Article in Sports / Tennis
Watching Serena worry about a shoulder injury during the Olympics was painful. Venus had arrived with a virus losing in her first three round match and lost in their first round, with her normally dependable sister in doubles. This opened the door to mixed doubles with an unknown partner.

I love tennis. I played tennis. I saw Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini play in Indianapolis ‘old’ Clay Court Matches. I wanted to play power tennis then but with Chissy Evert being our champion at the time, others thought I hit too hard (power tennis?). There was never enough tennis growing up nor people in my life who had the same passion. Even today there are few I know who watched the up and coming tennis stars like Monica Puig, from Puerto Rico, who won the Olympic Gold Medal beating second ranked Angelique Kerber.

The domination of the Williams sisters has been a challenge of sustainable talent within the ranks. Some have risen and taken a grand slam title only to quit the game, recognizing the opportunity rare to achieve consistently. Victoria Azarenka hiring of Serena’s old hitting partner, Sasha, was looking to become someone who could gain more grand slam titles (she has two), recently announced a pregnancy thus taking her off the circuit. Others, after motherhood, have come back to win a US Open Title beating Serena, like the Belgian player, Kim Clijsters, who won three grand slam titles. It was near the end of a long career, she retired shortly afterwards. Angelique Kerber, ranked at number two, is still improving and threatens one of the longest running number one rankings held by Serena Williams, who avoids losing this distinction by deciding, after medical examination on her shoulder, to enter the Cincinnati Open, as a wild card. She is the reigning 2015 champion over Simona Halep (who ranks three in the world without a grand slam). When a tennis player chooses not to defend their title points are lost. If Kerber does well or even wins the Cincinnati Open, she could surpass Serena to obtain the number one ranking in the world leaving her short of a historical record. These days making history is more Serena’s focus.

Venus, on the other hand, has fallen out of the top ten, yielding an important win to Johanna Konta out of Great Britain at the Stanford tournament, where she won last year. Venus had committed to the Olympics in Rio four years ago at the age of 32. Traditionally women have retired around thirty; Steffi Graf stopped at 29. The Williams sisters Rio Olympic run was over, losing in the first and second rounds in both singles and doubles. They were the reigning doubles team and had won singles, Venus winning in 2000 and Serena 2012. These early losses, doomed their hopes for a gold medal. The withdrawal of the Bryan Brothers, due to personal reasons, was replaced by Rajeev Ram and doubles partner Brian Baker achieved a first round upset over Gael Monfils and Jo Wilford Tsonga, then fell in the second round. This opened up another mixed doubles American team of Venus and Rajeev. ESPN coverage quoted Venus “With Serena, I expect to win….” With her and Ram playing for the first time, she said in the ESPN article, “It’s a wild feeling.” Yes indeed, giving them to a final spot with a guaranteed medal. Venus would either tie for five medals or would be the only one with five goal medals. She and Rajeev defeated, in a tie breaker, an India team made up of the top ranked woman’s double tennis star Sania Mirza.

Often times in the shadow of her younger sister, Venus has shown the world nothing but dignity, grace, and maturity. At times she seems much older than Serena with only 18 months apart. Venus decision to stay and play mixed doubles reflected her well known love for the game. She is still in the top ten WTA ranking (number six); she and Serena are tenth in doubles for 'Road to Singapore', as a results from their 2016 grand slam Wilmington win. Venus continues to overcome (Sjogren’s syndrome) a energy sapping debilitating illness. She is often overshadowed by her legendary sister. She designs and owns a tennis clothing line, and has a net worth value at half of her sister’s at $75 million. Venus has kept the same coaches throughout her career, and has been an activist for higher pay for women in grand slams. Venus is noted for containing her emotions on court, but after her semi final win in mixed doubles in Rio, she burst into one of the biggest jaw dropping, surprised looking smiles of delight, prompting the NBC announcer to say “You’ve got to love Venus”. I am so thrilled that at her Mixed Doubles final in Rio, she will be the only Williams left standing, fighting for her goals and dreams one last time (she tied for five Olympic Medals in Tennis and ties with sister Serena for four golds). Knowing Venus with her fellow patriots (Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock), no matter who is the champion, will graciously stand proud hearing our National Anthem for the gold and silver medals in mixed doubles. Her story inspires cheering tennis lovers to watch what had become an unscripted happy ending for American tennis at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Thank you, Venus Ebony Starr Williams!

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Lillian L Thompson
Lillian Thompson received a Master's of Architecture from Columbia University and Interior and Environmental Degree from Pratt Institute, se

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