Williams Sisters on Top of the World
"THE VIEW IS BETTER FROM UP THERE - VENUS & SERENA" "KEEP ON REACHING FOR THE TOP/SKY"
June 07, 2002
Williams sisters on top of the world
From Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent in Paris
AND so it has come to pass, just as their Dad always vowed it would. The proclamation of Richard Williams that his bubblegum kids with beads in their hair and big dreams in their hearts, would be the best two players in the world happened for real on the eleventh day of the 2002 French Open. Log the date.
Serena Williams’s 3-6, 7-6, 6-2 victory over Jennifer Capriati in the semi-finals yesterday secured her a career-high No 2 ranking, nestled in behind her big sister, who would have moved to No 1 on Monday regardless of how she fared in her semi-final against Clarisa Fernandez of Argentina. As it was, despite an air of increasing anxiety, Venus prevailed 6-1, 6-4 in 56 minutes and tomorrow heralds another Sister Act, a series that Venus leads 5-2, but the first in a Roland Garros final.
For once, however, the fact that the sisters are playing against each other in a grand-slam final is almost coincidental. That they are atop the women’s game — riding high, living the moment, loving the thought of where they are and, in private, cocking a snook at those who felt their father had lost his marbles when he made his assertion — is something sensational to behold.
“I must confess I thought he was nuts,” Chris Evert, who won this title seven times between 1974 and 1986 when the women did not grunt, groan, shout and shriek and actually played with wooden rackets, said. “How could anybody say when girls are about 8 or 10 that they would be the best in the world? But now his dream is reality, they are great athletes with remarkable ability. “I think that Serena is quicker than Venus but they both have so much court savvy and they are gathering experience all the time. Venus has four slams, Serena has one and there is no doubt they possess the potential to win many more.”
If there was one regret in the Williams household, it is that Richard was not here in person to witness how a prophecy of unashamed bravado came true. He was home in the United States probably working on the next of the million-dollar deals he insists he involves himself with: buying the rights to US soccer, helping solve the Kashmir conflict, negotiating to become the next Oprah Winfrey, something along those lines. But we should not jest too much.
For the rest of women’s tennis, the extent of the domination of the Williams sisters is not a matter for levity. This is as serious as the look on the face of Capriati as she slouched towards the umpire’s chair in full view of Serena’s whooping dance of celebration at the end of two hours and 15 minutes of pile-driven pugnacity. How do the rest respond? The French did not know whether to rejoice or cry. Court Philippe Chatrier was finally full when Capriati and Serena came on for the third match of the day. Sebastien Grosjean played out to a half-empty stadium, but that had more to do with the France-Uruguay match in the World Cup than the fact the last French presence in the singles was loping around the place with a face as sour as undiluted lemon juice.
They warmed to the women, especially Capriati. It would be a fallacy to suggest that the place throbbed with applause when Serena was doing her stuff — it was restrained, affected. When Capriati’s forehand was running wild, so were Parisian emotions and they were in rhapsodic mood when the No 1 seed and reigning champion took the first set in 37 minutes.
It was time for Serena to let everyone know why she was here. She stepped up the pace, running into a 5-2 lead in the second, only for her to strike an impasse. She smacked a couple of backhands way out of court and lost her serve to love, then launched at audacious drive volleys and it was 5-5. Capriati held and was four points from the match. That was as close as Serena would allow her to come to a second consecutive final here.
The tie-break was simply brutal, encapsulated when Serena spun around after a particularly venomous back-court rally and flexed her muscles as if to say: “I am the strongest, you will not beat me.” There were break points aplenty to herald the final set, yet it was Capriati who wilted first, losing her serve in the sixth game and, by way of a denouement, the eighth.
“I’m pretty happy right now but I’m still working to take a step ahead,” Serena said. “My Dad knows our ability better than anyone, he has worked with us since we were three or four. He’s a great guy.” And some prophet.
Martina Hingis yesterday gave the All England Club official notification that she will miss this year’s championships because of her longstanding foot injury.