Why tennis needs another Serena Williams

The Williams sisters have their detractors, says Megan Greenwell in GOOD, but female athletes everywhere owe them a debt of gratitude — and need a successor quick

Serena Williams
(Image credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Women's professional tennis "is at a historic low point," with not even a single star who plays regularly, says Megan Greenwell in GOOD. Longtime standout Venus Williams — recently diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome — is floundering, and while her sister Serena is favored to win this year's U.S. Open, she's "seeded 28th because she doesn't play enough to be ranked any higher." That no other player threatens Williams is bad news for women's tennis, which like every other sport needs star talent to stay relevant. And women athletes can't afford to let tennis go the way of women's golf. Here's an excerpt:

With Serena about to celebrate her 30th birthday and no obvious next-generation female tennis stars on the horizon, the dry spell threatens to continue for years. And that poses a danger not just to women's tennis, but to women's sports as a whole.

The Women's Tennis Association has always been a shining exception to the general failure of women's professional sports. Tennis majors are the most-watched women's competitions that come around every year, so female athletes in every other sport depend on tennis players to lead the way toward prominence. WNBA attendance has steadily declined since the league began in 1997, and the league would have folded years ago if not for NBA Commissioner David Stern's commitment to propping it up. Women's Professional Soccer, the successor league to the failed Women's United Soccer Association, remains a non-factor despite excitement over the women's World Cup this summer. I'd bet that not one baseball fan out of 10 knows that National Pro Fastpitch, the professional softball league, even exists.

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