Thursday, May 29, 2014

Often in life there are opportunities available for the taking. In sport they come and, then, they dissipate just as quickly. One lost one day, another here tomorrow. Some take them, some don't. There are sights we all want to spy such as the towering twosome of the Williams sisters opposing each other in round three in Paris. But that was one opportunity they could not bring to fruition.

Whether, deep down, they would want to face each other is another matter. It is well known that neither enjoy playing the other. Never have, never will, for the two have always been close. They have gone through a lot together, their careers virtually joined at the hip. One year apart in age, and despite Venus having a wee head start on that count, Serena was the first to garner a grand slam title, in 1999 at Flushing Meadows. Only a year later Venus joined in what was to become a rampage of glutinous domination over the next four and a half years as they won twelve between them and have since gone on to win twenty-six singles slam titles during their illustrious careers.

This is before even considering the narrative of two black girls brought up the on wrong side of the tracks, not to mention encountering the well to do tennis environment of the conservative white middle class. Yeah, they've gone through some. They had a father to push them along. They more than likely have Richard Williams to thank for the position they now find themselves in life. Two of the greats of the game, more money than they know what to do with and plush homes to reside in. He protected them, as much as is possible. He pushed them, they became great.

It can't have been easy though. Dealing with the racial overtones and negative comments with which white parents of their peers often made. To feel the pain of discrimination - Nobody deserves such. And then there was their older half-sister who was brutally murdered in 2003. Shot. Coldly. Now that is life. One life cruelly disposed of and at least two others affected for life. Neither sister won a Slam title for another two years and we haven't even got to Indian Wells yet.

Indian Wells, was it racism or Venus pulling out of her match against Serena four minutes before the game was due to begin to avoid the sisters playing each other, both of or none of the above? To that, none of us will ever know. The only way to know if racism was rearing its ugly head in the form of a torrent of booing is for the same to have occurred with two white sisters. Maybe there was racism, maybe there wasn't. It could have been a simple case of a crowd upset at being denied the chance to get their money's worth. That said, both Venus and Serena have refused to play the event since. That's thirteen years and counting. They stand on principle. And the Sisters have played each other since.

Did it happen in Paris? Two sisters losing deliberately to avoid a confrontation? Well, NO. Down conspiracy theorists. Didn't happen. Quite simply, on one side we have Venus, a Woman who is a mere shadow of her former self and suffers from sjogren's syndrome. She gets tired easily. Simple as that. She will never be the same player again. And then there was Serena who competed an hour later and would have known her Sister had already lost. Go home conspiracy theorists.

We all get Venus, but what of Serena? Where to now for the Woman that many regard as the greatest female player of all time. There are five ahead of her on the all time list of Singles winners. Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Helen Wills-Moody, Steffi Graf and Margaret Court. Of those five, with the exception of Graf, she would have been too strong for the rest and she has had to compete in an era where the depth is significantly stauncher.

There will be those that say the others would adjusted to the modern game. Maybe, maybe not. Let it be said though that within a year of Graf appearing on the scene, her power quickly overwhelmed Navratilova, until then regarded as the greatest. The thing with Graf was not just her power but her mental faculties were second to none. Very rarely did she lose early in a tournament, certainly not to the extent of Williams. Very rarely did she misfire in the heat of a Final. Though she may not have won every time, she sure didn't go down without a fight.

That is not to say Williams does not fight, but inconsistencies persist. To lose 6-2,6-2 in the second round of the French Open, or any Slam event, is verging on unbecoming. What did Oscar Wilde say? Something about losing early once may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose twice looks like carelessness. Or words to that affect. The mind boggles on what it may be to lose early many more times than twice, and, for Williams, it has become a regular occurrence.

This performance was an errant vista of error strewn shot-making seeping treacherously from an over-indulgent mind. A mind clearly not on the job, there is only one person who knows where to locate the consistency of mental toughness required to bring about a legacy for the ages.

Five slams behind Graf, to be revered as the greatest, she is going to have to overtake the German wonder by some considerable margin to go down as the greatest.

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