Serena has narrow edge over Venus
Expect a slugfest from the baseline as sisters battle it out for title
Anja Niedringhaus / AP
By Tracy Austin
updated 9 minutes ago
WIMBLEDON, England - So Wimbledon has its first Williams family final since 2003 – a very appealing matchup between two sisters who have been the class of the ladies’ field this fortnight but now that they go against each other, it’s younger sister Serena who rates a slight advantage over older sister Venus.
I take that position based solely on Serena’s serve. Little sis is serving incredibly well on the lawns. In her 6-2, 7-6 semifinal victory over Zheng Jie of China she served 14 aces and 34 serves that Zheng couldn’t return -- that’s an incredible 48 free points won without a ball coming back. Also the challenge Zheng put forth in the second set was important for Serena in that her surviving it only boosts her confidence going into the final.
The title match is going to be decided be several key factors: 1) which sister is serving better, 2) which sister is posting more winners, and 3) which sister is keeping her unforced error count as low as possible.
Neither Venus nor Serena is going to be chipping and charging, serving and volleying, changing their rhythm by using drop shots and slices -- that’s just not their style of play. I anticipate the match will be a slugfest from the baseline.
Venus and Serena have played 15 times during their careers dating back to their first match in the third round of the 1998 Australian Open. Serena has a slight 8-7 edge and has beaten Venus five of the six times they have met in the final of a major – including twice at Wimbledon in 2002 and 2003.
In fairness it must be mentioned that Venus played the 2003 grass court final with an abdominal strain that limited her movement and had her in pain and in 2002 Serena revealed after their match that Venus’ right shoulder was giving her discomfort, perhaps a factor in her less-than-overpowering display on her serve (Venus only topped 105 mph a handful of times).
Both Serena and Venus possess outstanding serves. Serena has better placement with her serve and the better second serve but Venus has the more powerful first serve and she can crank them up to 126 mph with relative ease.
It’s hard to bet against either sister from the ground as they both certainly pack a wallop with their ability to battle from the baseline. As for the action at the net, Venus is a little more comfortable being front-and-center. Both players are usually successful when they come into the net and I would love to see them approach more often than they do.
As for their vulnerabilities they both lack the consistency they used to show a number of years ago. They are not factors tournament to tournament as they were earlier in their careers. This means their former aura of invincibility has dissipated with opponents feeling they now have more of a chance against both Venus and Serena.
What can be underestimated is the impact to there being so much emotion present when the Williams sisters meet -- especially when the match they play is for the biggest title in the world. I come from a tennis family but never had to experience what Venus and Serena have to face in taking on a sibling in such a high-stakes encounter. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to play someone you love and care about so much, yet you want to defeat on a particular day for the most coveted trophy in tennis.
This dynamic puts Venus and Serena in a very peculiar situation but I know if you ask them they always say that if they have to lose, they’d rather lost to each other. It’s a very different situation in sports to play against someone you know so well as your own sister. There are no secrets, there are no tricks and I suspect Venus and Serena can on nearly every shot practically predict where each is going to attempt to hit the ball.
I’m absolutely sure that it’s a pleasure for their parents to be able to sit in the stands and be so proud of their two daughters playing in the Wimbledon final. But on the converse side, I can only imagine the intense anxiety for the family to have to be neutral while the match unfolds. From what I understand their father, Richard Williams, will not be on hand when they play for the title as he finds the situation too unbearable to watch in person.
A sensitive issue that usually gets discussed as it has at Wimbledon is when Venus and Serena reach a final at the same tournament is there a predetermined outcome. There are those that have the perception the family actually determines in advance who is going to win the matches when the sisters play against each other. That was a topic often brought up early in their careers but it should be long dismissed by now.
Anyone who would’ve seen how huffy Serena became the other day when a member of the media said that many consider Venus the favorite would know better than to think anything is pre-arranged. Serena was really bothered by that question and while it may be an unspoken competition between the two, there is indeed a rivalry and neither one of them is giving in to the other anytime they face off.
Just to reiterate the numbers: Serena has an edge of 8-7 in their matches, 5-4 in Grand Slam matches, 5-1 in Grand Slam finals and 2-1 at Wimbledon. The notion that they somehow conspire to decide the outcomes of their head-to-head matches in advance is ridiculous. I know they both really want to win this title. And anyone who believes that there is even a remote possibility they get together to decide how things should play out should make note of their most recent encounter in the Bangalore, India semifinal this year where both had match points before the match was eventually decided in Serena’s favor in a third-set tiebreaker.
The sisters might be uncomfortable playing each other -- which is not that far-fetched to understand -- and that might not always make for the best tennis but we’ve also seen many finals in the majors between non-siblings that haven’t exactly set the world on fire. Venus and Serena are out there trying their best and they shouldn’t be faulted if they don’t always put on the best show when going against each other.
© 2008 NBC Sports