July 16, 2024
Venus

It was a third Wimbledon singles title for Serena (left), and 11th grand slam (Rebecca Naden/PA) (PA Archive)

There will be a different feel about Wimbledon this year.
While the tournament repeatedly promises to be “almost like never before,” there is certainly a ‘changing of the guard’ vibe at the All England Club this summer.

And that is perhaps no more obvious than it is in the absence of Venus and Serena Williams, with the two all-time greats not in action this fortnight.
That brings a historic 27-year run to an end – and allows us time to reflect on the incredible impact both made at SW19.

1996: The last time Venus & Serena did not play
Incredibly, the last time neither Venus nor Serena played at Wimbledon was 28 years ago, with a 16-year-old Venus and 14-year-old Serena unsurprisingly not playing in 1996.

Perhaps fittingly, those Championships brought to an end the reign of Steffi Graf, who defined the women’s game before the emergence of the Williamses in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

World No 1 Graf beat Arantxa Sanchez Vicario to claim her seventh and final SW19 title, reaching a last final in 1999 before retiring later that summer.

Some of the greatest players of the modern game were present in that draw, including Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport – as was a 15-year-old Martina Hingis, later a key rival for both sisters.

The men’s tournament that year saw a surprise winner in Richard Krajicek, with the Dutch star famously breaking Pete Sampras’ stranglehold with his sole Slam triumph.

Perhaps Venus and Serena’s absence this year will be an omen for women’s world No 1 Iga Swiatek to take the title, and for a surprise men’s winner to emerge.

Wimbledon dominance
Few players have impacted Wimbledon in the same way that Venus and Serena have, with a staggering 12 singles titles between them.

Venus won her first two titles in 2001 and 2002, before regaining the title in 2005, and then winning back-to-back crowns in 2007 and 2008.

Meanwhile, Serena beat her older sister for her first three titles in 2002, 2003, and 2009, before winning four further titles in 2010, 2012, 2015, and 2016.

Across the 2000s, only one final did not feature at least one of them – Amelie Mauresmo versus Justine Henin in 2006 – with Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova the only other women to win the title that decade.
https://x.com/Venuseswilliams/status/1800602678747128286

Collectively, they reached 20 Wimbledon finals – some of them simultaneously – with Serena reaching her last final in 2019, 19 years after Venus’ first in 2000.

Their dominance didn’t just exist in the singles though, with the two regularly playing doubles together at the All England Club.

Six of their 14 doubles Grand Slam titles came at Wimbledon, while they also won Olympic gold together on Centre Court at London 2012 – the same games where Serena finally captured the singles titles.

End of an era
This Wimbledon will undoubtedly signal a huge turning point for the women’s game, with neither present.

Signs have been there for a while that this would happen sooner rather than later, with Serena retiring from the sport in 2022, and Venus losing in round one as a wildcard in 2023.

Though she has not officially retired yet, it looks unlikely that she will be back at SW19 as a player, calling time on a remarkable 27-year period of Wimbledon history.

Venus and Serena may not step onto the hallowed turf of Centre Court again, but their legacy at tennis’ most iconic tournament is secured.

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