saturday and it was awesome. They both played with heart and skill, but Venus, the best player on grass of her generation, was able to rise to the occasion and get herself a bittersweet victory against Serena. The duo also won their umpteeth doubles title, winning seven grand slam doubles.
While I thrilled in their victory, as I’m sure many hardcore Williams sister fans did, it always irritates me how the Williams sisters aren’t talked about as American tennis stars. Routinely I hear commentators and sports journalists lament the lack of quality American tennis players completely over looking the history making familial duo.
The Williams sisters are treated as women without a country. This despite them being among the best American players, male and female. Andy Roddick and James Blake often fall short, but the Williams sisters, fading in and out of the sport for school and fashion, remain the preeminent athletes of American tennis. They are Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. They are as influential as Billie Jean King. They are, combined, one Pete Sampras and are doubly more thrilling that he ever was. Venus has as many Wimbledon trophies as legendary Swede Bjorn Borg. And more than Americans John McEnroe and Jimmy Conners.
If they’d played more perhaps they would have towered over the sport for a decade, trading places as one and two and as much as I would have enjoyed that, their careers and their lives were/are of their choosing. At the end of the day they can still beat any woman in their field. They can’t be counted out no matter where they rank or what shape they are in. No one can make assumptions because often to reach the prize you don’t have to get through just one Williams. You have to beat two.
I’m not shocked that Americans would be reluctant to embrace the tough and talented Williamses with their unconventional father and colorful personalities. They are so brilliant and so authentically black Americans that their attitude could be interpreted as smug. They are unconventional and do not do the expected. Yet in spite of this they represent with pride and are looking forward to the Olympic games where they hope to represent their country.
John McEnroe could be a flaming asshole and still be loved by the USA. But for being unique, the Williamses are greeted with criticism and shrugs. To be honest, if American tennis can’t celebrate them, they don’t deserve them. Thank goodness for their fans, black and white, sports lovers or not, who thrill at the feats despite the naysayers who reject a pair of black women who have the audacity to be themselves. A pair of women who do not water it down for the consumption of a jaded and jaundiced tennis watching white populace.
As much as both sisters want to win any time they play each other in a final is a win for every black person every where and it’s a win for America, whether the Americans want to acknowledge it or not.
Others can ignore their greatness. But there’s no denying who they are and where their from. You can take the girls out of Compton, USA but you can’t take Compton out of the girls.