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Czechs, please: Sisters make it a clean sweep
By Paul Harber, Globe Staff
April 28 2003
Boston Globe

LOWELL -- Serena and Venus Williams blew through this old mill city like a northeaster, burying the Czech Republic in a blizzard of aces, break points, and 100-plus-mile-per-hour serves.

The two-day storm began Saturday afternoon with Serena and Venus coasting to victories. It ended yesterday after a 50-minute flurry as Serena dispatched not-so-super sub Klara Koukalova in straight 6-2 sets, giving the United States a clinching 3-0 lead in the Fed Cup five-match first-round challenge.

While it lacked drama, the 5,783 on hand at Tsongas Arena playfully amused themselves between games. First, one side of the court screamed ''Serena'' then the other end responded ''Williams.'' Fans took Fed Cup posters off the concourse walls as souvenirs.

With the outcome determined, the final two matches -- you could call it the Fed Cup's version of garbage time -- were savored by the tennis-savvy spectators. They watched as Venus put away Iveta Benesova, 6-3, 6-2, and then enjoyed the doubles match.

The Slam Sisters ended the festivities, teaming up in doubles, easily disposing of Daja Bedanova and Eva Birnerova, 6-0, 6-1, to make it a sweep for the United States.

When it looked as if the Slam Sisters were going to shut out Bedanova and Birnerova, the crowd roared when the Czech team won its only game, making it 5-1. By that time, the Czechs were laughing about it.

What is it like seeing the sisters across the net? ''They are big. They're everywhere, and they're playing fast,'' said Bedanova.

No one expected the Czechs to win. ''I mean, everybody expected that we were going to, you know, lose very easy,'' said coach Petra Langrova-Pichalova. ''I am proud of my girls. I think they did a good job here.''

There was a possibility the US team would put Meghann Shaughnessy and Alexandra Stevenson in the doubles match, however, Serena and Venus wanted to play it. ''We did it for the fans,'' said Venus. ''They came here to see us and we didn't want to let them down.''

''They are the No. 1 and No. 2 players on the team and it was their call. They deserve it,'' said US captain Billie Jean King. ''And it's for the fans. We're in the entertainment business.''

The Americans advance to the quarterfinal round and will play Italy, 3-2 victors over Sweden. The match will be played July 19-20 at a site to be determined, although most insiders expect it to be held in Washington, D.C.

If the Williams sisters can find time to fit this championship into their schedules, there should be little problem with Italy.

''I really am anticipating it,'' said Venus about the Italy match. ''I'm trying to put it on my schedule. I really want to be there. As far as I can see, I'd like to compete.

''At this point I feel really energized and ready to go.''

Serena said she would like to play in July and the following round in November.

However, neither Williams is willing to commit. ''They are being pulled in so many However, neither Williams is willing to commit. ''They are being pulled in so many directions by so many people,'' said King. ''Let them just savor this victory for a while.''
 
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