40 LOVE Moments: The Williams Bow
Published March 22, 2013 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - Fifteen years and two months ago, the first act of what has turned into a legendary play took place on center court at the Australian Open, as Venus and Serena played against each other on the WTA for the first time - a very unlucky second round clash at the Happy Slam.
Unlucky for a few reasons - the chances of two players drawing each other in such a small sliver of a tournament draw are slim at best, and compound that with both of them having made exceptional runs at the lead-up tournament in Sydney the week before, Serena pulling off a miracle comeback from 61 52 down against Lindsay Davenport en route to the semifinals and Venus taking out Martina Hingis en route to the final. Both would fall to the tireless eventual champion, Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario.
But regardless of the bottom line in Sydney, the Williams sisters went into Melbourne as two of the favorites, having just beaten the actual favorites - for Hingis and Davenport were the Top 2 seeds.
When they took the court, nobody really knew what to expect - sisters playing each other was and still is quite rare on tour, and these sisters in particular were both relatively new to the scene.
What audiences around the world saw that day was quite literally the future of the game - an intimidating fusion of power and footspeed, with both players chasing everything down so furiously it was hard for either of them to rack up clean winners despite their massive power. Never was that more evident than set point in the first set, as after the players traded 17 huge shots - all of which were tracked down - Serena missed a forehand by mere inches on the 18th. First set Venus, 7-6(4).
A drop turned into a waterfall as Venus completely took over from that moment, a momentum shift - or acceleration, maybe - that culminated in a 76(4) 61 win and a spot in the third round for big sis.
They shook hands at the net, Venus put her arm around Serena, they shook hands with the umpire.
And then, hand in hand, the bow.
"We decided to do it - it was sad that one of us was going to go out in the second round, but that's okay," Serena said of the gesture.
Venus would eventually go out to Davenport in the quarterfinals, but there was so much more to come for both Williams sisters. The bow was more of a prologue than the movie credits - dozens of Grand Slam titles, multiple Olympic gold medals, the No.1 ranking in singles and doubles - to sum it up, legendary status for both. And they've done it at the same time too, playing each other 23 times so far, including in eight Grand Slam finals - even more remarkable, four of those were consecutive. For a time they were even the Top 2 players in the world together, doing that as recently as 2010.
And it seems there's a lot more to come.
But all the success, all the longevity and all the finals and titles, all of that may have been in the plan all along. Well, at least in Venus and Serena's plan - for after that first act on center court at the Australian Open all of fifteen years and two months ago, an eerily prophetic Venus Williams called it.
"It was weird all day knowing I was going to play Serena," Venus said after that match in Melbourne. "I don't know, you kind of don't want it to happen this way. We're going to make a pact to be No.1 and No.2 so we only meet in the finals, and then we won't care because we'll leave with the title."