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CNN/SI: Suddenly Serena
Younger sister takes Wimbledon title

Posted: Saturday July 06, 2002 10:39 AM
Updated: Sunday July 07, 2002 12:16 AM

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- The balance of power in the Williams household has shifted. It's Serena who's in command now.

Serena beat older sister Venus in straight sets for the Wimbledon title Saturday in the best of their all-in-the-family Grand Slam finals so far.

In a match featuring ferocious hitting by both players, Serena outslugged Venus 7-6 (4), 6-3 for her first Wimbledon championship and third major title.

It was the third all-Williams Grand Slam final in 10 months, with Serena winning her second in a row.

Serena has now won three straight matches against Venus, who still holds a 5-4 career edge. Serena had already been assured of supplanting Venus at No. 1 in the new rankings to be released Monday.

"I wanted to win so bad," Serena said. "I kept thinking to myself, `OK, Serena just stay calm.' She already has two Wimbledons. Try to fight.' "

The first set featured the highest quality play in any recent match between the sisters. The second set, though, was less compelling as Venus' game sagged.

The 22-year-old Venus had won Wimbledon the last two years and was bidding to become the first woman to take three in a row since Steffi Graf in 1991-93.

But she was thoroughly outplayed by 20-year-old Serena, who followed up her win at the French Open last month with one of the hardest-hitting displays by a woman on Centre Court.

"It was either now or never because I was playing the two-time Wimbledon champion," Serena said. "It's hard to beat Venus here. She just wouldn't stop running balls down."

The sisters have now won seven of the past 12 Grand Slam events and look set to continue their domination of women's tennis.

"It's definitely a different feeling from playing some other players," Venus said. "Serena is my sister and I'm really happy she won, especially for her first time. I would have loved to have won, but at the same time, I'm so happy for her."

About two hours after the match, the Williams sisters returned to Centre Court and paired up in doubles to beat Anna Kournikova and Chanda Rubin 6-7 (3), 6-0, 6-3 in the semifinals.

In Sunday's final, they'll face French Open champions Paola Suarez and Virginia Ruano Pascal. The Williams sisters won the Wimbledon doubles title in 2000.

Serena, who went through the tournament without dropping a set, has a 19-match winning streak and is the first woman to win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back since Steffi Graf in 1996.

"In the beginning of this year, I said, `I don't care what happens this year, I want to win Wimbledon," Serena said. "And it was extra bonus for me to win the French. But I just wanted Wimbledon. I wanted to become a member of so much prestige, so much history. I want to be a part of history."

Serena dominated the 1 hour, 18 minute-match with blistering groundstrokes off both flanks and big serves. She had Venus running from side to side and playing defensive shots to stay in the points.

Serena finished with 20 winners, six more than Venus. Serena had 22 unforced errors, while Venus had 25.

"I think I played well, and high percentage tennis," Venus said. "She was just pressing and hitting a lot of forceful shots."

The match began with Serena making four errors in the first game, but both players quickly raised their level and played attacking, aggressive baseline tennis, going for the lines and corners.

The pair exchanged breaks in the third and fourth games, then Serena went up a break at 3-2 and served for the set at 5-4. But Venus broke back for 5-5, with Serena bouncing her racket in frustration after netting a backhand.

The two held serve at love to set up the tiebreaker. Serena took command by winning the eighth point to go up 5-3. She raced up to retrieve a drop shot by Venus and whipped a backhand passing shot, celebrating with a fist pump.

Serena missed her first set point at 6-3 with a backhand error, but smacked a 100 mph ace on the second to wrap up the set in 44 minutes - longer than some of the matches the sisters played this tournament.

Venus faded in the second set. Nursing a sore right shoulder, she was unable to get as much speed and power on her serves - her first serves averaged 100 mph and her second serves just 80 mph.

Serena noticed Venus' serving problems and seized her chances.

"It's a war out there," she said. "If there's a weakness, you have to attack."

Serena broke for 4-2 with help from Venus' fifth double fault. Venus broke back for 4-3, but the match turned for good when Venus served her sixth double fault - a 67 mph duck which was wide by six inches - on break point to go down 5-3.

With match point at 5-3, 40-love, Serena bent over and took a deep breath before serving.

"I was thinking, `Always think on the bright side,' " she said. "Just have to stay calm."

When Venus hit a forehand return into the net, Serena dropped her racket, looked around and went to meet her sister at the net. The two embraced and Venus affectionately put her right arm around Serena's shoulders.

But Serena's celebrations were relatively subdued, even when she accepted the winner's plate -- the Venus Rosewater Dish -- from Princess Alexandra.

For only the second time in 25 years, the Duchess of Kent was not at Wimbledon to hand the plate to the singles champion. Officials for the duchess said she had a "private family engagement."

Serena won $739,000, while Venus collected $370,000.

Their first all-Williams Grand Slam final was at September's U.S. Open on hard courts, when Venus won 6-2, 6-4. The next came last month at the French Open on clay, when Serena won 7-5, 6-3.

Sister Slam III was also the first all-sibling Wimbledon final since the very first tournament in 1884, when Maud Watson beat her older sister, Lillian.

While the Williams sisters were playing on Centre Court, Argentina's David Nalbandian completed a five-set win over Belgium's Xavier Malisse on Court 1 to advance to the men's final against Lleyton Hewitt.

They had split the first two sets Saturday before the match was suspended by rain and darkness. Nalbandian won 7-6 (2), 6-4, 1-6, 2-6, 6-2.

Nalbandian is the first South American man to reach the Wimbledon final since Peru's Alex Olmedo won the title in 1959. He's also the first player in the Open era to make the final in his Wimbledon debut.

Nalbandian will be a huge underdog in Sunday's final against the top-seeded Hewitt, who beat Tim Henman 7-5, 6-1, 7-5 Friday. Wins Ferocious Battle With Venus to Take Wimbledon


WIMBLEDON, England, July 6 — Serena Williams would punch a forehand into the deepest corner of the court, at angled degrees of difficulty that defied the condor wingspan of her older sister Venus.

At times, she would throw a fist, growl or scream to punctuate her winner. At times, Venus would wince, drop her head or coax herself to try harder with an audible "Come on!"

Unveiling their emotions, playing with the ferocity normally reserved only for others, Venus and Serena discarded their sibling code of conduct during today's Wimbledon final.

They played each other, no mental baggage attached. Once Serena tucked away her first Wimbledon title, 7-6 (4), 6-3, throwing down a 103-mile-an-hour serve that was too twisting for Venus to return, they greeted each other at the net like ordinary rivals.

A pat on the back, a kind word, and then Serena was off, waving toward the crowd with a smile as wide as the English Channel, finishing off a day when two African-Americans played in a Wimbledon final for the first time.

A few minutes later, they were back to being sisters. As Venus held her right shoulder, Serena asked, "Are you all right?" As Venus offered hints on the curtsy required in the postmatch ceremony, Serena picked an eyelash off her big sister's face.

Venus was happy for her little sister, but not the way she was at the French Open, which was won by Serena last month, when Venus snapped pictures with the photographers. Much more subdued, almost moribund, Venus may have been coming to grips with the fact that, at this moment, her little sister is the more dangerous of the two. In one week, Serena had taken Venus's perch at No. 1 and ended her streak of 20 straight match victories (including two titles) at the All England Club. In one week, it was as if Serena had plundered her big sister's closet for everything she owned.

"It's great to see Serena doing well, because for a while there she wasn't doing her best," Venus said, forcing a smile. "I didn't think she was doing the best that she could do. Now, I think she has to feel better that she's taken full advantage of her career."

Venus is no longer the only sister serious about tennis. Putting aside the crowded social calendar that distracted her, Serena rededicated herself to the game this spring, living up to her father's prediction that she would be the better of the sisters.

"I'm not going to say that I don't feel I'm — well, I think really, if I missed a shot in that match, things really could have swung either way," Serena said, launching into sisterly diplomacy. "She would have been sitting here as the champion. I just think we're so close right now."

Today, the difference was in the force of serve, the timing of unforced errors and the unrelenting approach of Serena. She demolished the uncharacteristically mild-mannered serves by Venus. Perhaps bothered by a sore shoulder, Venus connected on a high percentage of first serves (70), but at low wattage, averaging 100 miles an hour. Usually, it is a few notches hotter, with a little better placement. She had just one ace all day.

Serena had four aces, including one that had a wicked kick on set point in the tie breaker. Umpire Jane Harvey called a let on the serve, but neither Venus nor Serena acknowledged it. In fact, neither heard the call. In an illogical move, Harvey allowed both of them to sit down on the changeover without asking them to replay the point.

"Thank God I didn't hear it, because that's just my luck: unbelievable serve to be called let," said Serena, who did not even know about the call until Martina Navratilova told her after the match.

Serena and Venus moved on to the second set, having completed a stretch of tennis against each other that topped any of their previous meetings.

Almost every point was packed with a combination of powerful rips and uncanny precision, leaving the crowd feeling as if it were witnessing skeet shooters. By the end of the match, Serena had 20 winners to 22 unforced errors, while Venus's numbers were 14 and 25.

These numbers meant progress. In the past, their combined errors soared into the triple digits. This time, Venus and Serena gave a glimpse of the kind of match they can manufacture when both are on at the same time.

Suddenly, the excuse for disliking the matchups between the sisters — with their opponents often referring to their poor play against each other — was erased. If there is an anti-Williams sentiment, it has to be personal, not professional.

"You know, people are never satisfied and that's just the truth," Serena said. "You have to be satisfied with you and who you are. Venus and I have learned that we're satisfied and we're happy with us. We don't have any problem with anyone because you have to be happy with the person inside. When you're a little bitter and a little angry, then you're going to become resentful. Instead of becoming resentful, you should go do something about it."

Their opponents may be brooding, but the crowd was into a match that had tense moments greeted by great shots.

To seize the first minibreak of the tie breaker, Serena stood behind the baseline and wrapped every ounce of her muscle around a forehand that cut across the court for a winner. Venus was stunned. The crowd roared.

The fans may not have known which sister to cheer for, but they could appreciate seeing two women supply a simultaneous force never before witnessed at a major final.

"Honestly, I wanted to win so bad," said Serena, who has three majors to Venus's four. "I kept thinking to myself: `O.K., Serena, just stay calm. Venus already has two Wimbledons. Try to fight.' "

Her fearlessness came on cue, without the nerves that have haunted her in the past. In the second set, she broke Venus's serve to go up, 4-2, but came undone in the next game, giving the break right back.

Instead of getting down on herself, or letting one unsteady moment lead to the next, Serena pooled her confidence. In the eighth game of the second set, she gobbled up a short ball by Venus, whipping it down the line for a winner. Through the entire game, she put pressure on her sister by making her run side to side. Venus was showing signs of fatigue by the end. On break point in that game, she overhit a second serve for a double fault.

Still, Serena had to look across the net, forget whom she was playing and try to serve out the match. At 40-love, Serena let go of a twisting serve that Venus could not handle on match point.

"What really helped me was thinking to myself: `In 20 years from now, am I going to regret missing this serve? Am I going to regret doing this?' " Serena said, wanting to take the pressure off her final serve. "So that really helped me calm down. I just wanted to breathe."

Once the match was hers, Serena arched her back with joy, took a second to drink in the applause and walked to the net to meet her subdued big sister. They put blood aside, something few ever thought they could do. The proof was not just in the quality of the match, but in the attack mode Serena was in. Like everyone, Serena noticed her sister's shoulder was sore, but that was no cause to let up. After all, she would never do that against anyone else. "Obviously, I'm a competitor," Serena said. "Unfortunately, it's a war out here. If there's a weakness, someone's going to have to be attacked."

SERENA WILLIAMS and VENUS WILLIAMS defeated ANNA KOURNIKOVA and CHANDA RUBIN, 6-7 (3), 6-0, 6-3, to advance to the women's doubles final on Sunday against VIRGINIA RUANO PASCUAL and PAOLA SUÁREZ.

Five athletes who dominate their game
by Bill Lyon for Knight Ridder Newspapers

PHILADELPHIA _ On the scarred lawns of Wimbledon, the Sisters Williams pound 113-m.p.h. rockets and reinforce their status as the No. 1 and No. 1-A female tennis players in the world.

The others wilt before them.

On the plains of Europe, past meadows and fields of flowers, in the looming shadows of great mountains, Lance Armstrong, a human metronome, pedals with beguiling and deceptive power, tuning himself for yet another Tour de France championship.

The others wilt before him.

On the rumpled sheets of his sickbed, Tiger Woods waits for the bellyache to subside so he can fly the pond and go for the British Open championship, which would be the third leg of the Grand Slam.

The others wilt before him.

On the streets of Los Angeles, Shaquille O'Neal tools around in his vehicle du jour, resting before launching a run at a fourth consecutive NBA championship, a run that has been bettered only once.

The others wilt before him.

What we have here are the ingredients for another Golden Age of Sport. Venus and Serena Williams ... Lance Armstrong ... Tiger Woods ... Shaquille O'Neal. They are all dominant, and not just physically. They have their competition psychologically paralyzed. Much of the time, they have won even before the action has started.

They have the chance, all of them, before they are done, to become the best there ever has been. They are either young, or just entering their physical prime, or both.

And as a consequence, these are days that, years from now, we may look back on as a seminal time in sports.

The Williamses methodically chew through the field. There are only four women left at Wimbledon, and they account for half the total. This on the heels of Serena vanquishing Venus in the French Open final.

Together, they have a chance, and it may not be as remote as it seems, of finishing 1-2 in all four Grand Slam tournaments some year. There is nothing anywhere near such a precedent.

They are big, sculpted, punishingly strong, stunningly athletic, and possessed of the eye of the tiger. They tend to dispose of their opponents in less time than it takes to get a sidewalk cafe table and order a leisurely meal from a snooty French waiter.

Armstrong is without peer.

He is not supposed to be alive, let alone going for a fourth straight Tour title. The cancer, he has maintained, is what, perversely, ironically, furnished him with the spirit, the resolve, that was needed for him to break through and progress from just another promising talent to a champion.

He has seemed to grow stronger with each passing year. The very stages that melt the rest of them, the mountain climbs and the high-altitude finishes, are where he flourishes.

And he has become a master of the mind game. He has reached that exalted level of ability in which he can pick and choose his strategy, and the rest have to react to him.

Woods is Merlin, casting spells, rendering the others helpless, hopeless.

Some freely admit to being intimidated by him, certainly when they have the misfortune to be paired with him. And others, while they may be reluctant to confess it, find themselves a niche of security, a comfort zone, and are content to play there. Collect the fat check that goes with finishing 12th and move on down the road.

It is not that they do not work at their game. But he, he is consumed with his game. Remember that, in the most daring sort of gamble, he tore apart and rebuilt his swing after he had won his first Masters because he realized it was not going to hold up. Most would have been content with a one-star career and a handsome checking account.

And, like Armstrong, Woods is separated by resoluteness that is beyond measurement.

Finally, there is Shaq, who has emerged at last and has become so good that the competition now is forced to depend upon imports. The Houston Rockets, realizing there is no one in the NBA to match up physically with him, have drafted a 7-foot-5 Chinese center.

In acquiring Yao Ming, the Rockets trotted out that coaching canard: "You can't teach height." No, you cannot. But sometimes you can't teach anything else as well, as the 76ers learned with Shawn Bradley and Manute Bol.

As long as O'Neal is permitted to bully his way inside, the Lakers are good for another one or two or three titles. This presumes that he will be convinced to shed some weight along the way. There are times when he is closer to 400 pounds than to 300, and inevitably his body will break down.

He seems to have defeated the Hack-a-Shaq strategy by markedly improving his free-throwing, at long last.

In sum, at the moment, the only one who seems capable of stopping Shaquille O'Neal is Shaquille O'Neal.

That applies, as well, to Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong and the Sisters Williams.

It is a position to be openly envied, and for which to devoutly wish.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
(c) 2002, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Serena, Venus meet in all-Williams Wimbledon final
By HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Tennis Writer Fri Jul 5, 7:45 AM ET

WIMBLEDON, England - The Williams sisters. Venus and Serena. Serena and Venus. And in the traditional parlance of the All England Club: Miss Williams vs. Miss Williams.

So often talked about as a tandem, a team, it's easy to forget that the players who will meet to decide the Wimbledon title Saturday are, indeed, individuals.

Sure, they practice together, have won a career Grand Slam in doubles together, live together, even steal toothpaste from each other (Venus complained, laughing, that Serena took a tube from her Paris hotel room during the French Open.

They are not carbon copies, of course.

Venus is older, more shy, with a better backhand. Serena is more muscular, a bigger talker in public, and moves more smoothly during a point.

"I can tell the difference between me and Venus on the courts," said Serena, who's 15 months younger than 22-year-old Venus. "I'm way more emotional. I pump my fists more. I scream a little more. It's just totally different."

The attention each would garner certainly is diminished by sharing the spotlight. The way both are playing right now, one gets the feeling that if there were one Williams, she would dominate the game as few have, racking up major title after major title.

As it is, after Saturday, a Williams will have won seven of the past 12 Grand Slam events.

One Williams probably would be on her way to doing to tennis what Tiger Woods has done to golf. Instead, they form a sort of sort of Tiger-times-two.

"We both love to win," Venus said. "I'm not used to losing. It doesn't happen that often. It's quite the same with her."

Unfortunately, when they're on opposite sides of a net, neither ever seems to play as well as they do against everyone else.

Still, both get better by the tournament, no matter the surface.

Their first all-in-the-family Grand Slam final was at September's U.S. Open on hard courts. The next came last month at the French Open on clay. Sister Slam III - the first all-sibling Wimbledon final since the very first tournament in 1884, when Maud Watson beat her older sister, Lillian - is on grass.

Serena now will move up to No. 1 in the rankings for the first time, no matter what happens Saturday. Venus will slide a spot to No. 2. They already were the first sisters at 1-2.

Their dominance never was more evident than in the Wimbledon semifinals Friday.

Out first on Centre Court, two-time defending champion Venus handled sixth-seeded Justine Henin 6-3, 6-2 in a rematch of the 2001 final. Serena followed by brushing aside No. 9 Amelie Mauresmo 6-2, 6-1. The two matches took a grand total of about two hours.

For whatever distinctions can be made between the siblings, it's far easier to notice the similarities.

Serves consistently topping 110 mph (178 kph). Unmatched court coverage, racing to shots that would be clean winners against just about anyone else. And those intimidating forehands and backhands.

It's as though any time they want, Venus or Serena can step into the ball and pound a winner to a corner that no one - save, perhaps, the other - could possibly get near, much less put a racket to, much less get back over the net with any gusto.

It really is as simple as that.

Venus "was too strong, too good," Henin said. "She didn't make a lot of mistakes. She didn't let me play. She was so aggressive, so powerful.

"What could I do?"

Given the pace and precision of the Williams' shots, it's almost unfair to talk about errors by their opponents. It sometimes seems that every mistake by someone on the other side of the net is a direct result of having to deal with the Slammin' Sisters point after point after point. It wears players out.

There are plenty of other similarities.

Both are perfectionists. Up a set and serving at 4-2 in the second against Henin, Venus put a backhand into the net. She rolled her eyes, let out an "Ugh!" and put her hands on her hips.

Both are persistent. Already leading her semifinal 3-1 in the second set, Serena stayed steady through a fifth game that featured eight deuces and seven wasted break points. She finally converted on the eighth when Mauresmo blinked first and missed a forehand.

Heading into the final, Venus has a 4-2 edge in major titles, and Serena wouldn't mind closing the gap.

She already has thought about doing a bit of redecorating at their home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

"I really want to win this tournament this year because Venus has won it two years in a row," Serena said. "To see those little plates in our little trophy area, I want one of those with my name on it."