October 18, 2008

Williams Sisters and the Open era of Tennis

Joel Drucker (Special to ESPN.com) took a look at the key moments in each of the four decades of the Open era. Among the key moments of the fourth decade of the Open era, he rated the Williams Sisters as #1.

Key moments of the Open era: Part 4: Crossing the millenium (1998-2007)

1. Two at the top

The success of Venus and Serena Williams is one of the greatest stories in the history of sports. At least the Manning brothers grew up the children of a quarterback and in an affluent part of New Orleans. Venus and Serena were raised in Compton, Calif., quite a distance from lily-white tennis clubs. Their father Richard had proclaimed they would in time rule the sport. And for just under two years, they did. From the 2001 U.S. Open to the 2003 Wimbledon, the two met in six of seven Grand Slam finals. Even beyond that, though, Venus and Serena have won a combined 16 Grand Slam singles titles. Just imagine Tiger Woods' brother chasing him down at Augusta and you'll see just how amazing this story is.

Open Era - In 1968, commercial pressures led to the abandonment of the distinction between professionals and amateurs, inaugurating the Open era, in which all players could compete in all tournaments, and top players were able to make their living from tennis. Thus, the open era in tennis began in 1968, when the Grand Slam tournaments, such as Wimbledon, abandoned the longstanding rules of amateurism and allowed professionals to compete.

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