Serena captures Grand Slam title number two
Saturday, June 8, 2002
Making good on her promise to climb up the ladder to the upper echelons of the sport, Serena Williams upended her older sister Venus 7-5 6-3 and won her first Roland Garros title on Saturday.
"Serena wanted it a little more," said her mother, Oracene. "It's been almost three years since she won one and she has to be relieved."
In the first sister-sister final in Roland Garros history, Serena fought like mad, was the far more creative, consistent and powerful, and broke a winless streak against her beloved elder sibling at the Grand Slams.
"I'm very, very happy to win another Grand Slam because I was fighting for so long," said Serena, who's only other Slam title came at the 1999 U.S. Open. "At one point, I wouldn't get past the quarters, then I go to a final, maybe a semi. It was discouraging. I didn't want to be a one hit wonder. I had to get one again."
For her part, Venus had possibly her worst serving day at a Grand Slam final ever, unable to unleash the first serve bombs that she is famous for, constantly double faulting and becoming so unhinged with her second serve that she was forced to spin them down the middle in the 75 mph range. The world's fastest serve didn't power in one ace, or service winner, and clunked nine double faults.
Venus came into the match with a 5-2 record against Serena, but was unable to produce the smart, authoritative tennis that has made her the more successful sibling. In their prior Grand Slam meetings, Serena had never been able to get it out of her mind that it was her older sister and caretaker across the net and had collapsed psychologically. But on Saturday, her newfound mental strength became apparent as the match wore on.
"Once you're on court, you're fighting and only thinking about winning the tournament," Serena said. "I just had to stay calm because this was a big event and big atmosphere for me."
With both women playing nervously, Serena broke Venus in the opening game when Venus double faulted. Serena mixed in a clever serve-and-volley to hold in the next game, and pushed Venus up against the wall at 2-0, when she held another break point. But Venus cracked a big serve and stepped gamefully into the court, taking Serena's return and powering it down the line for a winner. Venus had her teeth into the match and held to 1-2 and in the next game, broke Serena to 2-2 when her sister double-faulted.
The 6-foot-2 four-time Grand Slam champion Venus survived a strenuous six deuce game and then she broke a frustrated Serena with a sharp forehand crosscourt to jump ahead 4-2, but couldn't hold the fort when she played a sloppy service game and was broken when Serena blasted an inside-out backhand winner to climb back to 4-3.
But Serena didn't take advantage of the opening, playing a lackadaisical, confused game and was broken at love when she framed a forehand. However, Venus mimicked her sister's poor play in attempting to serve out the set at 5-3 when she was broken at love after Serena whipped a forehand return that she couldn't handle and plunked long.
Serena knew she had clawed her way into the contest and began to play at a much higher level, holding serve to 5-5 after out muscling Venus is a long rally and then breaking her sister at love when an out-of-synch Venus whacked a sitter swing volley wide.
Venus held two break points in the next game, but she missed a backhand return and then Serena smoked a service winner. After Venus netted an easy forehand volley, Serena won the set with a huge forehand crosscourt winner.
"It's about taking opportunities and I don't think I did," Venus said. "They don't come often in a Grand Slam final against a player like Serena. I realize that I was getting a lot of chances that I don't take. Normally I do better. But you have these days."
Serena added, "Sometimes I have to get down to get up, I don't know why. Sometimes when I do get down I fight harder, start playing better."
The 20-year-old Serena really picked up her level in the beginning of the second set, jumping happily at every short ball, nailing aces and eating up her sister's lollipop second serves.
"She did that really well on the important points," Venus said.
Serena broke Venus twice to jump ahead 3-0. But even though Venus was playing no where near her best, she stuck in the contest, broke her sister twice with some fine ground stroking and finally held to 3-4.
But Serena closed out the match with the mental strength of all the great women who have triumphed on Court Central before her, slinging sharp crosscourt groundies past her sister, turning up the heat on her serve and not backing off any opportunities. Serena won the match in a spectacular side-to-side rally, which ended when Venus couldn't pick a sharp backhand crosscourt blast.
The sisters then warmly embraced at the net.
"Serena played tough and I couldn't make the shots," said Venus, who finished the match with 47 unforced errors to only 18 for her sister. "I'm always proud of her."
The victory gave the U.S. its ninth straight Grand Slam title. But for Venus, the moment was bittersweet. While she praised her sister for superior play, it was her worst performance in a Grand Slam final ever and arguably the poorest match she's played at a Slam since Barbara Schett bounced her out of the first round of 2001 Roland Garros.
"I'm happy for Serena because she hasn't won a Slam in a while," Venus said. "But then again, I have to look at areas where I can improve. I wasn't the best player today. I have had better appearances in Grand Slam finals. But it's impossible to win them all so I've got to go for the next one."
The Williams's have now won three out of the last four Grand Slams and six out of the last 11. Without question, they are the most fearsome family in the sport.
"It's been real nice, " Venus said. "I think everything we do on a tennis court we've done OK. We can't ask for too much more."
Serena, who is ranked No2 behind Venus, said she doesn't envision herself being a step behind anyone.
"In my mind I've always been the best tennis player," she said. "It was maybe a lack of results. But in my mind I've always been No1. But that's how you have to think in any sport if you will lack confidence. You need to have a lot of confidence.
Coming into 2002 Roland Garros, neither sister had progressed past the quarterfinals and were pretty embarrassed by their play here in previous years. They felt they had a lot to prove on the terre battue. They certainly made their marks during the last two weeks.
"People now realize that Serena and I play well on all surfaces," Venus said. "If they put us on clay, it doesn't mean that we aren't going to show up that day."