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“I’ve just got to … figure out what I did wrong and not do it again,” Serena said. “You know, learn from it.”

There is a new generation of players moving up, and the Williams sisters certainly are at least partly responsible for helping spur the growth of tennis.

Its global reach is such that the top 10 women in this week’s rankings represent 10 countries. The past four Grand Slam tournaments were won by first-time major champions _ Li Na of China, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, Sam Stosur of Australia and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus _ the longest such stretch of debut titles in the Open era, which began in 1968.

Venus and Serena Williams made women’s tennis matter more than it had in years, prompting a move from Saturday afternoon to prime time for the U.S. Open title match in 2001, when a pair of sisters met in a Grand Slam singles final for the first time since it happened at Wimbledon all the way back in 1884.

The first all-Williams major final 11 years ago drew higher TV ratings than a college football game the same night between two Top 25 college football teams, Notre Dame and Nebraska.

“I definitely grew up watching them. I’ve idolized both of them forever. I mean, they were the first players I watched on TV and said, `I want to be there, one day, playing the tournaments that they’re playing,’” said Melanie Oudin, a 20-year-old from Marietta, Ga., who reached the 2009 U.S. Open quarterfinals.

“I just can’t see them _ especially Serena _ retiring. Serena’s been the best of the best for so long,” Oudin continued. “Even when she’s out for a while, she comes back, and she can still play amazing tennis and beat everyone.”

The world will be watching when Wimbledon begins next month to find out if that’s still the case.


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