July 5, 2008

Venus Williams Beats Sister Serena in Wimbledon Championship

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WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — This time, big sister put little sister in her place.
Advantage, Miss Venus Williams.
She defeated Serena 7-5, 6-4 Saturday for her fifth Wimbledon title and second in a row. Venus avenged two previous losses to her younger sibling in the final at the All England Club and reasserted her dominance on her favorite court and favorite grass surface.
“I can’t believe that it’s five,” said Venus, who now also has seven Grand Slam championships.”But when you’re in the final against Serena Williams, five seems too far away.”
Venus came from 3-1 down in the first set to turn around the match, breaking Serena four times while dropping serve twice in a final that produced breathtaking tennis despite swirling wind.
This was more than a matchup between siblings; it was a contest between two of the hardest-hitting, most athletic players in the world at the top of their game.
Venus broke to finish the match in 1 hour, 51 minutes, with Serena hitting a backhand wide on the second match point. The sisters embraced at the net, and Venus kept her celebrations in check as she twirled and waved to the Centre Court crowd.
Venus accepted the winner’s trophy — a sterling silver salver aptly named the Venus Rosewater dish — from the Duke of Kent.
“It’s so rewarding to perform here,” Venus said. “Every time I come back I know I have the chance to play well and make history. My first job is big sister and I take that very seriously.”
Watching from the players’ box was the sisters’ mother, Oracene. Their father, Richard, had flown back to the United States because he can’t stand to watch his daughters play each other.
Referring to the mixed feelings of her family about whom to support, Venus said, “It’s hard for all of them, but I like to think they want me to win.”
The 26-year-old Serena accepted her runner-up trophy and paid tribute to her 28-year-old sister.
“I’m so happy that at least one of us was able to win,” Serena said. “She’s played great this year. We’re just glad to be in the finals again.”
On Sunday, five-time champion Roger Federer and two-time runner-up Rafael Nadal will meet in their third consecutive final at Wimbledon.
Venus is the 10th woman to win five Wimbledon singles titles, and only the third in the 40-year history of the Open era after Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf.
“Definitely winning this tournament so many times definitely puts you in the stratosphere,” Venus said.
She is four shy of Navratilova’s record of nine singles championships.
“Oh, my God, that would be the ultimate,” Venus said. “That’s not easy. Her career also spanned like three decades, so I’m not sure if I have that much time. If I did, I think I would definitely dream of that.”
Despite her elation, Venus acknowledged that her on-court celebrations were toned down.
“I’m definitely more in tune with my sister’s feelings because one of us has to win and one of us has to lose,” she said. “Of course, the celebration isn’t as excited because my sister just lost. You could never detract from winning a Wimbledon. It doesn’t detract from that. But I’m definitely thinking about how my sister’s feeling.”
A somber Serena found no solace in losing to her sister.
“It’s definitely not any easier,” she said. “I just look at her as another opponent at the end of the day.”
The sisters were set to return later to Centre Court to play for the women’s doubles title, joining forces to face Lisa Raymond of the U.S. and Samantha Stosur of Australia in the final.
“Serena deserves to win something, so I’ll try even harder for that,” said Venus, who collected a winner’s check of $1.49 million.
Venus, appearing in her seventh Wimbledon final, made up for her two losses to Serena in the 2002 and 2003 title matches and stopped her sister from winning her ninth Grand Slam.
Many all-Williams finals have been awkward affairs that didn’t live up to expectations, with the sisters having trouble playing their best. But this final featured long, corner-to-corner rallies, booming serves and winning shots flashing all over the court.
In the opening game of the second set, Venus smacked a service winner on game point at 129 mph — breaking her own Wimbledon record of 127 mph and matching her women’s tour record set at last year’s U.S. Open.
“I think the level of play was really high,” Venus said. “I think a lot of the times one of us was overpowering the other. In between us overpowering each other, we had some really competitive rallies and intense points.”
Serena said she lost her rhythm after a fast start and made too many errors.
“I don’t think I played well,” she said. “I don’t think I’m satisfied with the way I played today. For me there’s nothing to be satisfied about. She lifted her game and I should have lifted mine, but instead I think mine went down”
Serena took more chances and finished with 32 winners and 11 unforced errors; Venus had 27 winners and 13 unforced mistakes. Serena also outaced her sister 9-4, but Venus won the big points when she needed them.
Both sisters struggled in the wind, with Venus repeatedly stopping to catch her service toss and rallies often disrupted by sudden gusts.
“It was so not easy,” Serena said. “Every time I tried to hit a shot, the wind would blow it.”
The third game of the second set was practically a match in itself — 14 minutes and 21 points. Serena broke on her seventh break point, hitting an easy volley into the open court after Venus slipped and fell backward going for a backhand.
That gave Serena a 2-1 lead, but she failed to grab her chance and Venus broke right back. They remained on serve, engaging in a 23-stroke rally in the ninth game, until Venus broke again to end the match.
Serena came out roaring, ripping winners to break in the first game and go up 3-1, with two aces and two serve winners in the fourth game. She earned a break point and a chance to go up 4-1, but Venus saved it with a stretch forehand crosscourt volley.
Two games later, the momentum changed when Venus broke for 4-4, capitalizing on her second break point with a backhand serve return.
Serena fashioned two break points in the next game, but Venus ran down a drop volley and made a forehand pass on the run to save the first and erased the second with a deep forehand return.
The game ended when Serena, thinking her shot was going out, shouted “No” before the ball landed. The chair umpire called a let, meaning the point should be replayed, but Serena conceded the point and the game.
Venus broke in the next game to take the set, with Serena swiping her racket in disgust after netting a backhand return.