- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 7, 2002

WIMBLEDON, England Advantage Serena.
In an all-Williams Wimbledon final that sparkled at times with the best of the Sisters Slam, Serena dethroned older sibling Venus on Centre Court yesterday, claiming her second straight Grand Slam singles title and first at the All England Club.
"I'm part of the club," said Serena, who among other things earned a lifetime membership at the game's turf temple for pounding past her sister 7-6 (4), 6-3. "I wanted to become a member of so much prestige, so much history. I want to be a part of history."
Tennis history certainly will record that 20-year-old Serena won the first truly memorable Slam showdown between the two titans. Unlike their finales at last year's U.S. Open and last month's French Open, which devolved into error-ridden debacles, yesterday's performance on Centre Court featured some staggering exchanges of power and athleticism at least during an unforgettable first set.
"It was a good match to watch," said Serena, who won her third consecutive match and fourth in nine tries against her 22-year-old sister. "We were really serving and returning. Venus was running down balls. I was running down balls. It was fun."
The first-set tiebreaker, which included six mini-breaks and eight outright winners, might have been the most staggering combination of court coverage and strength the women's game has ever witnessed. Both players had the strings singing, the chalk flying and the ball shrieking with their groundstrokes. This was a baseline bonanza, because neither player could get to the net without risking ventilation. Seriously, the net was a Kevlar-only zone in this firefight. And it was almost a shock, given the high caliber of tennis, when the sisters swapped errors to leave Serena serving at 6-4.
Serena scalded an apparent ace at set point, and the 14,000 spectators stuffed into Centre Court erupted in appreciation of the performance, nobody hearing chair umpire Jane Harvey's call of let. Whether the sisters heard the call and chose to ignore it likely will never be known. But after such a fitting finish to the brilliant first act, Harvey wasn't about to order a second take.
The closing set was somewhat less impressive, almost had to be, as Venus began struggling with fatigue in her right arm, and her serve paid the price. Averaging only 80 mph on her second serve, nearly 15 mph below her tournament average, Venus was playing from behind on virtually every second-set point.
Serena earned break points on all but one of Venus' second-set service games, and finally took penultimate control of the match when Venus double-faulted at 3-4 on break point after a lousy toss. That particular serve, her worst of the match, crawled across the net at only 67 mph and fell limply wide of the T.
"Yeah, I did have some double-faults on break points," said Venus, who refused to use her sore shoulder as an excuse after her two-year reign at Wimbledon came to an end. "But I think I played well today, to be honest. She was just pressing and hitting a lot of forceful shots. Really, she was just tremendous today."
Serena, who served out the match at love, now trails Venus by just one Slam victory (3-4). And if yesterday's play, particularly the first set, is any indication, father/coach Richard might well have been correct when he asserted that Serena would be better when both achieved their full potential. Serena won three of the four double-digit rallies the pair played yesterday, her bolder strokes paying dividends.
"We're so close right now," said Serena, who had six more winners (20) and committed three fewer errors (22). "I really think if I had missed a shot in that match, things could have swung the other way."
Venus sounded determined to see that things do swing the other way in the future. During the week she lost her No.1 ranking and her Wimbledon crown to her little sister. And if the two meet again in the U.S. Open final which seems a very safe bet after two straight Slam finals expect a relentless response from the game's current Avis.
"I've got to get down in there and fight," said Venus, when asked how she planned to take back the top spot from her sister. "That's what I'm here for, to be on top. I'm not trying to linger around at No.2. It's not fun losing, no matter who you lose to. It's not something that I'm going to get used to or try to adjust to, because I'm not one for losing often."
Those are fighting words, rivalry words, words that should have the tennis world in a tizzy by the time the girls reach Flushing. If that kind of anticipation isn't good for tennis, then neither was the invention of the racket. Somewhere, Richard Williams is undoubtedly grinning.
"When I first walked out there on Centre Court, I was thinking about winning, but I was also thinking that my dad always said one day we'll be playing in the finals of Wimbledon, in the finals of the U.S. Open, just the big ones," said Serena. "And here we [are] 10, 15 years later. It's hard to get one champion, but now he has two. It's really amazing if you think about it."

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