She is one of the game’s most talked-about players. She has won 21 grand Slam titles in her career. One thing you can say about Venus Williams is she knows how to turn it on at a grand slam, or at least, she KNEW how to turn it on. Yesterday she was unceremoniously dumped in the first round of Wimbledon, losing to Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-3. Venus’s fans were disappointed but not surprised by her performance. Her form has been on a steep and steady decline for the past 5 years. She no longer ranks in the Top 50 female players in the world, and there is a reluctance to accept that her career may be over.
I’ve been a Williams sisters groupie from the beginning. They were trendsetters on and off the court. Forget Alicia Keys, the Williams sisters were the queens of the beaded cornrows, with many young women falling into that unfortunate hair trap and emulating that style for many years. As for on the court, it was nice to see women of my colour playing and dominating a sport I enjoyed watching and playing. Both Venus and Serena play the game with an aggression and “never say die” attitude that young women like me could only admire. I did however find myself drawn to Venus more, and in their head-to-head encounters, my screams of support for the older of the Williams sisters were much louder. She dominated Wimbledon for some time. This is where she laid it all out. She’d take us on a journey where we’d think she was down and out, only for her to find something within herself to win. She has all the attributes of an older sibling. Serena, petulant and rude, Venus, passionate but always professional. Perhaps not the most talented, but probably the more respected.
Some say she will not go down as one of the games greats, which she won’t if she continues to play. She says she has more grand slams in her but I just don’t see it. Players who are ten years younger than her, hungrier than her, and more naturally gifted, have stampeded over Venus, showing little respect for her and her legacy. In June 2011, she was named one of the “30 Legends of Women’s Tennis: Past, Present and Future” by Time, which many would argue is a deserved accolade, since she has done a lot for the progression of the female game. Women’s tennis is at a crossroad. There is a feeling that Venus’s star is fizzling louder than a Sharapova scream, but also many are yearning for the good ol’ days when the Williams sisters were at their peak and women’s tennis was on a high. But we’ve got to keep it moving. New stars are starting to shine. The Russians have elbowed themselves into contention again. Grand slam titles are up for grabs, and the woman with the fastest recorded serve in the women’s game is at the back of the line.
Venus is 32 and has achieved an incredible amount at such a young age. She is an author, owns an interior design company, runs a fashion label and is part owner of the Miami Dolphins with her sister. Oh, and she has 5 Wimbledon single’s titles. She will be okay. The game will be okay.