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CanIGetAWhat
Jun 26th, 2006, 02:13 AM
Power of lone Williams is the greatest threat

Steve Bierley
Monday June 26, 2006

If only Venus and Serena had not been sisters, or that there had been only one of them . . . The joint record of the Williams of 12 grand slam titles is hugely impressive and will always single them out as a "family team", as Venus called them yesterday, even if they were not to win any more. Yet neither has truly dominated the women's tennis world at a time when, given the quality of the opposition, one of them certainly should have done.

Serena has not played since losing in the third round of the Australian Open in January and, although she is talking about returning for the US hard court season, no one is holding breath. As for Venus, the reigning Wimbledon champion, she made it clear - or as clear as the Williams ever make it - that if Serena retires she will follow suit. That would be a pity.

Although the two are quite different, both as personalities and players, they have always been a family unit, cajoling and protecting each other, even if there has always been a suspicion that the six all-Williams grand slam finals were, to some degree, stage managed, Serena winning five of them. She was singled out early by their father, Richard, as being the more talented and, to a large degree, Venus has suffered by comparison.

Last year Venus underlined her formidable athleticism and power by winning her third Wimbledon title, and fifth major, despite doing little, as has become usual, in the way of pre-tournament preparation. Her semi-final against Maria Sharapova bordered on the brutal, while the final against her fellow American Lindsay Davenport, currently injured, was a classic, Venus parading all her fighting capabilities to take the third set 9-7. "It seems like my game always goes up a level here. I'm always positive," she added.

It still galls the purists that both the sisters have the ability to play fast and loose with the WTA, and yet come up with the goods at the major championships. Obviously it underlines their huge talent, while adding to the frustration that, if they had paid less attention to outside interests, at least one of them might have been up there with their compatriots Billie Jean King (12 grand slam titles) or Chris Evert (18). It may yet happen but appears highly unlikely.

This is not to say that Venus will not successfully defend her title over the next fortnight. The Wimbledon seeding committee, in deference to her crown, moved her up in the seeding to No6, despite being outside the top 10 in the rankings. This has given her protection in the first week, though at her peak she hardly needs it.

Amélie Mauresmo, the No1 seed, who finally won her first grand slam title in Australia this year, has everything needed to win the Wimbledon crown except the nerve. It failed her again at Roland Garros, although her record on grass is altogether more in keeping with her varied gifts.

Mauresmo has reached the semi-finals in her last three visits but to get to the final this year she may have to beat Sharapova and Venus Williams in succession - an immense task for a player of such a fragile temperament.

The form player is clearly Justine Henin-Hardenne, who won her third French Open title with comparative ease and followed this with victory at Eastbourne last Saturday. All too often the Belgian has arrived at Wimbledon exhausted by her exertions at Roland Garros but this time she appears perfectly prepared. Wimbledon was the first major final she reached, in 2001, when she lost to Venus. Now it is the only major title to elude her and she has never been better placed.

Apart from Venus, the only other former Wimbledon champions in the draw are Sharapova, who won the title two years ago when she was 17 and seven majors later remains a one-slam wonder, and Martina Hingis, the champion in 1997 when she was 16. Of the two Sharapova is the more likely to win for a second time. But it is the lone Venus who remains the greatest danger to everybody.

vwfan
Jun 26th, 2006, 05:03 AM
refreshing positive, even if meandering.

Bitter Blue Bong
Jun 26th, 2006, 05:13 AM
It still galls the purists that both the sisters have the ability to play fast and loose with the WTA, and yet come up with the goods at the major championships. Obviously it underlines their huge talent, while adding to the frustration that, if they had paid less attention to outside interests, at least one of them might have been up there with their compatriots Billie Jean King (12 grand slam titles) or Chris Evert (18).

The best statement in this article, and it really sums up the point well.