At the All England, it's all Williams

Sisters coast in semifinals: Venus will play Serena for Wimbledon crown


July 05, 2002|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England - Hundreds play women's pro tennis one way. The Williams sisters play it their way.

Others strike tennis balls in hope. They strike them with intent.

Others advance to Grand Slam semifinals. They go to finals.

Yesterday, Venus and Serena Williams once again showed the way of the present and future in women's tennis, blasting their way into Wimbledon's women's final and setting up their third championship match in the past four Grand Slam events.

Too focused, too strong and too good for everyone else, the Williamses became the first sisters to reach Wimbledon's final since 1884, when Maud Watson defeated Lilian Watson and won a silver flower basket.

Venus Williams, the two-time reigning champion and No. 1 seed, overwhelmed No. 6 Justine Henin of Belgium, 6-3, 6-2.

In the other Fourth of July semifinal under leaden skies, No. 2 Serena Williams routed No. 9 Amelie Mauresmo, 6-2, 6-1, and gained enough computer points to knock her sister from the No. 1 spot in next week's women's tour rankings.

The only thing left for the sisters is to play a final worthy of the setting and circumstances.

And this time, maybe they can, unlike their previous meetings at last year's U.S. Open (Venus won) and this year's French Open (Serena won).

The grass surface, the Centre Court stage, and the budding rivalry for No. 1 could finally bring out their best in a way no other foes can.

And so could Serena Williams' push to claim her sister's Wimbledon title.

"Just because I'm No. 1 doesn't mean that I don't want to win Wimbledon," Serena Williams said.

She wants to join the club - the All England Club, that is - an honor that goes along with the territory of being a Wimbledon champion.

But Venus Williams won't give up the title without a tussle.

"I suppose I didn't win the French Open, but I'm going to do my best here at Wimbledon," Venus Williams said. "That's all I can do."

Finally, a little rivalry in the first family of women's tennis.

Off this tournament, it doesn't seem like anyone else can match the Williamses.

How long women's tennis can run on the appeal of Williams vs. Williams is anyone's guess.

But right now, they're the whole show.

"I think that it is just something that has been unprecedented, never seen before," Venus Williams said. "We make the headlines, the cover stories. That's how tennis gets in the news, when there are amazing things happening."

But the once amazing now seems inevitable as the Williamses have improved while others have stood still.

First up on Centre Court yesterday was Venus Williams. Playing silently and swiftly in a rematch of last year's final, she figured out Henin's wily style after being tied at 3-all in the first set, and reeled off seven straight games to win going away.

After the first match, out came Serena Williams and Mauresmo, two muscle-bound players intent on playing full-blast tennis.

It was no contest. Serena Williams slammed ground strokes to Mauresmo's ankles, brought up the chalk on lines, hit a preposterous backhanded lob, delivered one sledgehammer forehand winner after another, and punctuated the whole show with a bunch of aces that clocked in at better than 110 mph.

"I was immaculate," Serena Williams said.

Serena Williams seemed to understand that she will have to play even better to beat her sister in the final.

"Oh, Venus - this is going to be the most difficult surface for me to face her serve," Serena Williams said. "Actually, I've been returning better against the other players because of Venus serving unbelievable."

"She runs very well," she added. "I'm going to obviously have to hit two to three, maybe four, more balls that she would get that someone else wouldn't get."

But what the Williamses really need against one another is a killer instinct, something that is tough to come by among sisters raised together to become champions.

Said Venus Williams: "I think the only difference between playing my sister and playing someone else is that I want to win but I want her to win because I want the best for her."

Either way, in tomorrow's final, a Williams will win.

Imagine, two sisters from one family, climbing to the top, winning nearly every title around, and dominating a sport and a sporting age.

What are the odds?

"A million to one," Serena Williams said.

Women's tennis belongs to the Williams sisters.

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