Can Serena take Venus’ crown?
Sisters primed to finally have an epic matchup
LONDON, July 4 — The world has been waiting to see a great match between Venus and Serena Williams, and that time may be now. There’s no denying that both players are extremely talented, but they seem to get nervous playing each other. I’m hoping that this match will produce the finest they have to offer and there are some signs we can expect that to happen in Saturday’s final.
The big news on Thursday wasn’t that both Venus and Serena trounced their opponents to reach the final, but that they’re about to swap ranking positions. Serena, who first became No. 2 in the world after the French Open, is making her first journey to No. 1, having beaten Amelie Mauresmo in the semifinals. This means that Venus, who first reached the No. 1 ranking back in February of this year and has occupied that position for a total of 11 weeks since that time, will bounce back to No. 2.
According to Serena, she had no idea going into her match today that the ranking switch was a possibility. She said that after she found out that she was becoming No. 1, she actually shed a few tears of joy.
One reason I anticipate a great final is that both Venus and Serena looked amazingly sharp as they worked their way through the draw. Both had little hiccups in the third round — Venus going three sets with Canadian Maureen Drake and Serena winning two tie-break sets over Belgian Els Callens. Outside of that round, they’ve been simply magnificent, easily pushing opponents out of the way. In fact, Serena hasn’t even dropped a set in the six matches she’s played.
The other reason this match should be special is the fact that Serena was able to beat Venus for the French Open crown — her second career Grand-Slam trophy along with the 1999 U.S. Open title — is very significant. Although Serena still trails Venus 5-3 in career outings, the win at the French improved her efforts against her older sister and gave her the confidence to believe she can win big matches over Venus.
If Venus can win her third-straight Wimbledon title, she’ll become the first player since Steffi Graf (1991-’93) to perform that feat. Martina Navratilova was another player in the Open Era who had luck in winning consecutive titles at Wimbledon, earning six of her nine singles titles here between 1982 and ’87.
Not to be outdone, Serena can make it two Grand Slam titles in a row and win Wimbledon in her first finals. I’m sure Venus believes that Wimbledon is her domain since she’s proven she can win it in the past. But Serena probably feels this is her time to win the title. Watching Serena during the changeovers of her matches, she seems to close her eyes and meditate. That seems to be a tactic that is keeping her focused and doesn’t let her mind wander.
Before the French Open I thought Serena would win Wimbledon, but after she won in Paris, I changed my mind and decided that Venus would hold on to her title. The one thing I know for sure is that the matches between the two are more psychological than physical.
I’ll be perfectly honest and say I think this match could go either way, but I’m sticking with my original prediction and expecting Venus to become a three-time champ.
Interestingly, both sisters virtually attained their final spot in the same way — by preventing their opponent from playing their game. Venus, a four-time Grand Slam champion, was first up on Centre Court in a repeat of last year’s final match and took an impressive 6-3, 6-2 victory over Justine Henin in 77 minutes. Serena followed Venus’ match and needed only 55 minutes to take out France’s Mauresmo with a 6-2, 6-1 win.
The strategy that both Venus and Serena used against their semi-final foes was to keep them pinned to the backcourt with powerful shots. If a player is hitting the ball really hard at you, it tends to make you feel rushed and it generally prevents you from becoming the aggressor.
Both Mauresmo and Henin have excellent all-court games that translate to the grass well. But against powerful players like Venus and Serena, their hands were tied as neither could get into the net off of their slice backhands.
For the first few games, I though Henin might be able to give Venus a good match, but from 3-3 in the first set, Venus simply overpowered the Belgian. As for Mauresmo, I think it was way too hard for her to repeat the type of match she played in upsetting Jennifer Capriati in the quarterfinals yesterday. That win over Capriati had to be the best match of Mauresmo’s career.
Wow!! I'm looking forward to a wonderful match between Venus and Serena.