Sunday, January 25, 2015
The amazing sister act are still inspiring each other as they head for another improbable grand slam semi-final meeting at the Australian Open
Venus Williams ackowledges the fans after defeating Camila Giorgi of Italy in their third round match at the Australian Open.
(The Guardian) - Sisters, friends, survivors: all the strengths and virtues that Serena and Venus Williams have shown in adversity over the years arrived for them on day six of the 2015 Australian Open. However, after good wins from a set down against Elina Svitolina and Camila Giorgi respectively, there are a couple of formidable challenges immediately ahead for them if they are to collide in the semi-finals, which last happened in a slam at Wimbledon 15 years ago.
The day after Roger Federer left an unfillable space in the men’s draw following defeat to Andreas Seppi in the third round, there were some anxious moments on Saturday as Serena, the women’s favourite, had to fight from a set down to beat the tough young Ukrainian 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 on another hot, still day on Rod Laver Arena. A final withering forehand left Svitolina flailing at air to bring 96 minutes of struggle to an end. The scoreline told the story of a slow start, recovery and finishing flourish; a familiar pattern for Williams.
“She played really well, one to watch,” Williams said. “She made me work very hard. She kept hitting winners in the first set and there wasn’t much I could do. Then I heard so many people say: ‘Serena, Serena,’ and I thought you guys are really here for me. I looked up at the screen and saw Venus was 1-4 down and I thought: ‘Come on, we can do this.’ We really inspire each other.”
What an enigma the younger Williams sister is. Last year she failed to make even the quarters of three majors then won the US Open to take her career slams to 18 – one ahead of Federer, but, more pertinently, four behind Steffi Graf, who heads the women’s list in the Open era.
On Monday she plays the talented Spaniard Garbiñe Muguruza, who put her out of the French Open last year and here beat the Swiss Timea Bacsinszky 6-3, 4-6, 6-0. “She’s had a really good win and I have nothing to lose,” Williams said. “I’ll do my best.”If that seemed false modesty on a grand scale, Serena has suffered enough shock defeats in recent years to be wary, although the tennis she produced in the third set resembled her awesome best.
Venus’s 4-6, 7-6, 6-1 win over the promising Giorgi continued her run of decent form and she seems to be in good health, which is always her priority since the auto-immune disease Sjögren’s syndrome struck her three years ago. Her next opponent provides tougher opposition than Muguruza: the sixth seed, Agnieszka Radwanska, who impressed while beating Varvara Lepchenko 6-0, 7-5 in an hour and a half, although the Uzbeki-American put up stern resistance in the second set, which lasted nearly an hour.
If Serena and Venus, who is seeded 18th, do meet in the semi-finals, they will resume the game’s greatest friendly rivalry. Since they first played each other on the tour in 1998, in the second round of the Australian Open (Venus won in two sets), they have met 25 times. Serena leads 14-11 overall and 6-2 in slams. This is the 29th time the sisters have made the fourth round of the same slam.
Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova hold the all-time record for Open era slam matches with 14. It is unlikely, given their ages and career patterns, that the Williams sisters will get close to that number but the girls who hit their way out of a ghetto with their tennis rackets have reignited interest in one of the game’s remarkable stories. Venus, at 34 a year older than Serena, said later: “The years go by so fast. It’s definitely been a lot of work and a lot of learning and a lot of perseverance. It will continue to be that for me. Just have to come to terms with it.
“We talk about all the players we see that aren’t playing any more. We just can’t figure out how we’re still here. When you walk on that court, there is no such thing as age, height, any of that stuff. It’s really an even playing field. It’s a matter of can you get the ball in? Can you win the point or not? It doesn’t matter, any of these variables. That’s what they are: variables.
“I’ve been motivated by Serena since day one, since 1998 or 97 actually. She’s always been someone that anyone can learn from: the way she faces her life, the way she is fearless on the court. I probably take it a lot more to heart because she’s my sister and we’ve had the fortunate relationship, to be able to motivate each other and grow from each other. I don’t think I could have done the things I’ve done without her.”