When Venus Williams was confirmed for the U.S. April Fed Cup match against Belgium, after she had yet to make a tour appearance this year because of injury, one thought “good luck with that, keep you fingers crossed.”
When earlier this week it was announced that the oft-injured Serena would join Venus on the team, it made one wonder where on the internet you could bet that both Williams sisters, uninjured, on the same team, on the same weekend, would NOT happen.
Not that one wouldn’t WANT to see it — both Williams sisters in the same place for the same event is a rarity nowadays and good for women’s tennis. This weekend, though, the unlikeliness of such an event became clear when Serena pulled from next week’s event in Bangalore with an illness, and Venus pulled out of next week’s event in Antwerp with her chronic wrist injury that some speculate may require surgery.
“I’m very disappointed to have to withdraw from the tournament, which I was really looking forward to participating in,” said Serena of Bangalore. “I’ve caught a bad flu and am too sick to compete.”
Serena is 3-0 in singles and 3-0 in doubles career in the Fed Cup, but hasn’t represented for the U.S. since 2003.
The Fed Cup has seen declined participation from the top players over the years, with the validity of the event plummeting when compared to the men’s Davis Cup, yet the ITF nor the WTA have made concerted efforts to lift women’s tennis’ international “jewel.” The U.S. will face Belgium, which will be without Justine Henin or Kim Clijsters as both superstars see participation in the event as detrimental to their tour results.
The U.S. team is 3-3 under Zina Garrison, never going beyond the semifinals. This year’s U.S. Fed Cup effort means more to Garrison, who has a tenuous one-year contract and little success to show for a country that in the last few years has boasted three former No. 1s in Lindsay Davenport and the Williams sisters, in addition to top-ranked doubles specialist Lisa Raymond.
“They have said they are both very interested in bringing the title back home,” Garrison said of the Williams sisters, “and both of them know what sort of commitment that means.”
Commitment is one thing, injury another. In the meantime, warn up the back-up team of Jamea Jackson, Shenay Perry, Ashley Harkleroad and crew, who should be good enough to get past the depleted Belgian squad. Then for the sake of U.S. women’s tennis, say a prayer for Venus, and send Serena a pack of “Emergen-C” and hope that the debilitating knee and ankle injuries that kept her off the tour for most of last year are truly healed. As shown by the ESPN ratings, Serena is perhaps the lone ratings hope for U.S. women’s tennis.
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