Williams vs Williams threatens to kill off the game...C/P
Williams v Williams threatens to kill the women's game
Stephen Bierley in Paris
Monday June 10, 2002
Judging by the two decidedly mediocre grand slam finals the Williams sisters have played against each other so far, and given that they have now established themselves as the No1 and No2 players in the world, the immediate future of women's tennis appears bleak.
This has nothing to do with their ability. Serena, who became French Open champion here on Saturday, winning 7-5, 6-3, and Venus, were clearly the two best players present and thoroughly deserved to be in the final. But once they were there the competition effectively ended.
There was no tension, no conflict. And unlike last year's US Open final, with its Hollywood overtones, there was no show. The WWF wrestlers at least provide a spectacle.
The French crowd surrounding the Court Philippe Chatrier did not know what to make of it and generally sat on their hands until the end. There were occasional whistles of derision, such was the poor quality of the error-strewn tennis, but supporters thrive on taking sides and this is impossible when the sisters are playing each other. As Venus tellingly said: "Probably people see us as the same."
There was, inevitably, talk of the match having been arranged in Serena's favour. Perhaps it was, perhaps not. Venus, the US Open and Wimbledon champion, served for the first set at 5-3 but managed only one point. Of her 11 service games she held only three times. Psychologically, if nothing else, she was not at the races and hit only four winners.
There will be those who deny it but every match the sisters have played against each other has been little more than an exhibition. Saturday's final had its moments of quality but of the 149 points contested 101 ended in unforced errors. It was all extremely depressing.
Serena spoke afterwards of building a rivalry with Venus and making a legacy. Between them they have won six of the last 11 grand slam titles, beginning with Serena's victory at the 1999 US Open, so the legacy is already established, but not the rivalry. That is non-existent.
The most endearing side of the Williams is their liking for each other, and their mutual support. Yet even this militates against the essence of a sporting occasion when they meet - the exhilaration of the winner and the disappointment of the loser. Sure, Serena was happy; sure, Venus was a touch subdued - but nothing much else.
Now that they are so high in the rankings, the chances of them meeting again in the Wimbledon final are even greater. "The grass would really bring out the best of both of us," said Serena. "It would probably be a much quicker match." She might have added: "So you should be thankful for small mercies."
At the very top, with Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis currently injured, and both out of Wimbledon, the competition for grand-slam titles is extremely restricted. Only the two Belgians, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, neither of whom has won a major title, together with Jennifer Capriati, appear to have any chance of breaking up the Williams axis at Wimbledon.
What they need to do is play in different slam events, two apiece per year. A Williams v the Rest has appeal; Williams v Williams is a dead duck.