Tennisweek Williams Article
Serena's Slam: Serena Sweeps Venus In Straight Sets To Claim French Open Crown
Photo By Susan Mullane By Richard Pagliaro
The shots were relentless. They came fast. They came slow. They came from every conceivable angle. Serena Williams faced every single one of them with a smile.
Moments after the third-seeded Serena swept older sister Venus 7-5, 6-3 today to capture the French Open crown in the first all-sister final in Roland Garros history, she faced a firing squad of photographers who shot victory photos while Serena wore the wide smile of a champion.
Suddenly a familiar face who happens to be Serena's biggest fan, best friend, housemate and on this day, opponent, popped to the front of the pack to snap shots of her little sister. The girls whose father Richard Williams once called "Ghetto Cinderellas" while they learned to play tennis growing up on the public parks of Compton, California, have grown into Grand Slam champions and shared a fitting Kodak moment at the conclusion of another milestone match.
The 20-year-old Serena overcame a 3-5 first-set deficit by unleashing powerfully precise groundstrokes and ripping return winners off Venus' second serve to claim her first Grand Slam crown since she defeated Martina Hingis to win the 1999 U.S. Open.
"I'm very happy and really, really excited," Serena said. "I think maybe having the tough match against (Jennifer) Capriati (in the semifinals) helped me a bit today. Venus and I were playing great and it's great that people want to come out and see us play."
It was the Williams' sisters second Grand Slam final against each other in the past nine months. Venus won her second consecutive U.S. Open championship with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Serena on September 9th. That match marked the first time in 117 years sisters met in a Grand Slam final. Maud Watson defeated sister Lillian Watson at Wimbledon in 1884 in the previous all-sister Grand Slam final.
It took more than a century to repeat the feat, but Venus and Serena are playing at a high enough level to make their family reunions in Grand Slam finals an annual occurrence.
"It was a tough match and the best player won," Venus said. "We both want to win so bad, we got a little tight out there at times. I did my best out there, but Serena played very well and deserved to win. I'm proud of her."
With their performances at Roland Garros, the Williams sisters, who share a Palm Beach Gardens, Florida home, will now occupy the top two spots in the WTA Tour rankings. When the new rankings are released on Monday, Venus will regain the top spot from Capriati, while Serena will rise to a career-high No. 2 surpassing 2001 French Open champion Capriati, who falls to No. 3. Prior to the sisters' pro debut their father predicted they would someday play for Grand Slam titles and hold the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the rankings and today they fulfilled their father's prediction.
The four-time Grand Slam champion Venus had not lost a Grand Slam final since reaching the 1997 U.S. Open final as an unseeded 17-year-old where she fell to Martina Hingis, 6-0, 6-4. Venus carried a 5-2 career record against Serena into today's match as well as the experience of thousands of practice sessions against her little sister, but desire proved to be a difference for Serena.
"I think Serena was more determined and more tenacious today," mother Oracene Williams said. "She hadn't won one since 1999 so she really wanted this. I'm very proud because they both did well."
The pure pace and depth of the sisters's shots makes it difficult for either player to establish a rhythm in their matches as winners and errors ring from their racquets with regularity.
In the eighth game, Serena surrendered serve at love to hand Venus a 5-3 lead. Serving for the first set, the second seed struggled to connect on her first serves and squandered her chance to seize the set when her backhand sailed by the baseline as Serena broke for 4-5 and shouted "Come on!" at the reprieve.
The service break bolstered the braided, blonde baseline blaster's confidence and after a lengthy game featuring several deuce points she held to even the set 5-5. Venus responded by producing her worst service game of the set. At 0-40, she badly misplayed a routine forehand putaway. With Serena practically off the court, Venus needed only to place her short forehand back in the court, but instead she overhit a wild forehand wide of the sideline to give Serena a break and a 6-5 lead.
Serving for the set, Serena battled back from a 0-30 deficit with a pair of service winners and when her sister dumped a forehand volley into the bottom of the net, Serena had a set point at 40-30. She quickly converted with a picture-perfect slice serve wide to the ad court followed by a crushing cross-court forehand winner into the open cout to seize the set, 7-5 in 63 minutes.
"The first set was really important," Serena said. "It was long, more than an hour, and when you win a long set like that, it really pumps you up to take the match in straight sets."
The 6-foot-1 Venus owns perhaps the most powerful serve in women's tennis, but she repeatedly misfired today. Chasing an errant toss with her racquet the way a child chases a helium baloon blown awry by the wind, Venus committed nine double faults, won only 49 percent of her first-serve points (21 of 43) and held serve only four times in 11 service games as Serena broke serve six straight times before Venus finally held serve for 3-4 in the second set.
"It was sunny and windy and I couldn't get control of my toss," Venus said. "It was tough."
Stretching her lead to 5-3 with a service hold, Serena turned her shoulders sharply and smacked a sizzling crosscourt backhand winner that singed the sideline for a 15-30 lead and when Venus guided a backhand long Serena suddenly had match point at 15-40.
On match point, the sisters engaged in one of longest exchanges of the match that ended with Venus netting a backhand and Serena tossing her racquet high in the air in triumph. Blowing kisses to the crowd, Serena embraced her sister at the net. Both sisters delivered parts of their post-match speeches in French with Serena thanking "the best big sister in the world."
Serena may be second in the world, but on this day she was second to none in the Williams household.