Hindsight in 20/20.
The same can be said in sports. We never truly appreciate greatness until it is gone. Those of us who have grown up around sports have always had an idea of who the best of the best were. However, we become so accustomed to their greatness, that we essentially took them for granted. For many of us growing up, we expected to see Wayne Gretzky score a goal, or have Michael Jordan score 40 points, or have Ken Griffey, Jr. hit a home run, or have Peyton Manning throw a touchdown pass. We fail to realize that what we were witnessing was history and that these athletes would become among the best to ever play the game.
Tonight, each and every American has an opportunity to witness sports history.
For the 27th and what may be the last time, Serena Williams will face her big sister Venus in a major tennis competition. The two Williams sisters, now age 33 and 35, have dominated women’s tennis for the last two decades. Old sister Venus has won seven major championships while younger sister Serena has won 21 championships and is aiming to become the first woman since 1988 to win all four major championships in a calendar year. Serena leads the head-to-head matchup winning 15 matches while older sister Venus has won 11. The winner of this evening’s match will go on to the semifinals of the U.S. Open and will be two matches away from giving the sisters their 29th collective major championship.
And yet, despite what will certainly be a competitive match this evening, what has been remarkable about the Williams sisters’ career is that they have proven not only their individual greatness but also their collective greatness as well. Working as a doubles team, the sisters have won a total of 13 Grand Slam championships as well as three Olympic gold medals. In a sport like tennis, it is rare that a player be skilled in both singles and doubles competition as each variation of the sport requires a unique skill set. However, the fact that both Serena and Venus have achieved individual as well as doubles success on the court shows just how dominant they have become over the past two decades. Whereas the vast majority of players try to excel in one type of competition, the Williams sisters have been equally dominant in both.
So this evening, when you’re looking for something to watch on TV, stop on by the U.S. Women’s Open quarterfinal match. You will see history and it is the kind of history that won’t last forever. With the sisters reaching their mid-30s and playing such a demanding game as tennis, we might not be able to see them compete against each other much longer. Although they are still extremely competitive with Serena being ranked #1 and Venus still being a top-20 player, there exist a chance that this evening is the last time we see them matched up against each other. Going forward in future major championships, they might not be paired in the same draw, one of them might be injured, or eventually one or both might retire all together from singles competition. There are many uncertainties for the sisters going forward, so we should all cherish tonight for what it is:
An opportunity to see the best women’s tennis players of a generation compete against each other one more time.