In a can't-lose match, it's Venus vs. Serena

Wimbledon rarity finds spotlight on Williams siblings

Wimbledon

July 05, 2000|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England - This was about family power and tennis glory, a father's dream to create two champions and a sporting moment as rare and pure as Wimbledon gets.

The Williams sisters stormed into Wimbledon's semifinals yesterday.

They didn't just take over a tournament on the Fourth of July. They took charge of a sport, just like their father said they would, using rackets, spirit and burgeoning tennis savvy.

Serena Williams crushed Lisa Raymond, 6-2, 6-0, and then dashed to Centre Court to see her sister, Venus, finish off Martina Hingis, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, in a classic confrontation that ended with a service ace, high-pitched shout and family celebration under a bleak summer sky.

And the best is yet to come.

In tomorrow's semifinals, it will be Williams vs. Williams, the first time in more than a century that sisters have met this late at Wimbledon. In 1884, Maud Watson defeated her sister, Lilian, in the inaugural women's championship.

At least one Williams sister will be getting to the final, with Venus, 20, bidding for her first Grand Slam title, while Serena, 18, tries to capture another after winning the 1999 U.S. Open.

"Sure, everyone wants to win Wimbledon," Venus Williams said. "Doesn't matter if I'm playing Serena or I'm playing Pete Sampras. I'm going to win Wimbledon."

Not so fast.

Serena Williams, who has beaten her sister only once in four meetings, has the perfect scouting report for the Sister Act semifinal.

"Well, she has a big serve," Serena Williams said. "Gosh, very tall. She's an ace. I'm Mama Smash."

What's a father to do? Richard Williams, who dreamed up the exploits of the tennis-playing duo, tutored them, sheltered them and then let them loose on tour, said that if he were a betting man, he would place a 50-pound ($75) bet on each of his daughters. He said he will skip the match and go to a funeral.

"I don't want to watch Venus beat up on Serena or Serena beat up on Venus," he told reporters.

Almost lost in the Williams euphoria was that a third American got to the semifinals as reigning champion Lindsay Davenport downed Monica Seles, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-0. Davenport will meet Jelena Dokic, who dismissed Magui Serna, 6-3, 6-2.

"Power works in different ways," Davenport said. "Pound-for-pound, or shot-for-shot, the Williamses might hit the ball a little bit harder than I do, but I'm right up there. Sometimes, placement is more important than actually how hard the ball is going."

"You know," Davenport said, "I like my chances in a matchup of outhitting players. That seems to be when I play some of my best tennis. You never know what happens here."

But the focus yesterday was on the Williams sisters, raised together to raise their games and become champions. As kids, it was Serena, younger and smaller, who admitted, well, sometimes she cheated.

"Yeah, because I love to win," she said. "She was bigger and stronger. She had unfair advantages."

Now, they're just about even and overpowering. They played in two stadiums and on two British television stations at the same time, quite a feat since the country only has five over-the-air channels.

There was Serena Williams on Court 1, crunching Raymond, playing the kind of explosive tennis that has seen her lose just 13 games in the tournament.

The main event was on Centre Court, the tennis cathedral, Venus Williams vs. Hingis, American power against European elegance, tennis future against tennis present.

It was a match of awkward angles and wondrous shots, Venus Williams grunting on nearly every strike while Hingis played in silence and displayed her steel.

From the baseline, it was a standoff. But Venus Williams brought along piledriver serves.

"It was a tight match," Hingis said. "She was better."

Venus Williams won the opening set with a 97-mph ace that rocked Hingis to her heels.

But give Hingis credit. She has tried to get fitter and stronger over the last year to deal with the Williams sisters. She may still be No. 1 in the world, but she hasn't won a Grand Slam since Australia in January 1999.

Hingis came roaring back in a second set that was as tense as any in the tournament - long, long rallies ending with laser-like winners.

The last set was filled with mistakes and service breaks that only ratcheted up the drama. With a powder-puff second serve, Hingis finally gave way under pressure, floating a backhand long and losing her serve to fall behind, 3-2.

Stretching her legs and grabbing a sip of liquid between points, which brought a warning from the chair umpire, Venus Williams held her serve in the sixth game and held her nerve the rest of the way.

It ended with that ace and shout, the father doing a jig in the stands while the oldest daughter waved to the crowd and mouthed, "unbelievable."

It truly was. The father dreamed all this up years ago, and the daughters are making it call come true.

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