Venus outpowers her sister

Elder Williams takes U.S. Open title in battle of siblings

`I love you, all right'

September 09, 2001|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Hollywood. That's what it was. Opening night for Two Sisters. A walk down the red carpet at the Oscars.

Robert Redford was there. Mary Tyler Moore. Candice Bergen. Hilary Swank. Bruce Willis. Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. Even Frank Robinson was in the house.

Diana Ross sang "God Bless America."

Finally, Venus and Serena Williams walked onto Arthur Ashe Stadium to compete for the U.S. Open championship.

In the second set last night, Venus and Serena combined for amazing points. With agility, power, skill and tenacity, they whaled on each other until Venus delivered the final blow, a backhand so strong that it ripped the racket from Serena's hand as she tried to return.

Venus won, 6-2, 6-4, and she rushed to the net to greet her sister. "I love you, all right," she said as she wrapped her arms around Serena.

It was Venus' fourth Grand Slam title since her first crown at Wimbledon last year.

"I've been blessed," Venus said as she accepted the winner's check for $850,000. "I'm so happy to be here and to be healthy, so I can receive all these gifts.

"But there are some good things and bad things," she continued when asked about playing her sister. "I always want Serena to win. I'm the big sister. I make sure she has everything even if I don't have anything. It's hard. I love her too much."

Serena, standing a step to the side and a step behind her, looked at Venus as if she couldn't believe she was revealing her heart.

"I'm the younger sister," Serena said. "Younger sisters always look up to their big sisters, and they always want to beat them because they always win."

It was a historic match. The first time any professional tennis match has ever been broadcast live on network prime time national television.

The first time sisters have ever met in a Grand Slam final in the modern tennis era, which dates to 1968.

And only the second time sisters have met in a Grand Slam final.

In 1884, in the first woman's championship ever played at Wimbledon, Maud and Lillian Watson competed. And in that one, Maud, the older sister, also won.

Venus, the fourth seed and 20 years old, was the defending Open champion. Serena, the 10th seed and 19, had won the year before. It seems the Open title is becoming a family tradition.

"Venus, on court, what she said was just so deep, and she was so sincere," said Serena. "She told me in the locker room that she didn't really feel like she'd won, because she'd beaten me. But I told her to take it, to enjoy it. That if I'd won, I'd take it."

Few have the understanding of a Chris Evert, the retired Hall of Famer who remembers having to play her younger sister Jeanne once.

"It was the sickest I've ever felt," Evert said. "I wanted to throw up on the court. I was filled with so much emotion. I didn't want to lose to her, but I didn't want to beat her either. I just wanted to get off the court."

The Williams sisters didn't arrive in this match by accident. As 8- and 9-year-olds growing up and playing on public courts in Compton, Calif., they used to pretend they were playing each other in the U.S. Open.

The Williams sisters have made the journey, thanks to the guidance and coaching direction they received from their parents.

"It wasn't our dream to be here, playing each other," Venus said before the match. "It was my dad's dream, my mom's dream. They told us we'd be here playing each other in the finals. That's why we believed it. If they had told us we would never make it playing tennis, I don't think we'd be here today."

The two women have played only five times on the tour before last night. Venus had won four, but in those five matches they had never combined for a great match, despite always being involved in exciting performances to get to those meetings.

In Indian Wells in March, Venus withdrew with an injury minutes before their scheduled semifinal match. The next day, Serena was booed, as ugly accusations were made that their matches were being staged by their father.

Last night, Oracene Williams said she believed her daughters were capable of playing well, "if they let go, but I don't know if they'll do that. I think they will if they want it bad enough."

Venus wanted it, evidently more than she wanted Serena to win. "I was happy to get free points, but then, on the other hand, I found myself [thinking] `Come on, Serena, just do this or do that,'" Venus said. `When I'd find myself doing that I'd lose a couple points."

And then, she said, she'd overcome the feeling.

"When I lost a couple points, I wasn't sorry for her any more," Venus said.

Venus won, but Serena competed. They played rollicking tennis.

In the first set, Venus actually tapped the court to point where one of Serena's ball had landed out. In the second, Serena got mad at herself for missing a point and slammed her racket.

"I made too many unforced errors," said Serena, who had 36 of them. "I wanted to win, because on my scale I hadn't been doing very well in Grand Slams. On my scale, I'm four or five on a 10-point scale. But I'm going to get better. You haven't seen anything yet."

Venus added that she had enjoyed the night. "I was mostly thinking about the match - but I liked seeing all the stars," she said.

In the end, both women were smiling.

"It really didn't matter who won," said Serena, who got a check for $425,000. "Tennis is just a game. We're entertainers. We entertain the public. People come to see us play and perform. ... After that, we go home and Venus will always be my sister. We're always going to be a family, no matter what."

The curtain came down. The lights went out. The celebrities all went home.

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