Once more the sporting world had to marvel as the Williams’s sisters again evinced superior athletic supremacy and competitive superiority. 30-year old Serena won her 5th
Wimbledon singles crown and her 14th
major title as the younger sibling defeated No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-1, 5-7, 6-2. Big supporter Venus, a five-time Wimbledon champion herself joined the Williams dominant duo to capture the ladies’ doubles over Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka 7-5, 6-4.
How long can the Williams sisters continue to deal with their physical and medical setbacks, off-court distractions & varied vocations, along with chosen minimum playing schedules and still govern tennis? It is an enigma that even the most knowledgeable pundits can’t answer.
The Williams family tennis domination was launched in 1994 in Oakland, CA, as Venus at age 14 made her professional debut beating my former student Shaun Stafford, ranked 58th
in world at the time. Two years later at the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, FL after beating Jennifer Capriati and then in the next round losing a tough one to world # 2 Martina Hingis, Venus was asked by revered tennis journalist & historian Bud Collins if she were excited about the new rivalry evolving between Hingis & her. Venus sternly replied to flamboyant Collins and to the rest of us in attendance “there will be no rivalry for me until my younger sister Serena starts playing on the tour”. At that moment the tennis world was made aware of what was forthcoming.
Good friend Rick Macci, the Williams sister’s first private coach, shared with me how Richard asked him to come out to Compton, CA to take a look at the girls to see if he would be interested in coaching them. According to multiple Slam Champion coach Macci, “they were nice young girls, but their tennis stroke production was all over the place. Venus took a break from the on-court hitting to ask her father Richard if she could take a water-break and then returned to court doing summersaults. At that instant I knew these girls were something special” explained Macci.
My relationship with the Williams family started by establishing a bond with father Richard. An immediate trust was created when I took a puff of his cigar the first time we met in Delray Beach, FL. Daddy Williams was there attending one of the ATP events when he granted me one of the limited media interviews he gave. He shared with me his strong belief that one day the tennis world would see two of his daughters attain the world number one rank. Coach & father Richard Williams was able to prognosticate the family tennis reign. Not a bad accomplishment for man who was not a tennis player himself.
My first time to interview both Venus & Serena together was when Richard set up the interview during an early morning practice session at the Billie Jean King National USTA Tennis Center. Serena was playing her first US Open in 1998. The WTA was not granting one-on-one interviews with Serena. Richard had me come out to the practice court and do the interview there. Security made me take off my shoes to walk on the practice courts. Taking off the shoes was strange. I never had to take off shoes when being on Ashe Stadium Court. However, we do what we have to do.
The Williams relationship was enhanced in April of 2001 when I had the opportunity to be in the Fox Sports Sunshine Network broadcast booth doing the color with Luke Jensen for the OWL foundation (Orancene Williams Learning) fundraiser singles match between Serena and Venus. It was a great chance to further get to know the family and see the impact their mother Orancene, a public school education administrator & gourmet cook, has made on the girls in education & the arts.
Regardless of how much longer we see the Williams dynasty find ways to dodge defeat bullets and continue history making miracles, we can certainly acknowledge that the Williams have opened up the sport & inspired many to play and follow the game.
Dave “Koz” Kozlowski, one of the world’s first USPTA Master Tennis Professionals and the 2000 USTA Tennis Broadcaster-of-the Year, spends his summers as the Tennis Director of Tennis at the Dubuque Golf & Country Club.