This was supposed to be the latest week, of many over the last couple of decades, that the Williams sisters were to rule the world. Not just the tennis world, either.
Serena Williams, considered by many the best female tennis player ever, was suppose to breeze throughWimbledon to extend her incredible winning streak and win her second straight Grand Slam title.
And Venus Williams – who, like Serena, has five Wimbledon titles – was set to star in a documentary of her life and tremendous influence on the sport and society. “Venus Vs.,” an ESPN-produced project, directed by respected independent director Ava DuVernay, got glowing reviews in its premieres and airs tonight.
It was to be the week of all weeks for Venus and Serena, which is saying a lot.
Well, the doc is still airing as scheduled. Unfortunately, both sisters have plenty of free time to view it at their leisure.
Venus skipped Wimbledon because her body betrayed her. She’s 33 and her battle with an incurable immune system disease and other health issues means that conversations about her usually refer to her legacy, rather than her present or future.
Serena, on the other hand, entered Wimbledon with no end to her dominance in sight. She had won 31 straight matches, three of the last four majors and an Olympic gold medal.
Not anymore, after a stunning loss to Sabine Lisicki Monday. The German easily overpowered Serena, which is rare against a player used to physically intimidating opponents.
On the surface, it appears the upset bug that has dominated the headlines at Wimbledon simply caught up with Serena.
Unless what caught up with her was karma.
Serena had been dancing with the sin of hubris for a while now. It was only in May that she got pulled into a feud with young upstart Sloane Stephens, seemingly triggered by Stephens’ win over Serena at the Australian earlier this year – after which, by all appearances, Serena turned a icy shoulder to the heir apparent.
Tempers eventually cooled. Minor misunderstanding, possibly.
Until the Rolling Stone interview. Because of it, Serena spent the run-up to Wimbledon apologizing seemingly daily – first for brutally-insensitive remarks about the teenage victim of an infamous rape in Steubenville, Ohio, then for comments about rival Maria Sharapova that re-define “catty.”
Instead of polishing the gleam of her career, the last few months have reinforced the petty, juvenile side of Serena’s genius, the kind that makes one wonder how someone, at 31 and with worldly experience most would envy, could still be so self-absorbed.
It’s not a fatal flaw. Serena’s legacy as a player is safe. The elder Williams’ place in history as a pioneer and ambassador is even safer. “Venus Vs.” anchors it into place. If only her playing career could still exist on that same plane.
With the release of the documentary on Venus, this is still a week of ultimate triumph for the sisters.
But with Serena’s loss at Wimbledon—and the mess she made leading up to the tournament—it’s just a week that’s a little less triumphant than it could have been.