How do you write about living legends? I am always amazed at the capacity for words that seem to emanate from the fingertips of some of my favourite tennis writers. From Steve Tignor to Pete Bodo to Louisa Thomas, these writers are able to put into words the thoughts that go through my mind whenever I think about Serena and Venus Williams and what they have meant to me as a tennis fan and especially as a tennis fan of colour. There are, in my view, not many of us out there, and the way we have come to this privileged of all sport is mainly due to the arrival of Serena and Venus on the tennis scene, with bravado, braces and beads.
When they met earlier this year on the hallowed halls of Wimbledon, it was the third leg of Serena’s journey to completing the Calendar Year Grand Slam. Venus had, up until that time, been playing amazing tennis. There were some in the booth who opined that if but for Serena, Venus would have had a chance to get to the finals of Wimbledon and maybe just maybe she would have one last grasp at glory. Venus fell on that day and her sister’s march continues. We wondered after that match whether we would ever see Venus being a contender at a Major ever again and as she has shown on many occasions during her illustrious career, just when you think she has nothing left in the tank, here she comes again, showing us what a true champion she really is.
Tonight, as her little sister marches towards history, Venus will attempt to stop that march in the quarter-finals under the lights in New York City. This is the fourth step of that long journey towards history that Serena has embarked upon. The question is, will she, on her way to legendary status thwart her big sister’s last chance to shine? Will big sister be able to stand in the way of little sister’s quest to achieve what has not been done since 1988?
I don’t know the answers to those questions and I am not going to attempt to answer them. I am going to make sure that I stop at the liquor store on my way home from work and pick up my favourite bottle of merlot, put my feet up, relax and enjoy the two women who brought me to this sport and who I hope will continue to play for as long as they can get the ball over the net and their feet into position.
However, before night match between Venus and Serena, there will be the first quarter final between Roberta Vinci of Italy and Kristina Mladenovic of France. What a story from these two women. After deciding earlier this year to end her very successful doubles partnership with Sara Errani, Vinci went on a losing streak, the likes of which had not been seen before. She struggled with her game, and her confidence. It was only after she got to Madrid where she had to fight tooth and nail to win a match against Alize Cornet of France that it seemed as if her season had begun. The beneficiary of the unfortunate injury to Eugenie Bouchard who had to withdraw from the tournament, will breathe new life into this former US Open quarter finalist.
Her opponent is the unheralded, at least to folks who only watch tennis four times per year is Kristina Mladenovic of France. Even for those folks who only watch the Majors, they will recall her outstanding match at this year’s French Open where she took out Genie Bouchard in the first round. Kiki, as she is called, is truly a French player. Her game is fun to watch and it is said that if you play doubles with Kiki you are destined to win a title. She is that good.
This will be an all court exhibition style tennis match with both players looking to move forward and take control of the net. There will be drop shots aplenty. Look for this one to go 3 with Mladenovic making her first Major semifinal.