Venus takes Wimbledon family feud

Posted: Friday, July 07, 2000

WIMBLEDON, England -- Advantage, big sister.

Venus Williams won the battle for family supremacy Thursday, beating kid sister Serena 6-2, 7-6 (3) to reach her first Wimbledon final.

Williams will face defending champion Lindsay Davenport in Saturday's all-American championship match. Davenport swept unseeded 17-year-old Jelena Dokic of Australia 6-4, 6-2 in just 51 minutes.

It will be the first women's final between two Americans since 1990, when Martina Navratilova beat Zina Garrison for her record-breaking ninth singles title.

The Williams vs. Williams encounter was one of the most eagerly anticipated Wimbledon matches in recent years, and the first time since 1884 that two sisters had played each other so late in a Grand Slam tournament.

But it failed to live up to expectations, turning into a straight-sets affair dominated by errors rather than spectacular winners. It even led to questions about a possible family plan to make sure Venus won, an idea quickly denied by the winner and her father-coach.

The fifth-seeded Venus appeared much less tentative than No. 8 Serena, who made repeated mistakes off her forehand, lost the last six points of the tiebreaker and finished the match with her sixth double fault. She cried on the sideline.

After Serena plunked her second serve into the net on match point, Venus showed no sign of happiness. With a glum expression on her face, she walked slowly to the net, shook hands with Serena, then put her right arm around her sister's shoulder.

As the sisters walked off court, Venus gave a brief wave to the crowd. They left without doing the traditional curtsy to the Royal Box.

The 18-year-old Serena was in tears after she shook the chair umpire's hand. It was her fourth loss in five matches to her 20-year-old sister.

''It's not really so much fun,'' Venus said. ''If it was a final it would have been different, but it was a semifinal and I hate to see Serena go. Hopefully, it'll be like the U.S. Open and I'll follow through and rebound for Williams.''

Last year, Serena Williams won the U.S. Open after Venus lost in the semifinals to Martina Hingis.

''This has always been my dream,'' Venus said. ''Sometimes I'd dream I'd win Grand Slams and I'd wake up and it's just terrible because I haven't.''

It will be Venus' second appearance in a Grand Slam final. She was runnerup at the U.S. Open in 1997.

''It could have gone either way,'' Venus said in a generous assessment of the match. ''In the end I was able to stay tough. The only reason I played so well is because Serena played so well. From the first point she slammed the ball and I woke up and said, 'Hey, I better do what she does.'''

Venus said she would play the ''big-sister role'' to comfort Serena.

''I've always taken care of Serena,'' she said. ''She's a competitor, probably more than I am, and she hates to lose. We just have to go for it in doubles.''

The sisters have reached the quarterfinals of the women's doubles.

Serena was still wiping away tears a half hour after the match.

''I just didn't play well today, it just didn't go right for me,'' she said. ''Venus played pretty well today and she brought out her best game against me and I guess I wasn't all that ready.

''I expected to play a lot better than I did today. It was my goal to do better. I'm only 18, Venus is 20. I got a lot of years ahead of me.''

Venus was asked whether there was a family arrangement for her to win the match.

''No, not that I'm aware of,'' she replied tersely.

Richard Williams dismissed suggestions that he had determined it was Venus' turn to win.

''I can't respond to no one,'' he said. ''I think people have a right to say whatever they wish to say.''

As promised, Williams stayed away from his daughters' match, although he helped in their prematch workout. Among those who were present in the Williams' guest box were singers Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick, and former Wimbledon finalist Zina Garrison. Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, watched from the stands.

Richard Williams spent the match wandering the streets near the All England Club.

''I didn't see one point at all,'' he said. ''I wouldn't watch it. This was too emotional for me. I didn't sleep last night.

''I was crying when I heard Serena lost. Tears came to my eyes then. To sit there and watch it, I couldn't do that. ... I'm glad it's over. It's been a major league stress on me.''

Williams says he will be at Saturday's final.

The Davenport-Dokic match also was a disappointment.

The second-seeded American was never pushed by Dokic, who committed 13 unforced errors and made the mistake of trying to match groundstrokes with one of the biggest hitters in the game.

Davenport, who appeared frustrated with her own play, served nine aces and pounded a service winner down the line on match point. The 24-year-old Californian is bidding for a fourth Grand Slam title to add to her 1998 U.S. Open, 1999 Wimbledon and 2000 Australian Open victories.

''Anytime you can win in two sets in the semifinal of a Grand Slam it's pretty great,'' Davenport said. ''Sometimes I didn't play my best tennis today but I rose when I needed to. Hopefully I can do the same on Saturday.''

Davenport holds a 9-3 career edge over Williams, but the two have never met on grass.

''That's going to change the whole dimension of the match,'' Davenport said. ''Venus has been playing really well and I know I'm going to have to play my best to win.''

Davenport fared poorly at Wimbledon until she made her breakthrough last year, beating Steffi Graf in the final.

''Last year was just amazing,'' she said. ''I didn't think I could do it. This year I know I can do it.''

Serena Williams came into the match against her sister as the favorite of most experts. She had lost only 13 games in five matches and displayed an overpowering game that looked unstoppable.

But she looked extremely flat, slapping unforced errors on her forehand time and again. After sailing another forehand long on break point in the sixth game, she shouted, ''Nooooo.''

The first set lasted 31 minutes, with few long exchanges and the crowd offering only polite applause.

Both players seemed tentative, content to stay at the baseline rather than play aggressive grasscourt tennis. But Venus was hitting out more on her shots and dictating most of the points.

Serena settled down in the second set, breaking in the first game and going ahead 4-2. But Venus ran off 11 straight points to lead 5-4. Serena then led 3-1 in the tiebreak, but fell apart as Venus won six straight points to close out the match.

The sisters arrived together at the All England Club two hours before the match with their father. They then practiced together for 30 minutes while Richard Williams fetched balls.

The match was the most important showdown of sisters at the All England Club since Maud Watson beat older sister Lilian in the first women's final 116 years ago. It also was the first time sisters have met in a Grand Slam semi.

The men's semifinals are set for Friday, with top-seeded and six-time champion Pete Sampras facing qualifier Vladimir Voltchkov, and No. 2 Andre Agassi playing No. 12 Patrick Rafter.

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