Sinking Sisterhood: Venus and Serena Williams Out at Wimbledon

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Toby Melville / Reuters

Serena Williams reacts to a missed volley during her match against Marion Bartoli of France at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London June 27, 2011.

They are arguably the greatest tennis players of their generation, and have spurred each other on with sisterly rivalry. But if there was a bond between Serena and Venus Williams at Wimbledon today it served neither any good, as both lost to less-accomplished players in quick succession.

Serena Williams was first out, losing 3-6, 6-7 (6) to Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli. And a little over an hour later big sister Venus Williams lost 2-6, 3-6 to Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova.

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Both Bartoli and Serena Williams had generated off-court coverage this week: Serena had complained that she had been forced by the tournament organizers to play on an outside, rather than central, court, and Bartoli had petulantly complained about her father-coach’s presence in the stands and asked him to leave. But in the end, Bartoli proved superior, with her powerful, two-handed strokes from both sides overpowering Williams, despite a valiant comeback from Serena that saw the four-time Wimbledon champion save four match points.

“I don’t think this will really sink in until after the tournament is over,” a stunned-looking Bartoli said after the match. “Right now I have to remain focused.”

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Serena Williams is a contender in every tournament she plays in, despite her irregular playing schedule and extracurricular passions (she is a fashion designer, a philanthropist and even a certified nail technician). Andy Roddick, the U.S. male tennis star, has said Serena could show up to any tournament  without practicing and, as long as she had a racquet, dominate the field. This year saw particular set-backs however after career-threatening health problems (which included a lung embolism) kept her out of play for many weeks.

“I never came here thinking I would lose. That’s my attitude. You know, you win some and you lose some. Today just happened to be the one that slipped under me,” Serena said.

Similarly, big sister Venus Williams has been battling injury this year (this time, a faulty hip) and also struggled against a wily, highly mobile opponent, falling 2-6, 3-6 to Pironkova, who had also defeated Venus in the last eight here last year.

So tough going for the Williams clan at Wimbledon. But don’t feel too sorry for them: they can always go home and console themselves in front of their trophy cabinet: surely one of the largest in the game.

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