Should tennis be a part of the Olympics? That’s a debate which can be argued in two ways - the group which fiercely argues that an Olympic gold is a dream and the other who believe ranking points should matter more. When the tennis event begins in Rio, there will only be a handful of stars thanks to withdrawals but with the likes of the Williams sisters around, no fan will end up feeling disappointed.
At 34, Serena is currently the top player in the world. Sister Venus, a year older, is playing better than ever having climbed up to sixth on the singles rankings. Since the sisters burst onto the scene back in 1999, they’ve broken barriers, become role models for young girls worldwide and of course grabbed 47 Grand Slam titles between them. They not only give the Olympics the same amount of respect as the four Majors, the sisters, believe in playing their very best in each and every edition. It’s little wonder that they each have four Olympic medals to date – one in singles and three in doubles.
When Serena and Venus step on to the court to play doubles, they become a force to reckon with. Statistics alone prove this point. They have 13 doubles Grand Slams playing together between 1999 and 2012. The Games in Sydney, Beijing and London witnessed the sisters on the winners’ podium celebrating with the much-deserving gold medals. The last edition proved ever sweeter for Serena as she grabbed her first singles gold brushing aside Russian Maria Sharapova. Venus’ gold in singles came in 2000 which had given her double joy as well. Just ponder upon this – each have a Career Golden Slam in doubles, something of a rarity in the sport.
And just how much the Olympics means to Venus can be summed up by what she said after London. “To win (the doubles gold, with Serena) again, I really felt like it was the best moment of my career,” she had exclaimed.
Venus’ health proved to be a setback in their partnership. In 2011 the older of the two was diagnosed with Sjogren syndrome and then, two years later, a back injury caused her to slow down. Not only did Venus’ ranking drop out of the top 100, Serena set her focus more on singles titles. With her recent triumph at Wimbledon, she tied Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 Majors. Her focus now is to reach the all-time record of 24 set by Margaret Court or go beyond. And going by her cracking form, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see her cross the mark by next season. Had it not been for shocking losses starting from last year’s US Open semis to the Australian and French Open finals this year, the American would have already set a record of her own.
Finally, Venus is back and soaring. She made the semifinals of Wimbledon last month, her first since 2010. She’s clawing her way back with one title (Kaohsiung) and one final showing (Stanford) this year, with the final Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows after Rio. Keeping a possible Olympic medal in mind, the sisters played together for the first time since 2010 at Roland Garros. They lost in the third round but made up for that with a straight-sets final win at SW19 three weeks later.
Statistics say that both sisters are tied at four with Spain’s Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario for the most number of Olympic medals. The men in the same league are Britons Reginald Doherty, Charles Percy Dixon and Swede Gunnar Setterwall. Barring the sisters who only have gold medals, the rest make up the number with a combination of the three medals on offer. If in Rio, Venus and Serena win the top prize in women’s doubles, they will be a class apart with five medals each. And if either win the singles gold too, with six medals she will become the most successful Olympian in tennis’ history.