Inside Serena and Venus Williams’ Close Relationship and Competitive History

Inside Serena and Venus Williams' Close Relationship and Competitive History
US player Serena Williams (R) climbs up into the Royal Box to embrace her father Richard and sister ...

Serena and Venus Williams had a close relationship and a competitive history as well. They came in like an earthquake, shaking the foundations of tennis’ country-club atmosphere, a one-two punch of impossibly brilliant, brutally aggressive players. Then, at the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, black athletes flaunted their braided hairdos and promised triumphs.

But, as they evolved from upstarts to undisputed champions to venerated veterans, Venus and Serena Williams remained unwavering in their love for one another, their sisterly love elevating them through personal problems, public failures, and several heated clashes for on-court bragging rights.

When they were children, Serena tried to imitate Venus

Much has been written about the girls’ unconventional entry into tennis, which began when their father, Richard, realized the prize money available in the sport and taught himself, his wife, and three older daughters how to play before winning gold with Venus and Serena on the public courts of Compton, California, in the 1980s.

Venus and Serena rose to prominence as tennis prodigies quickly, owing largely to the impressive efforts of older sister Venus, who was already smashing the ball at speeds of nearly 100 mph by the age of 11 and went unbeaten in 63 USTA sectional matches the following year.

Serena was winning at a similar rate, but her main concentration seemed to be on emulating her older sister at the time

In the 2012 documentary Venus and Serena, she asks rhetorically, “What didn’t I do to try to mimic Venus when I was younger?” “I mean, her favorite color was the same as mine, her favorite animal was the same as mine, she wanted to win Wimbledon, and I wanted to win Wimbledon.”

She explains, “I was never the one that was supposed to be, like, a fantastic player.” “However, I was determined not to become a statistic; therefore, tennis was my sole motivation.”

Venus had to deal with Serena Williams’ unexpected Grand Slam victory

Both girls turned professional at the age of 14, and by the late 1990s, their overwhelming groundstrokes and bold affirmations of confidence had transformed women’s tennis. Venus set the tone by reaching the 1997 U.S. Open final at the age of 17, and the sisters joined up to win the first of 14 Grand Slam doubles titles later that spring at the French Open after Venus won the sisters’ maiden title duel at the 1999 Lipton Championships.

They were just a couple of teenage girls navigating a new world of escalating fame and money together behind the scenes. In 1998, they purchased a home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Later that year, they debuted their joint Tennis Monthly Recap newsletter, which featured life reflections on the women’s tennis tour and interviews with fellow pros.

 

The first signs of discord emerged when Serena became the first Williams sister to win a Grand Slam singles championship at the 1999 U.S. Open, seemingly fulfilling her father’s prediction that she would emerge as the greater winner. Instead, Venus was captured on tape watching the final from the stands, unable to celebrate her little sister’s victory.

“I believe not winning the first major was terrible for me at the time,” she says later in Venus and Serena, “because I felt like, as the older sister, I should have been able to step up and do more and be stronger.” “It’s a defining moment in terms of how you’ll react to anything like that.” “Will I be able to learn from her mistakes, or will I crumble?”

Venus chose the former, and by winning her own Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2000, she restored the normal family pecking order. She then defeated Serena to win the U.S. Open for the second year in a row the following year, an effort that left her torn between her competitive and familial instincts: “I always want Serena to win, and so it’s strange because I’m the big sister, I take care of Serena, I make sure she has everything even if I don’t have anything,” she said afterward in an on-court interview, according to Venus and Serena.

Venus and Serena had to deal with rivalries on the court as well as personal issues

Even though the Williams sisters were the two most popular female tennis players by their 2001 U.S. Open showdown, the road to the summit had not been without bumps.

Years of bitterness over their early achievements, apparent aloofness, and unequal play against one another had reached a head at the Indian Wells event in Southern California earlier that year. After Venus withdrew from her scheduled semifinal match against Serena due to injury, the sisters and their father were booed loudly during Serena’s championship match the next day, with Richard accusing adjacent spectators of racial baiting.

There would be more difficulties to overcome on a personal level. Richard and his wife, Oracene, divorced in 2002. The following year, the entire Williams family was devastated by the shooting death of Yetunde, the oldest Williams sister, in an apparent case of mistaken identity between rival gangs.

After missing out on a Grand Slam trophy for the first time in six years in 2004, the Williams sisters rebounded back to win a total of 16 singles and doubles Grand Slam titles between 2005 and 2010. They also expertly exploited the attractiveness that made them the most recognized siblings in sports. Along with collaborating on Venus and Serena: Serving from the Hip in 2005, they became the first female African Americans to own a portion of the Miami Dolphins in 2009, becoming the first female African Americans to do so.

The sisters began to separate their lives from one another, although they remained close

While Venus and Serena remained united in the public eye as a pair of hard-hitting sisters who cherished the chance to show off their fashion sense on the court, each was establishing her own identity just by growing up and pursuing her ambitions and interests.

Venus rose to prominence as a leader in the fight for equal pay for male and female players. Serena became more pop-culture fame due to her relationships with high rollers such as Hollywood producer Brett Rattner and rapper Common.

Serena Williams had left her close-knit family group in 2012 to work with French coach Patrick Mouratoglou. The following year, she left the lengthy home she had lived with Venus. In 2015, she broke the family’s boycott of Indian Wells by making her first visit to the tournament since the infamous 2001 events.

Even as the sisters pursued their separate paths, the airtight bond that had formed during their earliest days in Compton remained intact, strengthened by trips to faraway tournaments, media criticism, and debilitating illnesses that sidelined both in 2011 – Serena’s pulmonary embolism and hematoma, and Venus’ diagnosis of the autoimmune disorder Sjogren’s Syndrome.

 

Serena Williams told Sports Illustrated in 2014, “Love is one of the strongest things that you can have.” “I have a sister that understands precisely how I’m feeling. She knows everything there is to know about me. She is the one person I can truly confide in when I lose since she is the only one who understands how I feel. There is no one else. They can feel and try, but they aren’t on the same level. So she is the only one who comprehends it.”

 

Venus followed her younger sister’s lead and terminated her boycott of Indian Wells in 2016, proving that family bonds are stronger than personal animosity. Later that year, she and Serena returned to Compton to establish the Yetunde Price Resource Center in memory of their dead sister.

Their high-octane battles lasted till the end of their careers

By that moment, it was evident that Richard Williams’ early assessment of his daughters’ championship potential had been correct. During the 2010s, Venus slipped in and out of the Top 10. At the same time, Serena continued to win at a historic rate, including a win over her older sister at the 2017 Australian Open, where she set a contemporary record with her 23rd Grand Slam singles championship.

Despite Serena’s claim to be the greatest of all time, her bouts versus Venus remained arduous for both of them. Serena Williams said after their quarterfinal match at the 2015 U.S. Open, “She’s the toughest player I’ve ever played in my life and the best person I know.” “So you’re going up against your best friend, and you’re up against the top opponent in women’s tennis at the same time.”

Meanwhile, despite the fact that their lives were constantly changing, their love stayed almost unchanged. Serena Williams gushed to Today about Venus’s abilities as an aunt after having Olympia with internet entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian in 2017. Serena also enlisted the help of her big sister’s interior design firm, V Starr, to renovate the south Florida home she occupied with her husband and kid, a project that was finished by summer 2020.

At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic had thrown everyone’s lives into disarray. So the sisters wanted to add a bit more delight to their fans by leading online workout sessions. Still, they were especially looking forward to returning to normalcy with a match against each other at the Top Seed Open in August 2020.

The 31st head-to-head match of their professional careers produced yet another two-hour-plus slugfest, with Serena winning and “a long, mutually tired gaze after the clash,” according to The New York Times.

After four decades together, it’s just another shared moment of understanding between two adversaries and soulmates, with a plethora more to come as they near the end of their careers and the adventures ahead.

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