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Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Black Tennis Pro's Venus WilliamsA Few short seasons ago there was a fashion in tennis for saying that the era of Venus and Serena Williams was over. There was no way back for them. The two of them were no longer sufficiently focused on tennis to give it the application required of champions, so the doomsayers had it.

In fact, if you listen hard enough, no doubt you will find somebody saying it right now. But they are dangerous words, as the Williams sisters never tire of proving. Dismiss them at your peril.

Venus has four Wimbledon titles to prove the point, including the crown which makes her the reigning champion. Twelve months ago she was rated the number 23 seed on the SW19 lawns and her early form made even that look a tad generous.

It was widely forecast that the 2007 champion must come from the quarter-final between her sister Serena and Justine Henin, but everyone was looking the wrong way.

The key match was Venus’ last 16 encounter against Maria Sharapova. Sharapova was the world number two at the time, with the American ranked 30 places below her (the Wimbledon seeding committee elevated her to 23 taking into consideration her three previous title wins — rightly, it turned out). When Williams blew away Sharapova, it set her on her way to ultimate victory.
Black Tennis Pro's Serena Williams
She became the lowest ranked player and lowest seed to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish, neatly breaking the record she herself had set two years previously when she won as the number 14 seed.

In case anyone thought that a fourth Wimbledon title might not be all that thrilling for her, Williams was keen to set the record straight.

“It’s wonderful,” she grinned. “You don’t expect to win Wimbledon. This is quite obviously a great surface for me. I think I know how to play on it. I know when to play it high or low, I know how the ball’s going to bounce. If there’s a surface and a place for me to pick, grass at Wimbledon is not a bad choice.

“That was my sixth Slam and I want some more! My main goal is to stay fit. When Serena and I are fit, it gives us time to prepare. Serena needs even less time to prepare than me. As long as we’re fit, we have so much to give on court.”

It’s true. They always seem to produce the most when observers expect the least. It was only last year that Serena went into the Australian Open ranked the world number 81. Nonetheless she stormed to the title, her eighth career Grand Slam victory, wiping out Sharapova in the final.

“I always go in positive, thinking: ‘I’m going to win, I’m going to win’,” explained Serena. “I’m insatiable. It’s a fair assessment that the match is essentially won or lost depending on what I do. If I’m playing my game and staying relaxed, then it’s hard for anyone against me. Doesn’t matter who they are, or what they’re ranked. It’s tough for them to beat me.

“I still have a lot of goals. There are times when you think: ‘Am I ever going to be looking at another trophy?’ But Venus and I always believe in ourselves – and it works.”

At the respective ages of 28 and 26, Venus and Serena will come into Wimbledon this year ranked six and seven in the world. Both have had injury niggles and variable form in the first half of this year, but quite often that is a sign that one or the other of them is about to produce something extraordinary. Who knows what will happen at Wimbledon 2008?

Photo of Venus ©Reuters / E Keogh
Photo of Serena ©Getty Images / A Livesey

Posted by Shelia

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