- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2002

WIMBLEDON, England Wimbledon is now braced for WW III.
That's Williams vs. Williams, part three.
Venus and Serena Williams obliterated their semifinal opponents at Wimbledon yesterday, setting up yet another Grand Slam showdown between the most successful siblings in sports history. The sisters from Compton, Calif., have now advanced to the finals in three of the last four Slams, tomorrow's finale serving as a tiebreaker of sorts. They will play the first all-sister final at Wimbledon since 1884.
"Well, Venus got me at the U.S. Open [last year], and I got her last month at the French, so we needed a rubber match," said Serena with a laugh after demolishing Amelie Mauresmo 6-2, 6-1 in under an hour. "I'm very excited about Saturday."
So are the rest of us, who have been eagerly anticipating a rematch ever since Serena dispatched Venus in straight sets at Roland Garros last month. The world has yet to see both sisters play their best tennis against one another in a Slam final, and that possibility has the sports world atwitter.
"We've made a lot of unforced errors basically," said Venus about their prior Slam meetings after erasing a slow start against Justine Henin en route to a 6-3, 6-2 victory. "Hopefully, we can both be in top form on Saturday."
Both were stunningly efficient yesterday. Playing first, Venus fell behind Henin 0-2 in their opening set. But by the time the news of Venus' dropped service game had circulated around the grounds at the All England Club, she had rebounded to take eight consecutive games from the diminutive Belgian. Time and again, Henin found herself a step slow and a groundstroke short, as Venus controlled virtually every point with her overwhelming power.
"She didn't let me play," said Henin, who simply couldn't get to the net under the barrage of groundstrokes from Venus "She was so aggressive, so powerful, so what could I do?"
Mauresmo looked equally helpless against Serena. Just a day after playing her most impressive match in years and upsetting third-seeded Jennifer Capriati, Mauresmo barely forced Serena to break a sweat. For the third consecutive match, Serena was hardly threatened, much less broken, on her serve, clicking on 75 percent of her first serves. And like Henin, Mauresmo was unable to use either her serve or her groundstrokes to get to the net. Serena was just too strong, peppering her relentlessly with the best forehand in the women's game.
"I was immaculate," said Serena, in no mood for humility after vaulting over her older sister into the world's No. 1 slot. "Nobody was going to beat me today."
Even the overly zealous German fan who was arrested and taken before the local magistrate yesterday for stalking her could not distract Serena from the business at hand.
"I don't see how it could effect my game, him being arrested," said Serena. "I'm a strong person. I try not to let things like that effect me."
Perhaps a stalker strike was the only thing that could have prevented tomorrow's all-Williams final. Mother Oracene certainly didn't seem the least bit concerned about yesterday's opposition, yawning her way through both matches as if certain before the first serve that her girls were destined for the final.
The competitive portion of the women's draw finally begins tomorrow, when Venus takes the court with a 5-3 head-to-head edge. The 20-year-old Serena has won their last two meetings in straight sets and appears to be playing at a higher level. But the 22-year-old Venus has won their only previous meeting on grass (2000 Wimbledon semifinals) and steps on Centre Court with consecutive Wimbledon titles on her resume.
"This is going to be the most difficult surface for me to face her serve," said Serena, who will be making her first appearance in a Wimbledon singles final. "I've been practicing, trying to hit with her in practice. It just kind of skids. Actually, I've been returning better against the other players because of Venus serving to me, because she's just been serving unbelievable. I have to play pretty close to the way I played today to come close to beating her."
Neither of the sisters seems particularly concerned with the emotional issues that defined their early clashes. When they met at Wimbledon two years ago, the protective Venus repeatedly mentioned how "terrible" it was to have to play her little sister, insisting she was a loser either way.
Yesterday, however, both girls said that sensitivity issue was behind them.
"I know Venus has beaten me a few times and felt bad," said Serena. "When I beat her at the French Open, I kind of wished there was something that she could have won, too. But I think we're both getting better with that. A win's a win. You have to go out there and fight."
Venus agreed, saying she now relishes, instead of dreading, their clashes.
"I think it's good for tennis," said Venus. "I think that it's just something that's unprecedented, never seen before. We make the headlines and the cover stories, all the news, because it's Serena and I. It's something that's never happened. That's how tennis gets in the news, when there's amazing things happening."

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