Stellar Serena Eclipses Venus
Wimbledon -- VENUS AND Serena Williams finally played the sort of wondrous match against each other that they usually play against everyone else. The harder they hit in yesterday's Wimbledon final, the more shots they ran down and powered back, the more often their serves climbed past 105 mph, then 115 mph, the more you could feel the others in the women's tennis game groaning and ripping at the seams again.
This was new. This was something to behold.
That the Williamses' first gem against each other also unfolded on Centre Court Wimbledon, the most history-soaked tennis venue in the world, made the sisters' performance even more memorable.
Gone were the scads of unforced errors that used to litter their matchups. By the breathtaking end -- after Serena had flung her body into her two-fisted ground strokes again and again with stunning fury, after Venus had sprinted and stretched her entire 6-1 frame to stroke so many sure-looking winners back, after Serena laughed and said, "I was getting a little upset? -- the hard-to-shake feeling was that something revolutionary happened here.
It's spellbinding enough to see one sister play at the height of her ability. But the sight of both Williams sisters playing off each other, parrying, demanding each other's best just to stay in the match, is the difference between hearing one kettle drum playing and listening to an entire orchestra playing the crescendo of "The 1812 Overture.?
No one returns the Williamses' serves or heavy ground strokes as well as they handle each other's, thanks to a lifetime practicing against each other.
Until yesterday, no two women had ever been on the same court trading shots with the power and line-hugging accuracy the Williamses threw at each other before Serena stole off to a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 win.
Maybe now, all the ridiculous conspiracy theories about how the Williams sisters' matches are rigged will die, too. This match had real drama and genuine conflict, grunting effort and ear-splitting shrieks of anguish. With every match Serena and Venus have played against each other -- and they've played nine now, including three of the last four major finals -- their inhibitions have waned.
Instead, their ruthless competitiveness, especially Serena's, is bubbling up.
"It's hard to beat Venus,? Serena said with a roll of her eyes. "I think, really, if I missed a shot in that match, things really could have swung either way and she would have been sitting here as champion. I just think we're so close right now.?
For that reason alone, it's time to stop all that whining that the All-Williams rivalry "isn't good? for women's tennis. Maybe their dominance isn't good for those pros who aren't as hard-minded or driven, or who are content to show up with a lame 70-mph second serve, thinking they probably can make a nice living, win a few titles along the way.
Do you know what? Good. Good riddance to them. Women's tennis can only get better.
Bud Collins, the wonderful tennis sage and NBC commentator, had one of the best lines ever about how mercilessly the Williamses beat people: He once said it's like watching someone knock the sawdust out of Raggedy Ann.
But bad for tennis? No way. Yesterday, the Williamses raised the bar higher than it has ever been.
If their bruising singles play wasn't enough, they further dominated by moving into the final of the women's doubles with a 6-7 (3-7), 6-0, 6-3 win over Anna Kournikova and Chanda Rubin.
So let the others on the women's tour who are serious about competing go back to the woodshed and add 10 mph to their serves or sharpen their volleys or hit the weight room the way Chris Evert did when Martina Navratilova started her great run. Let them go and get mentally tougher, the way Serena has. Isn't that what people in sports have always done? Isn't that the only choice?
The Williamses are waiting for nobody.