LaVar Ball dreams of growing a family sports dynasty with Lonzo and his other basketball-playing sons? Well, get in line, pal.
Richard Williams already did it. Twenty years ago, Serena and Venus’ father was just as loquacious and polarizing, just as apt to boast loudly into any camera or notepad about his kids. I recall him braying and barking all over Key Biscayne as his then-teen daughters were just feeling their way into professional tennis. Turns out Mr. Williams had just as much cause for his braggadocio as Mr. Ball. More, in fact. Much, much.
What Ball wishes to make a reality, Williams saw happen.
Serena, currently out on maternity leave with her first child, is the G.O.A.T of her sport — greatest women’s tennis player of all-time. And older sister Venus, though always the “other” Williams, is not a bit less remarkable — as she is reminding us again this fortnight at Wimbledon.
Venus, now 37, has beaten three consecutive opponents in London who were not yet born when she played in her first Grand Slam tournament in 1997.
Girls nearly young enough to be her daughters are still being taken to school by the WTA Tour’s ageless wonder aiming for her sixth Wimbledon championship and eighth major title overall, but first since 2008.
To have a chance at that she must first beat Johanna Konta in Thursday’s semifinal. Venus ordinarily would be the sentimental crowd favorite at the All England Club, but Konta will enjoy passionate home-court advantage as the first British woman to reach the Wimbledon semis since Virginia Wade in 1978 — before even Venus was born. The will of the crowd can only do so much, of course, as No. 1-seeded, Glasgow-born Andy Murray learned Wednesday in a huge upset loss at the hands of 24th-seeded Sam Querrey.
Murray’s loss was doubly stunning because Querrey is an American, and U.S. tennis accomplishment on the men’s side has largely been quiet since the heydays of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. No American man has won a major in 14 years, and Querrey still is a long shot to end that dry spell.
The United States’ drought for women would be even longer if not for the Williams sisters. Jennifer Capriati was the last non-Williams American to win a major, in 2002.
So Serena is out pregnant? No problem. Venus takes the baton and now is two victories from adding to the trophy room of her Palm Beach Gardens home.
We complain too much in sports; it’s the currency of debate. We don’t appreciate enough.
Well, appreciate that the Williams sisters are the most successful siblings in sports history. Appreciate their longevity.
Venus, if she wins Wimbledon, will be the oldest woman ever to win a major. The current record holder? Serena, 35, who set it by winning the Australian Open earlier this year.
And where is the sign of letup? Of decline? Other women players waiting for the Williams sisters to no longer be a factor is sort of like Dolphins fans waiting for Tom Brady to finally look his age and be lousy. Good luck. And is there any doubt Serena will be back on tour, and winning again, before baby has taken its first step?
Meanwhile, Venus is enjoying a career renaissance despite so much going on in her life off the court. She was diagnosed in 2011 with the immune system disorder Sjogren’s syndrome.
At Wimbledon, she has played through the anguish and controversy of a recent involvement in an auto accident that killed a 78-year-old man, with police originally saying she was at fault but later saying otherwise. She is being sued by the deceased’s family despite not being criminally charged. The issue brought her to tears after a match last week.
Her father Richard, 76, has health issues and is divorcing his second wife. Oh, and in two months she will be a new aunt to Serena’s baby.
Serena has not revealed the sex of her child but in a recent interview Venus referred to the baby as “she.”
If so, based on bloodlines, there could be a new Williams ready to dominate women’s tennis around, say, 2035?
Maybe mom and Aunt Venus will finally be retired by then, although one never knows.
For now, at 37, and tantalizingly close to her first major win in nine years, for a change without little sis waiting in the way, Venus Williams is not thinking of retirement.
“Honestly, in my heart, I will always be a tennis player,” she’d said at the Miami Open four months ago on Key Biscayne, where it all began for a loud, proud father and his two girls 20 years earlier. “I think once I’m done I’ll never feel completely whole without the game. I just think that’s how it’ll be. For now, I’m whole.”