- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 8, 2001

NEW YORK - Forget Broadway. Never mind the Yankees. Pay no attention to the gaseous emissions streaming from John McEnroe's ears.
Come tonight, the eyes of Gotham and everywhere else will be focused on a far more compelling attraction: An all-Williams sister act in the final of the U.S. Open.
Venus and Serena Williams advanced to the U.S. Open title match yesterday afternoon, with Venus defeating Jennifer Capriati 6-4, 6-2 and Serena dropping Martina Hingis 6-3, 6-2 in the tournament semifinals before 21,976 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"It's sweet, it's sweet," Venus said. "Just real nice. We're happy that we're healthy, and we're happy to be there."
From a spectator's standpoint — or that of a network executive — the long-awaited tete-a-tete couldn't be more tantalizing.
The first sister-sister final in U.S. Open history and the second at a Grand Slam (the other was in 1884), Williams vs. Williams matches two of the game's most talented and charismatic figures and the owners of the last two U.S. Open titles in a women's final that will be broadcast in prime time for the first time.
Put another way: Whoa.
"I'm sure TV would love it," Serena said. "It will be good for us, our family and everything."
Indeed, the match promises to fulfill a Williams family dream. Since the sisters first pounded balls on the inner-city courts of Compton, Calif., their eccentric, Svengali-like father, Richard, has predicted that the duo would meet in a Grand Slam final.
They came close in 1999 when Serena won her first and only major title and again last year, when Venus added a championship trophy of her own. But each time, triumph for one was tainted by disappointment for the other: Hingis eliminated Venus in the 1999 semifinals, while Lindsay Davenport beat Serena last year.
"Basically, it was my dad's dream, my mom's dream," Venus said. "They told us we'd be here playing in the finals. That's why we believed it."
Best friends and mutual confidantes, the Williams sisters live together in a Florida house and are notably close. As such, they've taken great pains to avoid playing each other at the professional level, alternating tournaments outside of the Grand Slams.
In the few times they've met Venus leads the series 4-1 the results have been invariably awkward, such as their tense, ugly match at last year's Wimbledon semifinals.
In March, Venus withdrew at the last minute from a match with Serena in Indian Wells, Calif., prompting widespread speculation that she was faking a knee injury to duck her sister.
"People are going to believe what they want to believe," Serena said. "But the bottom line is that we're both competitors, we both want to be No. 1 and we both want to do the best we can. We're both of age, where no one makes decisions for us.
"I won't have any problem because this is the U.S. Open," Serena added. "If you ever notice, the winner gets $850,000."
Venus said the sisters still intended to eat dinner together last night, match or no match. As for their father, he said he planned to return to his home in Florida late yesterday afternoon, leaving the sisters' mother, Oracene, to watch the match in person.
"I won't watch it," Richard said in a televised interview. "It's like what the Romans and Alexander the Great did, putting their kids out in an arena and watching them fight it out."
Against Capriati, Venus had a fight on her hands at least in the first set. Down 4-1 and spraying unforced errors, Venus broke back twice behind a line-skimming backhand and a running volley the latter shot one of countless would-be Capriati winners that Venus managed to retrieve.
With Venus serving for the first set at 5-4, it was Capriati's turn to dig in. In a 21-point game brimming with long rallies, she fought off three set points. On the fourth, however, she dumped a forehand into the net.
"I was just a little mad at myself because I felt that the first set was mine," said Capriati, who hadn't dropped a set in the tournament before yesterday's match. "And then I just knew I was just running out of gas."
Sure enough, Capriati faded fast in the second set, dropping serve in the first game and surrendering a later break by punching an easy volley wide.
"It's the first match that I really had to run down a lot of balls, work the point so much, every point," Capriati said. "Fighting through all that just took its toll."
The Williams-Hingis semifinal, a rematch of the 1999 U.S. Open final, was anything but great. Or close. In fact, it wasn't even close to being close.
While their previous Open meeting saw Hingis at least push Serena to a second-set tiebreaker, Serena rocked Hingis this time around, handing the world's No. 1 her worst U.S. Open defeat. Serena hit 40 winners to Hingis' five, 10 aces to Hingis' zero and converted five of five break points.
Hingis had little choice. Serena connected on 82 percent of her first serves an unheard of 100 percent in the second set and won 81 percent of those points.
The reason? Serena, who models her serve after Pete Sampras, was positively Pistol-like. Serving for the first set, for instance, she blasted a trio of aces, winning the game at love.
"I couldn't read her serve," Hingis said. "I didn't know whether she was going forehand or backhand. She was hitting the lines and the corners. It was difficult to even reach it. Even [when] I got there, there's not much I could do with it."
While Hingis looped feeble, punchless 67-mph second serves into the middle of the net, Serena pounded aces, one at 115 mph. And while Hingis sped off the court after the match, baseball cap pulled low over her forehead, Serena basked in the afterglow, jumping and waving to the crowd.
A little more than two hours later, Venus would repeat the scene, and the world's biggest tennis tournament whittled down to a family affair.
Said Venus: "In the end, we're taking everything home."


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