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Olympics still special for Williams sisters

sports Updated: Jul 25, 2012 09:12 IST
Grand Slam

They may have won 21 Grand Slam singles titles between them, not counting their doubles successes together, but Venus and Serena Williams insisted on Tuesday the Olympic Games were still special.

Many observers have argued that sports like tennis, where winning Olympic gold is not the ultimate achievement compared say to a Wimbledon or US Open title, ought not to be in the Games.

However, the Williams sisters -- the defending Olympic women's doubles champions from Beijing, having also won gold together at the 2000 Sydney Games -- insisted there was nothing to compare to Olympic competition.

"I think growing up as tennis players we always dream of winning Grand Slams and doing well at tournaments like Wimbledon but to have the opportunity to win a gold medal and be mentioned among the greatest athletes is an honour," said younger sister Serena.

"For me every tournament I've won, I enjoy my gold medal probably the most."

Venus, at 32, two years older than Serena, added: "When you're at tournaments and announce your name if it has 'Olympian' and 'gold medallist' behind you it's such a thrill and it's not something you ever get over.

"We do feel that spirit of representing our country, this is an event that brings the whole world together, so we're part of that great movement," insisted Venus, who also won singles gold in Sydney.

With the Olympic tennis tournament being staged at Wimbledon, it means the world's leading players return to the famed grasscourts in just a matter of weeks rather than waiting a year between visits as normally happens.

For Serena, who won her fifth Wimbledon singles title in 2012, as well as teaming with her sister for a fifth Wimbledon doubles crown, it is an experience she is relishing.

"I think it's exciting to be back so soon. Usually we have to wait 12 months to walk back on Centre Court so I'm going to be really excited to have that quick turnaround and get back on the grass where I love to play."

At Wimbledon, players must wear mainly white clothing, the traditional colour associated with tennis, while the Championships are also notable for their lack of sponsor signage around the courts.

However, no such restrictions will be in place during the Olympics and Serena said: "It's definitely going to be different but we have to be open to change. This is the Olympics -- it's just played at Wimbledon."

The sisters could yet find themselves competing against one another at these Games if they are selected to take part in the mixed doubles event, which is returning to the Olympic programme for the first time since 1924.

"When we first heard about mixed was both of our dreams to play for all three," said Venus.

"But at the end of the day it's really up to what our team captains want and seeing who has the best chance to win."

The US, in common with most of the top tennis teams, are basing themselves in Wimbledon to avoid possible transport delays associated with crossing the capital from the Athletes Village in the Games hub of east London.

But Venus insisted she and her tennis team-mates would be soaking up as much of the Olympic experience as possible.

"Of course we'll be watching (other events) on TV, but we'll get to the Village and take part in all that too.

"For me that's a big part of being part of the Olympics. But, more than anything, we want to win matches so that will be our main focus."