Wimbledon sister act on verge of real rivalry

Serena trying to end Venus' two-year reign in all-Williams final today

July 06, 2002|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England - To quiet the skeptics, they'll have to play a great final.

But to win Wimbledon's women's title today, Venus and Serena Williams may have to do something more difficult - grab something the other wants.

For the first time in their careers, there may actually be a genuine rivalry brewing between the sisters raised together to be champs.

Venus Williams is Wimbledon's two-time champion, but Serena Williams, in her first Wimbledon final, is desperate for the crown.

Venus is No. 1 in this week's women's tour computer rankings. Serena is No. 1 next week.

How the mixture of family love and tennis rivalry will play out today is anyone's guess as Venus and Serena Williams meet for the third time in the past four Grand Slam finals.

But the Williams sisters seem poised to give the tennis world what it wants - a great match.

There are still some in tennis who don't quite believe the sisters go all out when they play each another.

After losing in Thursday's semifinals to Serena Williams, Amelie Mauresmo of France was asked by French television which Williams sister would win in the final.

"I think that it's fixed," Mauresmo reportedly said. "I don't have any information. Nothing at all. Having seen the matches, it could be fixed."

In an earlier interview in English, Mauresmo, when asked who would win, said, "Well, you have to ask them for that."

The Williams sisters showed up for a news conference yesterday after winning a quarterfinal doubles match, but nobody asked them about the allegations that have often swirled whenever they play in a big match.

It was left to their mother, Oracene Williams, to swat away the issue.

"I think people think that way because maybe that's the way they would do it ... it's not the case here," she told TNT Sports.

She added that it's difficult for her daughters to play each other "because of the love they have for each other."

That love and togetherness comes through when they play doubles, joking one moment, slamming winners the next. It also came through during their brief meeting with the media yesterday, as they eagerly completed sentences for each other.

What are the biggest differences between the sisters?

"Serena gets a new car almost every year," Venus Williams said. "I've been sticking with my truck ... On the court maybe I like to play a little slower than what she does."

Serena Williams chimed in, "like as in bouncing the ball more?"

"Yeah," Venus said. "I think I walk a little slower. Nothing really speeds me up anymore."

"Hmm," Serena said, later adding that at last year's U.S. Open final, Venus "played pretty fast."

Venus Williams won that final. But Serena came back to win last month's French Open.

Wimbledon is a rubber match, of sorts. Overall, Venus Williams leads the series, 5-3.

Venus Williams has said the biggest difference when she plays her sister, as opposed to another opponent, is that while she wants to win for herself, she also wants the best for her sister.

But Serena Williams said playing her sister doesn't affect the quality of play.

"I go out there wanting every point," she said. "Doesn't matter who I'm playing. At the end of the match, if I win, I'll feel really bad."

"A win's a win," she added. "You have to go there and fight. I know Venus has beaten me a few times. She felt bad. Like when I beat her at the French Open I kind of felt like I wished there was something that she could have won, too. But we did. We both walked out as winners. We both should keep our heads up."

They're the best in the sport. And until the other women get stronger and play better, the Williams sisters are likely to dominate a string of Grand Slams.

Is it bad for women's tennis? Will the fans get bored?

"Perhaps," Venus Williams said. "Perhaps."

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