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Serena, Venus Unbeatable for Others

Posted at, written By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS June 9, 2002

Filed at 12:04 p.m. ET
PARIS (AP) -- Against anyone else, on any surface, Serena and Venus Williams are just about unbeatable, boasting an unequaled blend of power and mobility. Against each other, they become almost ordinary.

Still, there's nothing the Slammin' Sisters would like better than to keep on settling major titles among themselves, rolling through opposite sides of the draw until there's no one left to beat in the final but each other.

That's been that case at two of the past three Grand Slam tournaments, with Serena getting the best of her Big Sister at the French Open, beating her 7-5, 6-3 Saturday for the championship -- nine months after Venus came out on top at the U.S. Open.

``When you're a top player, you just do everything a little bit better than the next player: You serve better, you move better, you fight better, just those kinds of things,'' Venus said. ``Serena does it better than the next player.''

In Monday's new rankings, Venus will be No. 1, and Serena No. 2, the first siblings to sit 1-2. That means they will be seeded Nos. 1 and 2 at tournaments, potentially setting up more finals, including at their next event: Wimbledon. They share the tour lead with four titles apiece in 2002, and their combined career earnings now top $17 million.

``It's better that I won against Venus,'' Serena said Saturday, ``because at least we both took home the maximum amount of money and (ranking) points.'' A telling stat: Venus is 0-2 against Serena this year, 35-3 against everybody else. In the French Open, Venus didn't lose a set through her first six matches, dropping a total of only 29 games.

Then she had to deal with Serena, who eliminated defending champion Jennifer Capriati in the semifinals and has won the last two sibling showdowns to improve to 3-5 against Venus.

Just as in September's U.S. Open final and most of their previous seven meetings, Team Williams didn't display its top tennis in the final at Roland Garros. They combined for 101 unforced errors, 14 double faults and 13 breaks of service. Four games ended with double faults.

It could be a result of facing a top player, or of playing someone who knows the other's game oh-so-well -- they practiced together on Center Court just a few hours before competing there -- or it could stem from the difficulty of trying to be dominant against a sibling.

``I was thinking when I was out there, 'Gosh, my Dad would be very upset at the way we're both playing right now,''' Serena said. ``I was not mentally focused enough.''

They turned their backs between points and stared at the clay while heading to changeovers. There were none of the smiles they share during training sessions or when one is watching from the player's guest box as the other plays an early round match.

And yet, when they hugged at the net after one last error ended the final, they easily dropped their stiff-faced veneers, like someone who takes off a sweater when the sun comes out from behind clouds.

When Serena hoisted her trophy, Venus grabbed their mother's camera and mixed in among the scrum of photographers to shoot some pictures for the family album.

It was a markedly different reaction from the other time Serena won a major title -- the family's first, at the 1999 U.S. Open. Venus watched that match next to her parents with a forlorn look on her face that said, ``Why couldn't that be me?'' Clearly, the sisters are maturing off the court as quickly as they are on it. ``They've handled everything that's come their way so beautifully,'' said Chris Evert, owner of 18 Grand Slam tournament titles and now an NBC analyst.

With serves that regularly top 105 mph, laserlike strokes off both wings, rapidly developing net games, and an uncanny ability to run down opponents' apparent winners, the sisters are changing the way women's tennis is played. And the past two weeks have rendered silly the thought that clay's slowness would thwart them.

Venus won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open each of the past two years, meaning a Williams has captured six of the past 11 majors.

``Hopefully, we can build a rivalry and we'll be able to do this a lot,'' said 20-year-old Serena, 15 months younger than Venus. ``Make a legacy, then retire champions.''

They're well on their way.

Notes: Serena is the first black woman to win the French Open since Althea Gibson in 1956. ... Venus and Serena were a combined 31-4 on clay this year. ... Neither plans to enter a tournament until Wimbledon.

Williams Sisters Get Better Reviews

Originally posted at, Written by SELENA ROBERTS

PARIS, June 9 — They arrived on the scene a few years ago as a thousand-volt jolt to a genteel sport, defying the social status quo of tennis with the daring of whistle-blowers.

Venus and Serena Williams spoke in unvarnished terms: We're beautiful, proud and intelligent; and, by the way, we're going to be No. 1 someday.

Their audacity went down like a sourball. But over time, the response to the Williams sisters has progressed, along with their growth into two of the more gracious players on the WTA Tour.

"At the beginning it was a little bit difficult because there was always someone saying, `They're this and they're that,' " Venus said in an interview on Saturday, after losing to Serena in the French Open women's final. "It was hard. I don't even try to counteract what the next person says because it's not possible. There were a lot of people out there formulating opinions without actually knowing Serena and I."

With knowledge comes understanding, which has led to a flip-flop of sorts in tennis. The more Jennifer Capriati stands in the light, the less flattering the image. For a while, she was the darling of tennis, the princess of a storybook revival, but her increasing bouts of petulance and pettiness have undermined some of the good will.

This reversal of sentiment was illuminated during the French Open. However abysmal the match, however unsightly Venus's play, the sisters endeared themselves to the crowd during the trophy presentation by delivering their speeches in French.

Two days earlier, Serena stood on the court and applauded Capriati as the defeated defending champion left the court after their match. A half-hour later, Capriati, only a month removed from a Fed Cup fiasco that featured a profane outburst directed at Billie Jean King, the team's captain, belittled Venus and Serena's ascent to No. 1 and No. 2 in the world.

Neither Venus nor Serena lashed back. It is easier to choose the high road when you are winning, but at least the maturing of Venus and Serena — and that of their audience — has passed the awkward stage.

They can still be moody, with attention spans the length of a matchstick, but they have offered enough of themselves to change some opinions. "In the beginning, I was very confident in myself; I'd say, `Yes, of course I can be No. 1, and I think I'll be the best,' " Venus said. "I think people looked at that as conceited or bigheaded, but I think it's O.K. to believe in yourself."

There is a fine line between confidence and conceit. With Venus and Serena, the lines were blurred at first. Two years ago, after attending the Wimbledon ball, Serena said of herself, "I passed a mirror, and I was like, `Whoa.' " Venus had this self-critique: "I was stunning."

Some cringed at their boldness. Now, the lesson learned is, it is not what they say, but how they say it. Most of the time, Venus and Serena are only trying to amuse themselves, along with anyone else listening.

That is not to say they do not find themselves fetching. Their self-esteem is one of their similarities. Otherwise, they are very different. Venus is the investor; Serena is the free spender. Venus is the reclusive homebody; Serena has been linked to male star athletes.

"We have different hearts; we have a different set of legs," Serena said. "I used to think I was Venus, I think. I used to do everything she did. I thought I liked the things she liked. Then, I realized, I don't like tomatoes; I don't like mushrooms."

When the differences between the sisters become clearer, it may inject a little life into their matchups. On Saturday, the French Open crowd did not know whom to root for, politely applauding, not wanting to pull for one sister over the other. The spectators were muted in a match that lacked atmosphere.

"I think if they see us as different, they won't yell out, `Go Williams,' so much," Serena said. "When we first played, it was `Go Williams.' Now, it's like I hear more people yelling for Venus and for me, too. I think people could relate to whichever personality fits them best and what game they like more.

"It's always good to have that atmosphere, where people cheer for one person. It's great for the game."

Even as spectators come to know them, not even their fans want to see them play each other. In that strained setting, they have rarely produced great tennis. The French Open was no exception.

How could Venus be so out of sync? Unsteady the whole match, she could not get her ominous weapons in gear. She never approached her normal 120-mile-an-hour cruising speed on serve. She had no aces. Even when she turned down the velocity, she made only 52 percent of first serves. And on her best stroke, her backhand, Venus did not hit a single winner.

Even to some tennis officials, it appeared as if Venus was subconsciously flubbing, knowing she had won four majors while Serena had not taken a major back to their Florida home since the 1999 United States Open. In the back of Venus's mind, maybe the big sister was feeling sympathy for the little one. Without directly addressing it, Venus revealed the state of her psyche after the match.

"I've gone all the way a couple of times," said Venus, who won the United States Open title last year with Serena across the net. "I always want Serena to do better and to win those titles because she really needs it."

Women's tennis needs better matches between them. As the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world, they are assured to be on the opposite side of the draws for the majors. V. Williams vs. S. Williams could become commonplace in the finals. But as likable as they have become, as individual as they are, the curiosity surrounding an all-sister final is bound to wear off soon, especially if the error-strewn contests continue. But now that each sister has won a major against the other, maybe they will be able to let loose when they meet in the future, just as they do against the Capriatis of the world.

"We're No. 1 and No. 2," Venus said. "It doesn't get much better than this." Venus and Serena knew it all along. They said so. But what was once bravado has become the truth. Two sisters who were once outcasts have settled into a world where they belong.

Little sister comes up big

Serena knocks off Venus 7-5, 6-3 in all-Williams French Open final

Originally posted at The Miami Herald BY JUAN C. RODRIGUEZ Posted on Sun, Jun. 09, 2002

PARIS - The expressions were indistinguishable. Serena Williams' face contorted into a brink-of-tears look after the last ball flew into the net in Saturday's French Open final. It was the same face older sister Venus saw after beating her in the 2000 Wimbledon semis.
This time, Venus did not meet Serena at the net ready to console. This eighth career postmatch embrace said, ''I love you'' like all the others. It also delivered one other message: Congratulations.

Almost three years since unexpectedly winning her first major at the U.S. Open, Serena Williams added a sixth Grand Slam title to the family collection. The third-seeded Williams defeated No. 2 Venus 7-5, 6-3 in another less-than-stirring all-Williams encounter. ''It's better that I won against Venus,'' said Serena, who has climbed to a career-high No. 2 in the rankings behind Venus. ``At least we both took home the maximum amount of money and [ranking] points.''

The Court Philippe Chatrier spectators received standard fare in the way of a disjointed match. Unforced errors aplenty, short points and an uncharacteristically inept serving day for Venus seemed to sedate the capacity crowd. Billowing cigarette smoke at times was the lone indicator of life.

What ensued afterward made the 91-minute match palatable. If not the longest rally at 15 strokes, the match-point exchange was probably among the most entertaining of the match.

It ended with Venus hitting a backhand into the net, sending Serena's racket falling to red clay as her arms rose toward the mid-afternoon Parisian sky.

A stage was assembled for the awards presentation and while Serena received the Suzanne Lenglen Cup and check for 760,500 euros (about $707,250), Venus scurried to the players' box and got mother Oracene's 35-millimeter camera.

Serena was in stitches as Venus made her way through the gathered mass of photographers to take pictures of her younger sister. After snapping the first shot, Venus required some instruction from a fellow photographer to work the apparatus.

''You have to wind it and turn it and focus it,'' Venus said, of her mother's manual camera. ``I just got the hang of it after a couple of seconds. . . . I always regret that I never bring my camera at the right moments.''

Saturday brought a moment Serena had long been waiting for. Appearing in her third career Grand Slam final, she had not stayed healthy or focused enough to win another major since the 1999 U.S. Open.

Serena played for the 2001 U.S. Open crown against Venus, but lost in straight sets.

''I think she wanted it a little more,'' Oracene said. ``[I could tell] all week, when we were on the plane coming. [Serena said], `I'm not leaving for two weeks.'

``She let go of some of those extracurricular activities. She was really having a good time. She stopped that and started practicing more. I don't think [Venus winning] bothered her that much. She was doing her own thing for a while, having fun, being who she was. I knew it would play its course out.''

Venus was vying for a fifth Grand Slam title. It became apparent early on she would have trouble winning it. In the first set, Venus was broken four times and committed six double faults.

The following set didn't improve for Venus, who tossed in another three double faults, including two on break points. Serena had 19 break chances for the match and converted her eighth on her first match point.

'I was just thinking, `Keep the ball in play, don't miss, move it, move it,' '' Serena said. ``All I remember is hitting a backhand cross-court. I don't remember anything else.

'I would have been happy if Venus had five [Slams], but I just would have been even more determined at Wimbledon. . . . I was playing a lot of matches, and my legs the other day [in the semifinals] were giving out. I blew a wheel. I was getting tired, but I kept thinking, `OK, Serena, which do you want? Five and one or four and two?' That kept me motivated to keep running.''

As poorly as she played, Venus actually served for the first set at 5-3. She spotted Serena a 0-40 lead and hit a backhand long on the second break chance as Serena began a run of seven straight games.

''I tried not to make any errors,'' said Serena, who along with Venus combined for 101 unforced errors. ``I tried so hard that I wouldn't move up to the ball, and it actually made me make a few more. There were a lot of long games in there and double faults.

``Hopefully we can build a rivalry that we'll be able to do this a lot, just make a legacy, then retire [as] champions.''

Venus and Serena: The Best is Yet to Come

From By David Polmer, Special to

Posted June 10, 2002 -- When Venus and Serena Williams were banging tennis balls on the courts of Compton, Calif., as little girls, their father, Richard Williams, told whoever would listen that one day his girls would be ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world.

What once seemed like a preposterous claim has become reality. Despite losing the French Open final to little sister Serena on Saturday, Venus is the new women's No. 1 followed by Serena at No. 2. It is the first time sisters have been the top two players in the world, and it is the first time two African-American women have held the top two spots.

The women's tour has changed significantly over the past decade. Today's women possess greater strength and agility than their predecessors. The Williams sisters combine not just those two elements, but also speed, power and quickness.

Venus, one week shy of her 22nd birthday, smacks 115-mph serves down the center of the service line, slaps groundstroke winners from any angle on the court and, thanks to her long legs, chases down just about every ball that crosses the net. Serena, 20, uses her athleticism and strength to punish her opponents. She delivers the ball with more pace and covers more of the court than anyone.

Venus and Serena are single-handedly reshaping the game of women's tennis.

The Williams' superb physical abilities have forced their opponents to improve their strength and conditioning and to rethink their strategic game plan when facing these two. Neither the conventional method of trading groundstrokes, nor an attacking, overly aggressive approach is likely to produce a victory, as both Venus and Serena will pick their opponents apart with precise passing shots if needed.

But even more impressive than their physical talent, their current rankings, or their father's prediction coming to fruition is the confidence and maturity that these two women exude.

Since the moment they turned pro, the Williams sisters have faced adversity. Critics have questioned everything from the way in which Richard Williams has raised his daughters to Venus and Serena's commitment to the sport (as they choose to play much fewer tournaments than the average player) to their effort against one another, or lack there of, when the two face each other.

But the adversity has never shaken them. If anything, it's given Venus and Serena an opportunity to show their true selves. Take, for example, Serena's response to a question posed to her recently about why she didn't attend this year's tournament at Indian Wells where last year fans booed her throughout one of her matches. Instead of using the opportunity to explain how hurt and saddened she felt, she answered the question with grace:

"I'm a performer. If I was doing a concert, I would go places where they would enjoy to watch and see me perform. If they are not liking it, I don't want to put any pressure on anyone to see me. So I just like to go places that people enjoy watching me, simple as that."

The Williams sisters have reached heights that, at one time, few could have imagined. After watching these two develop as tennis players and as women these last few years, the question was never if these two would reach the top of their sport, but when would they reach the top. The question now is how long will they remain there.

Venus and Serena Williams' career accomplishments thus far -- 40 singles titles, six Grand Slam titles and the No. 1 and No. 2 rankings, respectively -- have been astounding. What's even more astounding is that they are not even close to the pinnacle of their careers. For Venus and Serena, the best has yet to come.

Venus, Serena prove Dad was right all along

From Miami Herald COMMENTARY by Dan Le Batard June 11,2002

Dad didn't attend the historic match.

Didn't watch it on TV.

Didn't follow it by radio or Internet.

His daughters were dabbling in something unprecedented. Not just something unprecedented in their sport. Something rather unprecedented in all of American sports.

That's all.

But Richard Williams wasn't much interested in the history, or the result. Either way, one of his girls, Venus or Serena, was going to be a champion. Again. Ho-hum. So, in that way, that clay in France wasn't really all that different than the asphalt backyard where the girls used to play in Compton. More glamorous? Sure. More interesting? Not really. Richard has never watched every time his girls play each other, not in Compton and not now.

So on Saturday, he received his French Open updates by accident, while pumping gas or running errands and having excited strangers recognize him and approach with scores. While his daughters were fighting over a major, Dad was busy in New Orleans, talking to the police chief about youth programs.

''You hope for this; you plan for it,'' Richard says from his home in Palm Beach Gardens. ``But, when it happens, it scares the hell out of you.''

He laughs here, the laugh of contentment, the laugh of a man who is right, and has been all along. He told us this would happen, back when we were brushing him off as another delusional Tennis Dad. But now his girls are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, the first time siblings have climbed that high together. The Williams family has turned women's tennis into its personal playpen.

There is no shortage of remarkable relatives in sports, chief among them the six Sutter brothers who emerged from the same 800 square-foot Alberta house to play five NHL seasons together, but this is something else entirely. You can go through Joe and Dom DiMaggio, through a bunch of Niekros and Forsches and Boones, through Walter and Eddie Payton in football and Dominique and Gerald Wilkins or Dick and Tom VanArsdale in basketball, without ever finding this kind of sports dominance among siblings.

This isn't half-brothers Livan and ''El Duque'' merely overcoming odds to reach the major leagues together; this is them pitching against each other in the World Series after just having won both Cy Young Awards.

Only lacrosse champions Gary and Paul Gait approach the Williams sisters for sibling success, but that doesn't really count because, well, um, its lacrosse. The money and attention in tennis lures a vastly wider pool of talent than lacrosse, world-wider.

Nobody has overcome more staggering odds than Venus and Serena. They've grown up in America's living room, so we're sort of numb to their implausible success by now. But chances are better of you winning the lottery two weeks in a row and then being hit by a meteor than they are of the two best women tennis players in the world emerging from the same family.

Richard is supposed to be insane, certifiably. But he apparently knows some things we don't, which is the beauty of teetering between lunacy and genius. His girls are not only champions but also smart, well-adjusted, loving and normal, the latter of which is no small accomplishment in a tennis world that tends to devour its young.

Venus and Serena have had the kind of famous childhood that sends the likes of Drew Barrymore to rehab at 13. But they haven't merely survived it; they've flourished, and in a way siblings never have. They are taking college classes by mail and computer, and their father, done with the hardest part of his job now, figures tennis excellence will bore them soon enough.

''I'm getting out of the way,'' he says. ``I've been trying to step back for a long time. I've been telling Venus and Serena the last three years that I don't know if I want to go back out there anymore. It's time for Venus and Serena to go on their own. It wouldn't surprise me if Venus got out of tennis in three years or sooner. I don't think Venus and Serena are going to be at this tennis thing long at all.''

Doubt him at your own risk.

Because his résumé makes him sound a lot more like a prophet than a lunatic.