Shriver: Williams/Williams Final
Serena is playing better than Clijsters
MELBOURNE, Australia -- It's the semifinals that everyone thought was going to happen and the one everyone wanted to see. It's sisters against the whole country of Belgium here. I think Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters are two of the only players who have the athleticism and movement to stay competitive with the Williams sisters. They also are the only ones who have the mental attitude to stay with them.
Each player has wins over both Venus and Serena. Despite that, the favorite pick going in is to have our fourth straight sister final -- which is an incredible accomplishment.
Serena Williams (1), United States, vs. Kim Clijsters (4), Belgium
These two played each other down here at the Hopman Cup in mixed team competition two weeks before the Aussie. After the first set, which was close, Serena pulled away. She just closed the door on Clijsters. Serena at her best is still better than Clijsters.
The big difference in Melbourne from the WTA Championships in L.A. is that Jennifer Capriati kept Serena out on the court for two hours the day before their final with Serena barely beating Capriati. Clijsters and Serena don't get a day off between the quarters and semis this time, but they both had easy quarterfinal matches. Serena, especially, was a very comfortable winner over Meghann Shaughnessy.
Serena's serve has been spectacular in a couple of matches here. That's the shot we highlighted throughout her quarterfinal victory against Shaughnessy. If Serena can keep that dominating service effort up, she's going to be very difficult to beat.
From Clijsters' standpoint, she's had the easiest path through to the semifinals by far. Against Myskina, however, Clijsters had a lot of unforced errors especially in the second set. But as far as confidence, Serena just has it right now, and I think she's going to win.
Justine Henin-Hardenne (5), Belgium, vs. Venus Williams (2), United States
Henin-Hardenne had the most dramatic match of the tournament two rounds ago beating Lindsay Davenport 9-7 in the third set. The schedule worked out because Henin-Hardenne was able to have time to rest up -- easily winning her quarterfinal and then just practicing lightly Wednesday. Physically, I think she's recovered from her match with Davenport.
It's also good for her to have some play against a player like Davenport, who hits so well from the baseline, coming into her match with Venus. Henin-Hardenne is moving well, she's coming to the net very effectively and her forehand has improved. Everyone has talked about her beautiful backhand, but she's improved her forehand. She belted Davenport's second serve and that's a weaker shot for Venus. But Henin-Hardenne needs to really punish Venus' second serve as well as do everything else at a high standard to win.
Venus is playing pretty well. She and Clijsters are the two that have come through to this round without losing a set. Venus is not in her highest gear -- she's not playing her best tennis yet -- but she's playing well. Venus always plays well in semifinals, so I still favor an all-sister final at the end of the day.
Also, we'll see if Venus breaks her new tournament record of 125 mph on her serve. Suddenly, she's been leaning into her serve. Even Serena began to hit 120 mph today, so maybe there's a little competitiveness between the sisters. Venus' speed was highlighted on the back page of one of the paper's here today, so everyone was aware that she set a new record.