Two of the greatest tennis players of all time were catapulted to the big stage as their fathers took charge of the match
It is not everyday that two of the greatest tennis players of all time step on to the same centre court at one of the biggest sporting events of the year. But then, they are two of the most dynamic personalities in tennis and, while it might seem at first glance as if they are wholly different, their fathers are – like their daughters – famously outspoken, opinionated, and love nothing more than feeding the tabloid press.
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For Venus Williams and Serena Williams, old bulls with decades of experience on the game’s biggest stage, their fathers were as big a presence on the court as they were on their feet.
Venus and Serena are under the guidance of their mother, Oracene Price, in Houston as they attempt to regain their championship footing after a shaky run of results that have seen them slip back into world ranking obscurity.
In the first week of the tournament – which has been spread across the Texas city and the San Antonio suburbs thanks to Williams’ growth demands – the former was taken the distance by her talented young Russian opponent, Vera Zvonareva. While sister Serena eased into the quarter-finals by breezing past the Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck.
The sisters competed more in tandem this week and with confidence returning in both, and both girls looking sharp, suddenly the prospect of their marathon twin matches looks a whole lot more possible.
“I think it could happen – this whole tournament is a five-set match,” said Venus. “We’re definitely going to start tomorrow and try to keep going.”
“I think this is the first time we’ve played doubles together since before our junior tournaments,” Serena added. “I really hope we play well today. And on Friday too, right?”
Those could be looking at their most complex match to date, with Serena going up against 10th seed Anastasija Sevastova. Serena has always been more of a defensive player on the court but there is no doubt she has demonstrated her offensive power while holding off the early challenge of Van Uytvanck. The last time the two met, in the quarter-finals of the Fed Cup in 2015, the Latvian showed off her versatility by coming through the tie 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Venus Williams was also handed a daunting opening match against Zvonareva and looked shaken by the occasion as her Russian opponent raced through the first set 6-1 in just 28 minutes. However, the second set was another one-sided affair, with Venus carrying herself with such authority that it would be a surprise if she didn’t book her place in the semi-finals by the end of the night.
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As for the increasingly confident Venus, the result of her doubles encounter with Garbine Muguruza proved important, as the rising star and former Wimbledon champion lost only a set. Muguruza had to battle to stop doubles partner Vania King in her quest to book her place in the knockout stages, prevailing 6-2, 7-6 (7-4).
Williams knows that a good result in the doubles could give her a much needed rest ahead of an anticipated first meeting with the world No 1, Karolina Pliskova, and even though Serena will be primed, it would be a tad bizarre to not see her more involved in the fight.
“We are just concentrating on our doubles right now and we haven’t spoken about any matches yet. Like I said, I haven’t heard anything,” she said. “I know Serena’s not playing in doubles this week. So it’s probably not a wise move for me to say that.”