Serena And Venus' Story Is The Greatest In Sports, No Matter What


It only took a few minutes for the image of the latest Williams sisters classic to change.

Before their match last night, which felt as close to a Super Bowl as you'll get in tennis and aptly dubbed #SerenaVsVenusXXVII, things felt awkward.

Awkward for the sisters, at least one would imagine, and awkward for fans who didn't know whom to root for.

By the time their instant classic reached the third set, though, the fear of seeing one of them lose was so much less important compared to the celebration of both sisters' excellence taking place on the court.

During the first set, Serena, once again, showed her supreme athleticism pushes her to outlast opponents and how she can jump into another gear just when we think things are getting close.

During the second, Venus made the same statement she's made so often during the later years of her career: I'm not done yet. She showed her powerful serve could dominate any opponent, even the best player in the world, when she has it in full gear.

The whole match suited the protagonists perfectly. There were fewer long rallies and more blazing serves, less finesse and more boom.

In essence, it was a fitting tribute to two amazing women who were once teenage girls who took the tennis world by storm by physically overpowering the competition.

By the time match was over, the embrace was a more satisfying sight than the actual ace that clinched the win for Serena.

During that embrace, Venus told Serena she's proud of her, but there's plenty enough reason to be proud of Venus, too.

The harshest critic might tell you had Venus taken more of her opportunities to break Serena's serves, this might be a different story.

But forget all that. That's just the technical stuff. And despite what people who follow sports tend to think sometimes, the sports world isn't all about the technical stuff.

Ultimately, it's about so much more. It's about the characters and their charisma, their personalities, their resilience and how their trials in competition show the deepest levels of who they are as people.

In that respect, there are no two men or women who even come close to Venus and Serena in American sports history, and certainly not in this century.

Their story is that amazing, and because it can never be emphasized enough, outlining it here only seems right.

Before they entered kindergarten, their father, Richard Williams, began teaching them tennis by taking them to parks around Compton with shopping carts full of tennis balls.

Before they were old enough to be in middle school, they were invited to a training session around Los Angeles, where then-tennis star John McEnroe had been practicing.

During ESPN's pre-match broadcast last night, in fact, McEnroe actually told that exact story of when he first met the sisters.

He also explained just how much crap he thought it was when their father told him they'd be the best players in the world one day... Until it became true.

That type of stuff is never supposed to happen, especially when the best athletes seem to get to where they are almost by accident.

Reigning NFL champion Tom Brady was a sixth-round draft pick.

Reigning NBA champion and MVP Steph Curry was considered too small to be recruited by the best colleges. Even Michael Jordan wasn't good enough for his high school varsity team at one point.

Richard Williams, on the other hand, said his daughters would be the best from day one. And not only did it happen to the two little girls, who represent a sort of athletic miracle, it happened to two women who now carry such social importance.

Serena Williams has long faced negative questions over her body, despite the fact that it perfectly serves the athletic purpose she was literally bred to serve.

For any woman who has had to explain she can be both strong and beautiful, there is reason to admire Serena.

In 2011, Venus Williams was diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome, which drains her body of the energy that drove her toward two majors, an Olympic gold medal and the top of the tennis world during her breakout year in 2000.

In 2015, she's still playing and has only been stopped in the last two majors by the number one player in the world, her sister.

For anyone who has defied his or her own physical limitations or illness, there is reason to admire Venus.

In one of the more famous episodes of their careers, both sisters were subject to vicious taunts at the 2001 Indian Wells tournament in California.

The exact details of what was said have never been clear. Richard, Venus and the twin's mother, Oracene, said there were racist taunts, and whatever Serena heard was enough to make her cry during the match. She still won the tournament.

For anyone who's felt he or she has been discriminated against at the workplace, for whatever reason, both sisters are people to admire.

As professionals, they've won a combined 115 titles and numerous Olympic gold medals. As people, though, they are just as impressive.

They've fought for equal pay and combated against (and drawn attention to) the idea body image trumps actual skill for female athletes.

They've spoken about their ability to make a social impact since they were little kids.

They've proved success can come from places mostly known for gangs. They've become admirable figures for people tired of the type of crap female athletes have to take.

They're strong, beautiful and "Straight Outta Compton," and not only have they become the best tennis players in the world, but they've become the greatest American sports story ever.