— A couple of Saturdays ago, she parked in front of her computer and logged into her Twitter account.
“Very few things scare me more than frogs,” she typed just below their animated bird logo. “I hate frogs.” Since then, she’s broken out the “#hurt” hashtag after an unnamed someone dented her heart, gone shopping with her older sister and shared a picture of her Q-tip-sized dog sitting in the corner of her suitcase.
If she’d quoted a Justin Bieber chorus, you’d think this feed was coming from inside a middle schooler’s locker, not from the defending Wimbledon women's champion, the one who looks like she could serve a tennis ball through the wall of the Pentagon.
Regardless, if Serena Williams has stressed about tennis during her 11-month absence, she hasn’t shared it with her two million followers, not unless you count her circa-French Open tweet that “she and Nadal are Booty siblings!”
Serena and her sister Venus are back in the Wimbledon draw, the first time they’ve competed in the same tournament since last June at the All England Tennis Club. Venus has struggled with a pair of nagging lower body injuries, while Serena’s year has been studded with freakish accidents and medical drama-style diagnoses, including a sliced toe ligament, a hematoma and a pulmonary embolism.
“I’m just excited to be here and playing,” Serena said during last week’s AEGON Championships. “I hope tennis has missed Venus and me. If tennis has missed us half as much as we’ve missed tennis, we’re in a good place. This is a comeback that is totally different from any other comeback.”
Tennis has missed them — and so have the tennis fans who endured the Not Ready for Prime Time Players during last month’s forgettable French Open. With the Williams' return, they’ll provide some much-needed excitement and a recognizable American presence. Inevitably we'll also get a rerun of the debate over whether they’ve focused enough on the sport or if tennis has slipped below interior decorating or fashion design when it comes to their primary interests. Here's where I blow the dust off of John McEnroe’s hall of fame exclamation to say, “YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!”
Rather than assume that they should spend every waking moment standing on the center niblet of a tennis court, I’d prefer to appreciate that they’re still motivated even after more than a decade, after collecting more silver platters than a wedding caterer. Serena already has completed the career Grand Slam in singles and doubles — and she shared those wins with her sister. Venus has seven Grand Slam titles and could spend an afternoon Endusting those trophies before putting them on the shelf with her three Olympic gold medals.
Last summer, after Serena collected her fourth Venus Rosewater Dish (not to be confused with Venus’ five Venus Rosewater Dishes), Sports Illustrated named her the greatest women’s tennis player of all time. That alone would’ve been enough for me to unstring my racquets and call it a career.
Instead, they’d like to keep trading wins the way most sisters swap summer clothes. After facing each other in eight Grand Slam finals — the same number of last-day faceoffs as Nadal and Roger Federer — you expect to hear Venus yell something like “Hey, can I borrow your Ackhurst Memorial Cup for the weekend, and maybe this bubble skirt, too?”
It’s not that Venus and Serena need to win, not for our sake, anyway. They don’t have anything to lose anymore. Their legacies are intact, as indelible as the engravings of their names on any number of awards. They’ve beaten some of the best and sustained rivalries not just with each other but with other all-stars such as Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis and Justine Henin.
At 31 and 29 respectively, are Venus and Serena past their primes? Only more tournament appearances and their ability to stay healthy will tell. But despite logging more hours presenting on the Home Shopping Network than playing on the WTP Tour, Serena’s odds to win Wimbledon are 3-1, while Venus is at 8-1.
(As a side note, it’s laughable to consider a win by Serena to be an upset. Seriously? You’d be surprised if the back-to-back Wimbledon winner blew past Caroline Wozniacki? She might be the No. 1 player in the world, but in Grand Slams she tends to be less reliable than a Dollar Tree pregnancy test).
No. 7 seed Serena is scheduled to start her Wimbledon campaign against unseeded Aravane Rezai in Tuesday’s first match. On Monday, Venus, the No. 23 seed, advanced in straight sets over Akgul Amanmuradova, while wearing a self-designed outfit that looked like something she swiped from the room service cart.
“It’s kind of a trendy dress,” she said of the jumper from her own EleVen line. “I’m always trying to do something different and fun.”
Something different and fun? That's how I'd describe having them back.