Venus cruises, Serena persists
Thursday, 23 January, 2003
by Tim Brimblecombe
While Justine Henin-Hardenne was explaining to the media at the Australian Open what it's going to take to beat the Williams sisters, Kim Clijsters should have been demonstrating exactly what her fellow Belgian was talking about.
Henin-Hardenne was earlier beaten 6-3, 6-3 by Venus Williams in the first women's semi-final, but it seemed Clijsters was finally going to end the Williams sisters' domination of women's tennis when she held a 5-2 third-set lead and two match points against Serena.
It wasn't to be and the world No.1 staged a stirring comeback to win the semi-final 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 and set up a fourth-consecutive all-Williams Grand Slam final.
Venus needed 74 minutes to knock over Henin-Hardenne and confirm her final credentials, but life was a little more difficult for Serena who should have being wearing her famous catsuit because even she will acknowledge she had several lives in the 133-minute battle.
Clijsters put on a brave face after the match but there's no denying she'll be rueing Serena's great escape. The loss ended Clijsters' 17-match winning streak in ATP tournaments.
"She took the risk literally," Clijsters said of her failure to finish off Serena. "She came to the net and just went for it. All the credit to her I think on those points to take such a big risk to really go for her shots."
Serena's error count grew rapidly during the match, but interestingly after trailing 5-2 and fighting off two match points she committed just three errors during the revival.
"I was out there making too many errors on my backhand," Serena said. "I wasn't moving my feet enough, I just wasn't doing the things that I needed to do.
"Not only that she was really playing an unbelievable game. I don't know. I just was a little uncomfortable."
Clijsters said picking the winner in the final was about as tough as playing either player.
"Serena has a better serve and a better second serve than Venus, so against Venus you can sometimes take a little bit more of an advantage from that second serve.
"On the other hand, Venus, she's very, very tough and a very tough competitor as well. She keeps hanging in there and runs well."
The sisters are both obviously very coy when it comes to comparing each other's style of play, but Serena acknowledged her sister was playing the better of the two.
"I've just got to pull something out of my back pocket to be able to go onto the next level because she's playing really well here," Serena said.
At least Serena knows where she stands if she sustains an injury against Venus.
"I'm a competitor," Venus said. "No matter who it is, I hate to lose. The same with her - maybe even more.
"Off the court, we're sisters again. If she were to twist her ankle on the court, of course I'd be concerned, but I would still have to go out and hit the next shot. That's the way it is."
As for Henin-Hardenne, she says she knows what must be done to beat the Williams sisters, but admits it's easier said than done.
"I have to play more aggressive against these kind of players, but it's hard when they're playing this way. I know what I have to do, but it's not always easy against these strong players."
I didnt know Clijsters had a 17 match unbeaten streak in ATP tournaments