In the game of professional women’s tennis, one could say that two sisters jointly served as its face for several years. They are, of course, the celebrated Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. The two of them grew into adulthood playing tennis competitively, and their talents blossomed into a sporting phenomenon. From the mid-1990s when they made their professional debut, Venus and Serena Williams were bywords in women’s tennis. They have faced each other several times too. In fact, they will be meeting as rivals this week at the Indian Wells Masters, a tournament that also figures in their shared history.
CNN reports that the Williams sisters will be facing off against each other in Indian Wells, California at a tennis masters event, arguably the biggest in the world when not counting the Majors. This is a milestone event for both their careers considering that they have avoided playing at the Indian Wells Masters for over a decade due to some unfortunate circumstances back in 2001. That would have been Venus and Serena’s first match there against each other, during the semi-finals. However Venus bowed out due to injury, only minutes before they would meet on the court’s hard playing surface.
The ensuing reaction of the audience got shockingly ugly, with racial undertones due to their being predominantly white. Spectators booed Venus and father Richard Williams when they sat on the sidelines the following day; they also booed Serena when she faced Belgium’s Kim Clijsters in the finals, cheering only when Clijsters scored or when the younger Williams sister made faults in play. The generally-accepted reason for the negative reactions was the rumor that Richard supposedly prearranges who among his daughters would win when they meet in an official match, explaining Venus’ abrupt withdrawal. But Venus herself opines a racial factor.
Since 2001 the two sisters would refuse to compete in Indian Wells on account of what Venus claimed to be the racist treatment of the audience against them. It was not until 2015 that Serena would return there; and not until the following year for Venus in turn. Their boycotts of the event may have ended, but until the 2018 Indian Wells Masters, also known as the BNP Paribas Open, that the two giants of contemporary women’s tennis will finally get to face each other for real, on a court that once made them miserable.
This encounter between Venus and Serena at the BNP Paribas on Monday, March 12, is the 29th time the Williams sisters faced each other in professional competition. Serena currently leads their personal match series with 17 wins to Venus’ 11.
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