Williams workout at the French
All in the family
Serena and Venus set to meet in French Open final
Posted: Thursday June 06, 2002 1:10 PM
Updated: Friday June 07, 2002 5:25 PM
PARIS (AP) -- More than a decade ago in
Compton, Calif., two sisters swatted strokes
from opposite sides of a net, pretending the
asphalt was the grass of Wimbledon, the
hardcourts of the U.S. Open or the clay of the
When Venus and Serena Williams practiced
Friday at Roland Garros, they were preparing to
play each other for a Grand Slam title for the
second time in nine months.
Their 1 1/2-hour session a day before the French
Open final captured the unique blend of
competition and camaraderie their success has wrought.
During a break, they shared a towel, holding it aloft while Serena wiped her
face with one end and Venus wiped her face with the other. At another
juncture, Serena went to the net to talk with Venus, gesturing with her racket
as both laughed.
Later, though, Serena threw her racket to the ground following each of four
missed shots, once screaming her name and another time yelling, "Shoot!"
Imagine Arizona left-hander Randy Johnson slinging batting practice at the
New York Yankees the day before Game 7 of the World Series, or Kobe
Bryant and Jason Kidd playing some one-on-one hours before taking the
court for the NBA Finals.
It just wouldn't happen.
But Venus and Serena have relished [at times] and dealt with [at times] being
sisters who excel at the same sport.
"Right now I really want to win the French Open and I'm sure she does, too,"
Serena said. "I just have to go out there and fight."
It's Sister Slam II, and there are plenty of reasons why there could be plenty
of sequels: Their power, their athleticism, their increasing on-court patience,
and their standing at Nos. 1 and 2 in the rankings as of next week.
As their mother, Oracene, put it: "They really haven't played up to their
potential. They just haven't gotten there yet."
The opponents in the men's final Sunday also will be familiar with each other
-- Juan Carlos Ferrero and Albert Costa meet in the third all-Spanish title
match in Paris since 1994. Ferrero beat Marat Safin 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 Friday,
while Costa got past Alex Corretja 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Unfortunately, the women's championship might just showcase the worst of
Team Williams. That's because Venus (who's won Wimbledon and the U.S.
Open the past two years) and Serena (the '99 U.S. Open champ) are capable
of playing brilliant tennis against any opponent - except, seemingly, each other.
Most of their seven previous meetings have been real duds, including
September's U.S. Open final, which Venus won 6-2, 6-4 with the help of just
seven winners. That, of course, was the first Grand Slam title decided by
siblings since the very first major tournament: Wimbledon in 1884, when
Maud Watson beat sister Lillian 6-8, 6-3, 6-3.
Venus owns a 5-2 edge against Serena, who did win their last match 6-2, 6-2
at Key Biscayne, Fla., in March.
"Venus pretty much gets every ball, and I pretty much get every ball," said
Serena, 15 months younger than Venus, who turns 22 this month. "I think on
this surface it's going to be maybe longer rallies than in the past. But that will
probably be the only difference I can think of."
When the new WTA Tour rankings are released Monday, they'll be the first
siblings to sit 1-2: Serena's semifinal victory over defending champion Jennifer
Capriati pushes her past Capriati to a career-best second, while Venus
already was assured of overtaking Capriati at No. 1.
Besides being unprecedented, the sisters' new rankings mean they will be
seeded Nos. 1 and 2 at tournaments, so they couldn't face each other until a
Their father, Richard, often says he gets too nervous watching his children
square off, and he isn't in Paris as they accomplish what he long predicted they
He planned his daughters' tennis careers before they were born, teaching
himself the sport from magazines and videos so he could coach them and even
paying a psychiatrist to study the effects when sisters play each other.
"We learned," he says, "that tennis is the only game that's extremely rough on a
Perhaps. But it's his family that's making tennis rough for other women.
Notes: Venus hasn't dropped a set in six matches, losing a total of just 29
games. ... Serena has lost two sets during the tournament, one to Capriati and
one to 17-year-old Russian qualifier Vera Zvonareva. ... Neither sister had
been past the French Open quarterfinals; Venus lost in the first round last
year. ... The last all-American French Open women's final was in 1986, when
Chris Evert beat Martina Navratilova.