The younger Williams sister, Serena, got most of the attention this year for her struggles and “tumble” in the rankings as she fell from number one. As has often been the case for almost a decade, Serena’s results, good or bad, overshadow those of her big sister Venus. While Serena was “struggling,” Venus was barely able to put a season together. Stringing together back-to-back wins was a challenge as father time was clearly catching up with Venus Williams in 2016.
Williams went 26-15 in 2016, winning one title and reaching one other final. She finished the season down ten spots from 2015, closing out the season at number 17 in the world. However, it is worth noting that despite the drop in the rankings, it was still her second-best year-end finish since 2010 (her best being number seven in 2015).
So much of Williams’ year was disappointing, but there were a few specks of light. The first one came in Taiwan, when she scored her first main tour (excluding Fed Cup) match wins of the season and rode that to her first and only title of the season, knocking off the second and third seeds on her way to the title without dropping a set.
The shining light of Williams’ year came right in the middle. The months of June and July were kind to the American, as two of her best results came in that period. First, the five-time Wimbledon champion started to re-find her old championship form at the All-England club, blasting to the semifinals, her best result at a major since 2010, where she fell to soon-to-be world number one Angelique Kerber, denying the world of an all-Williams final (Serena would defeat Kerber in the final). A few weeks later, Williams battled into her second final of 2016, falling to Johanna Konta. That run saw her ranking rise to number six in the world, her highest ranking since her Sjogren’s syndrome diagnosis in 2011.
At the US Open, she made her 72nd appearance at a Grand Slam event in singles, breaking the record for most appearances at a Grand Slam event.
The year started off terribly for Williams, as she lost in the first round of her first two events, including the Australian Open. After winning seven straight matches in Fed Cup and Taiwan combined, she would fail to win back-to-back matches until the French Open. In the first six months of the season, she only reached one quarterfinal, that being her title run in Taiwan.
After her results seemed to be improving over the summer, things turned around again with a first-round loss at the Olympics. Although she had a brief bounce-back at the US Open, her game went off the deep end again after her home country’s biggest tournament. Williams went 2-3 down the stretch, failing to win consecutive matches in any of the three events she played after the US Open.
Williams’ lone title came in Taiwan, the 49th of her remarkable career. She also reached the final on home soil in Stanford. Without question, her most impressive result was her quarterfinal run at Wimbledon, which broke her six-year major semifinal drought. The only other events where she won consecutive matches were the French and US Opens, as well as the Fed Cup.
The three tournaments where she reached the semifinals or better, Taiwan, Stanford and Wimbledon, were the only three events all year where she reached even the quarterfinals. She lost in the first round more times than she reached the last eight of events, losing six first round matches. Events where she lost in the first round included the Australian Open, the Olympics, and both American Spring Premier events (including Indian Wells, where she was making her return after a 15-year hiatus). Her worst loss came in Beijing, where she fell to the 223rd ranked player in the world, Shuai Peng.
If not for Wimbledon, this year would have been a total disaster for Williams. In reality, that is to be expected considering she is 36 so the fact that she is still in the top 20 is quite impressive. But her ranking relies heavily on one big tournament and as time continues to roll on, it’s going to be harder and harder for her to hang on at the top. Her renaissance in 2015 was impressive, but if 2016 is any indication, that may have been the last great moment for Venus Williams.