Williams to face Williams
By Howard Fendrich
WIMBLEDON, England ó A spot in her seventh Wimbledon final already secured, Venus Williams headed back to Centre Court to catch the end of the next match.
Scouting? Not really. More like rooting. And when Thursdayís second semifinal ended, Williams stood, smiling and applauding for the woman who won, the woman she will have to beat to earn a fifth championship at the All England Club: her younger sister, Serena.
The most unusual and, at times, uncomfortable rivalry in tennis is once more in the spotlight at the pinnacle of the sport: Venus will play Serena in their third all-in-the-family Wimbledon final Saturday.
Itís their seventh Grand Slam title match ó Serena holds a 5-1 edge ó but first final at any tournament since 2003.
iOur main focus is obviously both of us getting to the final,î Venus said. iThen, from there, itís every Williams for themself.î
While there are, of course, differences in personality (Venus calls herself a nerd; Serena is more extroverted) and game (Venusí serve is faster, for example, and Serenaís return is considered better), the siblingsí paths to what will be their 16th head-to-head matchup were remarkably similar.
Neither has lost a set in the tournament, and Venus won her semifinal 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) over fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva before Serena hit 14 aces in a 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) victory over 133rd-ranked Zheng Jie. Coincidentally, each Williams won 80 of the 141 points in her match.
How unsurprising were Thursdayís results? Consider this: The sisters are now a combined 100-13 at Wimbledon for their careers; Dementieva and Zheng are a combined 29-13.
iWeíve both been working extremely hard,î said Serena, who holds an 8-7 career edge over Venus. iItís just coming together.î
Both have been ranked No. 1, but a combination of injuries and inactivity contributed to Venus being No. 7 now and Serena No. 6. All of the top four-seeded women were gone by the quarterfinals, the first time thatís ever happened at Wimbledon, and that cleared the way a bit for the sisters.
Back on May 30, when the city was Paris and the surface clay, first Serena, then Venus, lost in the third round at the French Open.
A little more than a month later, defending champion Venus, 28, will be going for her fifth title at Wimbledon and her seventh major overall; Serena, 26, will be going for her third title at Wimbledon and her ninth major overall.
Theyíve combined for 11 finals appearances since 2000 at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament, including when Serena beat Venus for the 2002 and 2003 titles.
iTheyíre both going to show up, and they both want it,î said David Witt, Venusí hitting partner, who also has worked with Serena. iSo itís special.î
One interested party who wonít be there Saturday: Richard Williams, the architect of the greatest one-family dynasty in tennis history.
The father and coach who decided to teach his daughters how to swing rackets in Compton, Calif., hates seeing them slug it out against each other. So heís flying home to the United States. Wonít even follow the match on TV.
iI canít stand to watch them play,î he said between puffs of a victory cigarillo once the semifinals were over. iI can never do that. It makes me nervous.î
The all-Williams matchups havenít always brought out their best play ó although Serena pointedly objected to that assessment Thursday.
After Dementieva ended her loss to Venus with five consecutive groundstroke errors, she was asked about the final and said she couldnít imagine facing a sibling, adding, iFor sure itís going to be a family decision.î
That was interpreted by some as a comment similar to what Dementieva said in 2001 following a loss to Venus in the quarterfinals of a tournament at Indian Wells, Calif., setting up a Williams-Williams semifinal. Asked to predict the outcome, Dementieva said then: iI donít know what Richard thinks about it. I think he will decide whoís going to win.î
Dementievaís comment Thursday was relayed by a reporter to Venus, who said: iAny mention of that is extremely disrespectful for who I am, what I stand for, and my family.î
Later, Dementieva issued a statement through the WTA saying English is not her first language and clarifying her comments: iWhat I meant was it is a unique situation for a family to be in, to be playing for a Grand Slam title.î
That it is. The only other sisters to play each other in a major final were Maud and Lillian Watson, who met to decide the very first Wimbledon championship ó all the way back in 1884.
iI personally want everything that Venus has,î Serena said. iWeíre good at this now. We just leave everything on the court. This is the finals of Wimbledon. Who doesnít want it?î
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