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National Bank Open: young players inspired by the Williams sisters

TORONTO | A huge organizational hit, the Williams sisters are in town this week for the National Bank Open. Now both in their forties, their longevity on the courts dazzles and inspires the new generation.

• Read also: National Bank Open: 10 players to watch in Toronto

• Read also: The effect of memories

Because there is a clash in this large Toronto tableau. On the one hand, young stars like the Polish Iga Swiatek, 21, the Briton Emma Raducanu, 19, or Leylah Fernandez, also 19, who are trying to snatch Grand Slam titles

On the other, Serena and Venus Williams, aged 40 and 42 respectively, who between them have won 30 major trophies. Coronations that they have for the most part obtained while their new rivals were still children.

“Seeing them still playing at that age is really inspiring,” said Canadian Bianca Andreescu on Sunday. I watched them face each other [quand j’étais plus jeune] and I find it completely crazy that they are still there.

Tears on the field

The years passed, and, in turn, the 22-year-old player had the opportunity to measure herself against the youngest of the Williams. The first time was precisely in Toronto, in the final, in 2019.

For Andreescu, it was “a dream come true”.

“I was in the locker room talking to my coach [à l’époque Sylvain Bruneau]. I realized that my eyes were full of water,” she said.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening! she continued. Even when I returned to the field, I continued to wipe away my tears. It continued during the warm-up.

The Ontarian not only played against Serena, but also beat her twice. The first was when the former world number 1 gave up in this famous final in Toronto.

And the second was in good standing, in the final game of the 2019 US Open. “To see them here in Toronto is amazing. For me, for other players, but also for fans,” added Andreescu.

More ranking

It’s actually a bit unbelievable, because the sisters have reduced their presence on the circuit almost to a minimum for a while.

Faced with the Spanish qualifier Nuria Parrizas Diaz, Serena will also be on Sunday afternoon for her first match on hard surfaces since the Australian Open … 2021.

A leg injury sustained at Wimbledon that year kept her out of competition for 12 months.

On her singles return to the All England Club, she lost in the first round to France’s Harmony Tan in three tight sets.

The Williams also no longer have a WTA singles ranking. The youngest used her protected ranking to secure her spot in the big draw in Toronto. The eldest, for her part, benefited from an invitation from the organizers.

The greatest athlete

The Greek Maria Sakkari, third favorite, also grew up admiring the two sisters.

“Like all players of my generation, I believe,” she said.

“And even, like all athletes, she added. Because I not only believe that Serena is the greatest tennis player of all time, but also the greatest female athlete in history.”

“I love Venus, I love Serena, added the Tunisian Ons Jabeur, fifth seed. They inspire me sportingly, but also on the “business” side. They are two extraordinary women. They made me want to believe in my dream.”

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