Why the Williams sisters pulled out of doubles

"Following yesterday's match, I feel it would be best for me to concentrate on singles here at Wimbledon, and as a result, I have made the decision to withdraw from doubles. I've always loved playing doubles with Venus, particularly here at Wimbledon where we've had so much success over the years, and so I'm really sorry to have to withdraw this year."

-- Serena Williams, in a statement released by Wimbledon officials

LONDON -- At first reading, Serena Williams' statement is likely to set off any number of question-mark bombs in a reader's mind: What was it about "yesterday's match" (a relatively routine win) that helped shape her thinking? Why isn't this a joint statement, if for no other reason than to reinforce the solidarity for which the sisters are famous? Does this have anything to do with the frightening near-fainting episode that led Serena and Venus Williams to abandon their second-round match at this tournament last year?

All interesting questions. All difficult to answer, except for perhaps the last one. Thankfully, there's been nothing -- at least nothing we know about -- to suggest that the incident that left Serena feeling disorientated and faint last year was anything but a one-off experience. Nothing like it has happened since.

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Serena and Venus Williams have won five Wimbledon doubles titles together.

As for the rest of it, the key to the other two questions, as well as her decision itself, may lie in the draw, where Venus has already punched in a 6-0, 6-0 first-round winner. Thus, the sisters are still penciled in for a potential fourth-round clash.

If you're shopping for a psychological nightmare, try this on for size: Your opportunity to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam is destroyed by ... your older sister.

The mere fact this could come to pass, along with the wild-card possibility of fatigue or an injury playing an unexpected role in Serena's singles fortunes (in that sense, perhaps last year's doubles debacle is relevant), seems reason enough for one or both sisters to rethink her commitment to doubles. It's one thing to love the game. But you don't have to fling yourself like some martyr on the spear point of it.

Besides, while you never really grow tired of winning titles at Wimbledon, the sisters do have five in doubles to go with the pile they've earned in singles, as well as eight others garnered in Grand Slams overall (third most in the Open era) and three Olympic doubles gold medals.

The tone of her statement is inarguably imperious. It's vividly clear that she's taken a unilateral decision. Perhaps she's angry that she allowed a close set in her Round 1 6-4, 6-1 win over a qualifier (hence the reference to the match). Most importantly, though, you can read Serena's statement as an official declaration that she's taking all this calendar-year Grand Slam business seriously.

Serena may be telling us that the place she has to go now is one you can only go to alone. Even her sister can't go there with her. And now she's ready.

Somehow, I think Venus understands. But that's not saying it will make a difference in the event they meet come Monday. After all, they're both tennis players. And both are Wimbledon champions.

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