Three of the four women's semifinal spots have been filled at the U.S. Open. The bottom section of the draw will see second-ranked Jelena Jankovic take on Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva. Dinara Safina, Marat Safin's younger sister and the most consistent player on tour since early spring, has also advanced. Jankovic, Dementieva and Safina have equally legitimate chances at the title, but with all due respect, women's tennis desperately needs them to lose. The WTA is starving for some positive press, stability, familiarity, and glamour. And the only two women able to provide such a lift to the ever-sagging tour are the remaining quarterfinalists: Venus and Serena Williams.
What a shame that they drew one another at the quarterfinal stage! Should Venus or Serena fail to advance to the ultimate stage of this tournament, you can be certain that the television ratings for Saturday's final will be far lower and the headlines far less prominent than those surrounding tonight's quarterfinal clash. In fact, tonight's primetime showdown between the sisters was the most anticipated match of the women's event from the get-go. The Williams sisters have something that their remaining peers do not: star power. Venus and Serena transcend tennis. They bolster television ratings and generate buzz like no others. Should Venus or Serena win the title on Saturday, it would be the best thing to happen to women's tennis since ... well, since Venus won Wimbledon at the expense of her younger sister.
The Williams sisters raised the competitive bar for female players in the late 90s and early part of this decade. For a time, the game caught up with them. Pundits, prognosticators and fans even began to take the Williams sisters for granted. How ironic that the game now turns to the Williams sisters once again. The stars that once surrounded Venus and Serena - Hingis, Davenport, Clijsters, Henin, and Mauresmo - have all faded. Retirements and injury, meanwhile, have left the women's game in disarray. Venus and Serena have the opportunity to elevate women's tennis once again; they can reunite a tour fractured by injury, ennui and unforced errors. The path to that salvation will begin with one sister's demise, but there is no greater light than that which is generated when two stars collide.