Serena now No. 1 in the world -- and in her own home

All in the family

Posted: Monday, July 08, 2002

WIMBLEDON, England -- They smacked strokes just as they do against anyone else. They ran down balls aggressively, too.

And, even if fleetingly, they showed I-want-to-win emotion.

For one glorious set on the world's most famous tennis court, Serena and Venus Williams set aside whatever qualms they might harbor about trying to beat a sister and just played.

After Serena came out on top 7-6 (4), 6-3 Saturday to win her first Wimbledon title and second straight Grand Slam tournament, Venus whispered a reminder to curtsy when handed the trophy.

They are family, after all.

Indeed, they teamed up in doubles for the first time since the U.S. Open and won another trophy Sunday, beating French Open champions Paola Suarez and Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-2, 7-5.

As for the singles, Sister Slam III made good television, apparently. The overnight rating of 4.6 for NBC's show Saturday was 28 percent higher than its broadcast the day of the 2001 final, when Venus beat Justine Henin on a Sunday.

Now, for the first time, Serena is No. 1, both in the rankings and her own home.

''I just wanted Wimbledon,'' said 20-year-old Serena, who's 15 months younger than Venus. ''I wanted to become a member of so much prestige, so much history. I want to be a part of history.''

She didn't lose a set at Wimbledon, has won a season-best 19 straight matches, and is 36-3 with a tour-high five titles in 2002. Plus, she's beaten her older sister three straight times to pull within 5-4 in their pro careers.

An indication of how dominant each Williams is: Subtract Venus' three losses in sibling showdowns this year, and she's 41-3.

They hadn't managed to put their best games -- or game-faces -- on display when on opposite sides of a net. That is until Saturday on Centre Court at the All England Club, where Serena claimed the family's seventh trophy from the last 12 majors (Venus leads that count, 4-3).

Venus needed just seven winners to complete a 6-4, 6-2 victory in Sister Slam I, the U.S. Open final in September. The pair totaled 110 unforced errors in Serena's straight-set victory at last month's French Open final.

Chris Evert could understand their difficulty. She hated playing younger sister Jeanne.

''It was at a different level. Jeanne and I weren't playing at the finals of Wimbledon,'' said Evert, who won 18 major titles and is working for NBC and BBC at Wimbledon.

''From the moment I woke up, I had a bad stomach. I felt really sick about it. I felt so much compassion for her I couldn't look at her during the changeovers.''

Indeed, Venus' chair faced the Royal Box on Saturday, so her back was to Serena. And Serena kept her head down at changeovers, reading notes she'd written on a folded sheet of paper.

But for long stretches while on court, they played as if trying to outdo any opponent, pounding shots right on the lines, grunting all the while. Serena allowed herself screams of ''Come on!'' and fist pumps, albeit usually with her back to Venus.

They combined for 34 winners, 20 by Serena. There would have been more if each wasn't so superb at taking quick steps to swat back what should be a clean winner.

''We're entertainers,'' Venus said. ''We always want the crowd and everyone watching to be entertained, basically.''

One point -- where the match turned, really -- captured the atmosphere.

With Serena ahead 4-3 in the tiebreaker, she hit a shot that slapped the net tape and went over. Venus got to the ball and responded with a nicely angled drop shot, but Serena ran up and whipped it a backhand passing winner down the line.

Serena punched the air; Venus raked the grass with her racket.

A big factor in the outcome was Venus' serving problems: six double faults, including on break point in the penultimate game. She had told Serena her right shoulder was hurting.

''I noticed it. Definitely,'' said Serena, who won the family's first major title at the 1999 U.S. Open. ''If I'm a competitor, I'm going to have to notice it. Unfortunately, it's like a war out there. If there's a weakness, someone's going to have to be attacked.''

She missed the Australian Open with a wrist injury. Otherwise, she might be heading to the U.S. Open with a shot at a Grand Slam.

Instead, the goal in New York will be what it always is for the Williams clan at a tournament -- another all-in-the-family final.



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