Let us all wish a Happy (belated) Birthday to Venus Williams.
Earlier this week she turned 32 -- young enough to start a whole new career if she wanted to, old enough to better be thinking of one whether she wants to or not. There comes a point in an athlete's life when she not only sees the light at the end of the tunnel, but also has to put on shades.
It's hard to believe, but Venus is at that point. Although I tend to believe age is nothing but a number, there is another that's hard to ignore: zero, as in the number of tournaments she's won since 2010.
Ten years ago, which seems like yesterday, she and Serena prepared to meet in the finals of Wimbledon as the best two players in the world. If they repeated such a feat today, it would be nothing short of a miracle. Although Serena could keep up her end of the deal. Despite her first-round exit at the French Open, she is 27-5 on the year and is seeded sixth. But Venus is wrestling with fatigue and joint pain caused by an autoimmune disease.
From her spot in the draw, Venus will be looking up at Maria Sharapova, who just completed the career Grand Slam and is playing some of the best tennis of her career. Victoria Azarenka already has four titles this year, including the Australian Open. Defending Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova has been to the semis of the last two majors.
It's easy to see why so few experts expect the Williams sisters to meet deep in this tournament again.
But before we question Serena and dismiss Venus, we should also remember where they came from and the odds they had to beat to even play this game. Compton ain't no country club, and the tennis world didn't exactly greet them at the door with open arms. So if we can remember it was a miracle that brought the Williams sisters into our lives, then it's not hard to imagine another miracle bringing them back to the stage of their greatest triumphs.
Fourteen times combined they have played in the Wimbledon singles finals.
Nine times one of them has held the singles trophy.
Four times they've won doubles.
They even showed up in a pair of mixed-doubles finals, with Serena winning in 1998.
Venus may come to the All England Club unseeded for the first time since her debut in 1997. But I doubt any of her opponents see her as an underdog.
Despite her age and shaky tour results this season, she is still Venus Williams. True, some of her speed and her intimidation factor are gone, but her powerful groundstrokes and rocket serve haven't gone anywhere. Neither has her length, or the confidence that comes from knowing she once reached the final despite playing with a groin injury. Or that she played in the longest women's final in history and came out on top in 2005. That in 2007 she came in at No. 31 and became the lowest-ranked player ever to win. Or that she is 71-10 at Wimbledon and is -- still -- the greatest grass-court player of her generation.
So if there is any tournament at which something unexpected like an all-Williams sisters final could happen, it would be at the All England Club.
Unexpected, really? Looking at the numbers, age, recent results, yes.
But given what we know of Venus and Serena and their ability to beat the odds, and their history at Wimbledon, such an occurrence would be no surprise.