U.S. Open final a history test

Williams sisters roll in semis

1st sister act in Open final

`We both want to be No. 1'

Venus routs Capriati, 6-4, 6-2

Serena ousts Hingis in 51 minutes

September 08, 2001|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Venus and Serena Williams powered their way through their semifinal matches yesterday and into history in tonight's prime-time final at the U.S. Open.

The sisters will be the first to compete in an Open final and they got here in devastating fashion.

First it was No. 10 Serena making Martina Hingis look like a junior player, as she crushed the world's top-ranked player, 6-3, 6-2, in 51 minutes.

And then it was No. 4 Venus, running the legs off No. 2 Jennifer Capriati while winning 11 of the last 13 games on her way to a 6-4, 6-2 pounding of her opponent, who watched her comeback Grand Slam season come to an end before 21,976 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

This will be only the second time that sisters have competed in any Grand Slam final. Only Maud and Lillian Watson have gone where the Williams sisters are going tonight. And they did it in 1884 at Wimbledon, where Maud prevailed, 6-8, 6-3, 6-3.

The Williams match is one that is both longed for and dreaded.

They have met in five previous tour events, with Venus winning four times. But they have never combined for a wonderful match, despite always powerful, exciting performances to get to those meetings.

It is a situation that came to a head in Indian Wells, Calif., in March, when Venus withdrew with an injury minutes before their scheduled semifinal match. The next day, Serena was booed as accusations were made by other players and members of the media that their matches were being staged by their father.

Yesterday, both women were obviously delighted with their performances to this point and said they have nothing to prove to anyone.

"We know things that happened and what didn't happen," said Serena. "People will believe what they want. But, the bottom line is, we're both competitors. We both want to compete. We both want to be No. 1. And we both want to do the best that we can. We're both of age where no one makes decisions for us."

Venus said she was "appalled" that anyone would think or write such things, saying she takes pride in her sport and her performance.

"A lot of our matches have not been of championship caliber," Venus said. "It is difficult when two powerful players play against each other. There are a lot of unforced errors. The quality, in general, you try to rise to the occasion in every match. Today, I don't think Jennifer and I played an epic match. Andre [Agassi] and Pete [Sampras], that was fantastic. That doesn't happen every year, every tournament.

"I hope we're capable of that. I hope tomorrow's match will be different from the others."

In yesterday's first semifinal, Serena certainly played a memorable match against Hingis.

"I was on my toes," said Serena. "I really wanted the win. I really needed the win ... [For] someone with my name to be No. 10 is pretty absurd. I felt I didn't really like it in that position. I wanted to win more than anything and when you have that attitude, then you're going to go out there and you're going to do better."

Serena used her power serves and her power strokes to keep Hingis off balance and in return, Hingis had nothing that could hurt Serena.

"She's edging me," said Hingis, who refused to give away too much. "But I think I had chances in the first set, a few of them. I broke her twice, which doesn't show that I couldn't break her."

But the breaks Hingis got had more to do with Serena going for too much on her ground strokes, rather than anything Hingis did. Often, it was all Hingis could do to get the ball back. And every time she dropped a ball short of the baseline or tried an overhead, she found Serena slamming it down her throat.

By the end of the match, Serena had 40 winners compared to just five for Hingis. And while Hingis would combine a high 76 percent of her first serves in the first set with 52 percent in the second for a respectable 62 percent for the match, Serena was upping her 70 percent first-set total to a perfect 100 percent in the second.

"I can't serve any better than that," Serena said. "Oh my gosh."

And she delivered big statements with the way she strung those serves together. She finished the first set with three aces and a service winner. And she finished the second with two service winners and two aces.

"I couldn't read her serve, whether it was going forehand or backhand," Hingis said. "And she was always hitting the deep corner lines. Even if I got there I couldn't do anything."

Despite the devastation, Hingis will hold on to her No. 1 ranking because her closest challenger, Capriati, also lost.

For Capriati, the 10th game against Venus turned out to be the deciding game of the match.

After having given back an early break, Capriati had the chance to even the set at five. She and Venus competed over 23 points, with Venus having four set point chances and Capriati five break points.

"I was a little mad at myself there," said Capriati. "I felt the first set was mine, and I knew I was running out of gas. I'm in good shape, but this was my first match in over two weeks at this level and I definitely felt it in my legs. I made errors I wouldn't normally make."

Capriati finally plowed a backhand into the net to give Venus the set and she was off and running to meet her sister in the finals.

U.S. Open today

Men's semifinals

Yevgeny Kafelnikov (7) vs. Lleyton Hewitt (4), noon

Marat Safin (3) vs. Pete Sampras (10)

Women's final

Serena Williams (10) vs. Venus Williams (4), 8 p.m.

TV: Ch. 13

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