God bless the Williams sisters. Without Venus and Serena Williams, American tennis would be irrelevant.
The Williams sisters lead a powerhouse team into Fed Cup play against Sweden this weekend in Delray Beach, Fla. They are joined by No. 16 Sloane Stephens and No. 27 Varvara Lepchenko.
They remain America's biggest tennis stars. They are the only active American players on the WTA or ATP tours with Grand Slam titles. Their combined 93 singles titles dwarfs the 29 total titles won by Mardy Fish, James Blake, John Isner and Sam Querrey.
With Andy Roddick, the last American male to win a Grand Slam, retired, the Williams sisters enter the Fed Cup shouldering the nation's reputation.
The U.S. could use a Fed Cup win, especially after the men's disappointing showing against Serbia in the Davis Cup.
The state of men's tennis in the U.S. has become so sad that people have stopped pretending we have a shot. It seems insane that Serbia, a country with a population less than Manhattan, has two Top-10 players on the ATP and the U.S. none.
Sure, John Isner won the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship title in Houston. But few watched because we were fixated on the Masters golf tournament, where Australian Adam Scott was winning his country's first Green Jacket, erasing decades of futility.
Twenty years from now will be still be talking about "the last time" an American man won a Grand Slam? Could U.S. men be looking at a British-like drought in Grand Slam titles?
Meanwhile, the outlook for the ladies appears more promising. Serena Williams is No. 1 and favored to win every tournament she enters. Up-and-comers like Stephens, Madison Keys and Lauren Davis are all 20 or younger.
Fed Cup coach Mary Joe Fernandez must be thrilled to have the Williams sisters representing the U.S. again. The two have also vowed to compete in the 2016 Olympics.
If they do stick around, the benefactors will be younger Americans who get to learn from and play along side two of the greatest players in tennis history.
In the same way Greg Norman inspired Scott and other young Australian golfers, the Williams sisters may motivate a fresh crop of American tennis players.
Follow Merlisa on Twitter: @merlisa
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