Serena takes sister's place at the top
In a class of their own
Monday, July 08, 2002
LONDON - Serena Williams revealed yesterday how she is inspired by a motto passed on to her by her father, Richard.
"Fail to plan and you plan to fail," she said as she prepared to be feted at The Champions' Dinner after a 7-6, 6-3 triumph that earned her the Wimbledon title she said she had been planning and working towards for most of the year.
She had so much faith in her ability to halt older sister Venus's attempt to become only the ninth player in the history of The Championships to win the women's singles for a third successive year that she even brought a new white dress and matching shoes with her for the celebration.
Having missed the Australian Open after suffering an ankle injury in Sydney, she decided to appoint a personal trainer because "I think a lot of my injuries in the past have been mental injuries, but now I think I've grown up a little bit."
Serena insists that inside she is no different from any other 20-year-old who wants to enjoy life. Maybe that is true as a person but, as a tennis player, I beg to differ. Serena, even more now than her sister, packs the sort of ferocious forehand punch that would be just as successful in the boxing ring as on a tennis court.
In a display that surely quashed once and for all the bogus idea that matches between the two sisters might, to some extent, be influenced by their father's wishes, the pace, power and control of so many of their shots was awesome.
As usual, the atmosphere when they were playing one another was more muted than when others are involved, simply because few in the crowd want to apply a partisan approach to a family affair.
One had to admire the ruthless energy and Venus's sporting refusal to admit that a shoulder strain was almost certainly preventing her serve from reaching the stunning levels of the two previous years.
As Serena said: "I knew during the doubles on Friday that it was bothering her but she's a bit stubborn and won't admit it. She's always going out of her way to make sure I'm happy. If I go out, she's always calling to make sure I'm all right. She checks up on me like a parent."
So far as the tennis is concerned, though, there is a difference between admiration and enjoyment and, having watched all but one of their nine matches against one another, the one-dimensional style of the game is starting to lose its appeal.
No one could seriously question the competitiveness of the contest or the ruthless aggression. The sisters are clearly in a class of their own, not least in their athleticism. Yet, apart from one spectacular driven volley from Serena in the second game, one sensational drop shot from Venus -- which not even her speedy sibling could reach -- and a mis-hit Venus crosscourt forehand, which became a nasty angled winner, one cried out for additional light and shade in their play.
The combination of Serena's loud grunt and the huge roar from the crowd when Serena walloped down the ace that settled the first set tie-break, 7-4, explains why neither she nor Venus heard umpire Jane Harvey twice call "let" after the line monitor had bleeped.
Assuming that the players were prepared to accept it as a winning serve, Harvey may have offended some, but surely took a common-sense approach. "I didn't know anything about it until Martina Navratilova told me in the locker room later," said Serena. Asked if Venus also knew a fault had been called, Serena replied: "I don't know. I'm not telling her. I don't think it was a let. I think the machine made a mistake."
They have clearly set standards for others to follow. Serena brushes aside the petty jealousies expressed by some players. "People are never satisfied and that's the truth," she said.
"But you have to be satisfied with who you are. Venus and I have learned to be satisfied and we don't have a problem with anyone. When you're a little bit bitter or angry then you're going to be resentful and then it's time to do something about it."
"CONGRATULATIONS - SERENA"