- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2000

WIMBLEDON, England The Williams wonders have taken over Wimbledon.

Venus and Serena Williams, the power brokers of the women's game, redefined dominance at the All England Lawn Tennis Club yesterday, sweeping into a semifinal matchup tomorrow that could leave Saturday's final searching for a similar surge of star power.

Venus avenged two previous losses to world No. 1 Martina Hingis in Grand Slams (both in U.S. Open), absolutely overpowering the Swiss Miss (6-3, 4-6, 6-4) despite a slew of unforced errors (54). Venus, who missed the first four months of the season with tendinitis in both wrists, staggered into Wimbledon having played just three tournaments in 2000. Apparently, that doesn't matter much when you're 6-foot-1, have the wingspan of a B-52, average 110 mph on your serve and attack ground strokes like the ball just kicked your dog.

In spite of her many errors, 20-year-old Venus disgraced the world's top-ranked player, dictating the pace for nearly every point while Hingis circled the globe a few times chasing down smashes in a desperate effort to stay on the same court with Venus. Forget the deceptively close final score. Most games in this match, irrespective of the server, were resolved as follows: Williams winner; Williams unforced error; Williams winner; Williams winner; Williams unforced error; Williams winner; game over. Hingis was never in control of the match. She hit just 19 winners. Venus hit 48. Perhaps most telling was Venus' total disregard for Hingis' second serve, as she crept several feet inside the baseline and routinely ripped Hingis' soft second serve down the line for ego-erasing winners.

Bottom line: Hingis didn't win any games; Williams gave her a few with overly aggressive play.

"That's my game. I'm going to go for it," said Williams after pounding balls past her diminutive counterpart for two hours. "If I stop going for it and start spinning, I become the average player."

The only thing average about Williams is her lack of consistency.

"To be honest, I was really unhappy with the way she played," said 18-year-old sister Serena of Venus' performance. "I mean, I was happy that she won. But I think she thinks she could have played a lot better… . Venus has yet to play her best tennis. I think I'm playing much better here than I was in the U.S. Open [which she won last year] or any other tournament I have played in my life. I'm definitely playing a little better, but it's not my best."

That's a truly frightening thought. Serena needed exactly 41 minutes to savage Lisa Raymond (6-2, 6-0). Like Venus, Serena has played very little this season. She tore the miniscus in her left knee in April (Amelia Island), missed the French Open and had not played competitively for two months entering the fortnight at Wimbledon. Obviously, rust isn't really an issue with her, either.

Including her demolition of Raymond, Serena has lost just 13 games so far at Wimbledon. In all, her five two-set matches have taken a total of 4 hours, 22 minutes, or 43 minutes less than it took Mark Philippoussis to beat Sjeng Schalken in last week's third-round marathon.

"I feel like I can make anything happen," said Serena.

That's certainly understandable given her play in just her second Wimbledon appearance, play that has left even her fellow competitors in awe.

"Obviously, Serena has been playing the best tennis of anybody in the draw so far," said defending champion Lindsay Davenport, who defeated Monica Seles (6-7, 6-4, 6-0) yesterday to move into the semis against Australian Jelena Dokic, who beat Magui Serna of Spain 6-3, 6-2 in 66 minutes. "She has been so impressive."

Even more impressive than Davenport's final-set slaughter of Seles.

Quite simply, the women's game seems to have come to a crossroads. The 24-year-old Davenport, who wields similar power but less quickness than the Williams sisters, might still be able to handle the twin terrors for a time. But the women's game will likely never be the same. The new women's standard is power married to athleticism, a combination personified by the Williams sisters and a hellish hybrid for the statuesque blasters (Davenport and Seles) and lightweight antelopes (Hingis) who have dominated women's tennis for the past several years. This might be their first major showdown, but it sure looks like Venus and Serena will be late-round Slam staples for years to come.

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