Where Are the Williams Sisters' Successors in American Tennis?

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Where Are the Williams Sisters' Successors in American Tennis?

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Serena Williams during her second round against Madison Brengle at the WTA ASB Classic tennis tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, on Jan. 4, 2017

Serena Williams during her second round against Madison Brengle at the WTA ASB Classic tennis tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, on Jan. 4, 2017


Photo:

Shirley Kwok/Zuma Press

America dominates in women’s tennis. For decades the country has had stars and champions, and won loads of trophies.

Chris Evert

won 18 Grand Slam singles titles.

Billie Jean King

won 12. So far

Venus Williams

has won seven and her sister,

Serena Williams,

is the most impressive of all, with 23.

These days, though, there is a reason to be nervous: No active American woman other than Serena and Venus—ages 35 and 37, respectively—has a Grand Slam title of her own.

Since

Jennifer Capriati

won the Australian Open in 2002, the Williams sisters have been the only American women to win Grand Slam singles titles. They have won 25 in all since then, a remarkable accomplishment. Serena won the U.S. Open as far back as 1999, her first major. That’s a long stretch of dominance, and it could continue for a little while, especially after Serena returns as a mother to a young child, perhaps early next season. Venus, amazingly, doesn’t intend to retire soon, either.

“I have no plans,” she said after her first-round victory on Monday. “Zero.”

But someone needs to take over for the sisters eventually. And while American women have not lacked talent, none of them has become a true title contender. At the U.S. Open alone, the last American women’s champion not named Williams was

Lindsay Davenport,

in 1998—19 years ago.

Martin Blackman,

the general manager of USTA Player Development, sounded confident when asked about the future.

“Honestly I just think it’s a matter of time,” Blackman said. “I really do. I think we’ve got four women who could win a Grand Slam right here.”

Blackman was referring to one already proven candidate, Venus Williams. The other three are clearly talented but have yet to win:

Madison Keys,

CoCo Vandeweghe and

Sloane Stephens.

There is also 22–year-old

Jennifer Brady,

a surprise American contender who remains in the singles draw. This is her first U.S. Open. Brady’s performance means five American women remain in the draw.

This is an ideal chance for these Americans for a simple reason: Without Serena Williams, the field remains open and the chances are even for just about anyone. Garbiñe Muguruza seems to be the only woman playing with a better chance than the rest. She won Wimbledon in July and looks to be playing more like a top seed.

Keys, a 22-year-old who beat Elena Vesnina Saturday night in three sets, hits as hard as any other young American women’s player, especially on her serve. After suffering from a left wrist injury and a second surgery, she said she finally feels strong again.

“I finally have had time on the court where I could practice,” she said earlier in the tournament. “I felt healthy the whole time.”

Vandeweghe, a 25-year-old who reached the semifinal of the Australian Open this year, beat

Agnieszka Radwanska,

seeded 10th, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours and 56 minutes on Saturday. Vandeweghe had previously lost five out of six matches against Radwanska in her career. She recently hired Pat Cash, an Australian and a Wimbledon champion 30 years ago, to be her coach. Vandeweghe said Cash has done well to help her control her spirit.

Coco Vandeweghe returns to Russia's Maria Sharapova during the women's quarter-finals match of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships on July 7, 2015.

Coco Vandeweghe returns to Russia’s Maria Sharapova during the women’s quarter-finals match of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships on July 7, 2015.


Photo:

glyn kirk/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

“Pat gives me a very specific goal of what to do with the energy and fire that I do bring to the court,” Vandeweghe said. “It’s worked very well.”

Stephens, 24 years old, like Keys has struggled with her health. She missed nearly a year with a left foot injury and eventually had surgery. This summer, though, she has been playing some of her best tennis in years. Stephens reached the semifinals in both Cincinnati and Toronto, and beat Dominika Cibulkova, the 11th seed, in the second round at the Open. Stephens says her injury—and her long time off—changed her attitude about the sport.

“Everything, like, always got to me,” she said. “This is not life or death. I think it’s hard to realize that when you’re out there playing, because there’s a lot riding on it: prize money, points, so many things go into it. Now I’m kind of, like, I do this for fun. I love tennis.”

Tennis love is great to see. Now the young American women just need a Grand Slam celebrate.

“Serena’s a very hard person to catch,” Vandeweghe said. “But I think we’ve been progressing.”

By | 2017-09-05T22:50:05+00:00 September 3rd, 2017|Comments Off on Where Are the Williams Sisters' Successors in American Tennis?