- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

They are Tiger at Augusta. Maradona against England. The Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Eastern Conference's kibble-of-the-month. Nos. 1 and 1A in the world, the Williams sisters finally stand at the pinnacle of women's tennis.
And frankly, it's lonely at the top.
If the just-concluded French Open taught us anything besides the fact that Marat Safin's wispy porn 'stache is the most subtly ridiculous athletic facial hair since, well, Michael Jordan's it's that Venus and Serena Williams figure to lord over the sport for some time to come. Or at least as long as they feel like it.
After all, who's going to challenge them?
With the exception of increasingly petulant Jennifer Capriati more on her later the women's heavyweight division is a bit dodgy. And by dodgy, we mean Tyson vs. Lewis, two shambling thirtysomethings exchanging blows for the title of Baddest Bouncer Alive.
Consider the contenders. Lindsay Davenport is a former No. 1 and one of the few players able to match the percussive power of the Sisters Squared groundstroke for thundering groundstroke. Problem is, she's coming off a knee injury and seems as happy away from the tour as on it.
Likewise, five-time Grand Slam winner Martina Hingis recently had ankle surgery and is suffering from severe pain in her feet, left knee and left hip, injuries that could end her career. Already set to miss Wimbledon, she told Sports Illustrated last week that her motivation is flagging.
Even if Hingis returns in perfect form, that probably won't be enough the Williams sisters have owned the underpowered Swiss Miss since her confidence-crushing loss to Venus in the 2000 U.S. Open semifinal.
Monica Seles, whose shot angles are still dangerous, has played well of late and stunned Venus at the Australian Open. However, she lacks the quickness and conditioning to be a consistent threat.
At 28, Seles also is approaching retirement, perhaps as early as this year.
Life after tennis isn't looming for the top-10 Belgian duo of Kim Clijsters, 19, and Justine Henin, 20. That said, neither looks like a Williams-slayer: Clijsters has been up-and-down since her appearance in last year's French Open final, while Henin's overall game is no match for her cutting backhand.
Then there's Capriati. Impressive as she's been over the last two years, she's never beaten Venus not once and was outplayed by Serena in their French Open semifinal. In the past, Capriati's grit and mental toughness have given her an edge over Baby Sis; in the wake of Serena's composed win at Roland Garros, that may change.
As for other would-be rivals emerging from the detritus of the women's draw that is, anyone ranked outside the top 10 it's strictly wait-and-see. Up-and-comer Daniela Hantuchova pushed Venus in Australia. Vera Zvonareva, 17, was impressive in her Roland Garros debut, taking a set off Serena. Both have plenty of maturing to do.
And it's not as if Venus and Serena are exactly doddering. At 21 and 20, respectively, the sisters are just entering their prime years. Barring injury or disinterest in tennis always a possibility considering the Williams' rich and healthy off-court lives they should only get better.
At the French, Venus didn't lose a single set until she faced Serena. Serena, for her part, lost just two, one to defending champion Capriati.
All of this, of course, took place on clay the surface least suited to the sisters' go-for-broke games.
"Hopefully, we can build a rivalry and we'll be able to do this a lot," Serena said after defeating Venus in the French final. "Make a legacy, then retire champions."
For the rest of the tour, that's a scary thought.

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