- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2009

WIMBLEDON, England | Serena Williams kept telling herself she was facing just another foe in the Wimbledon final Saturday, just another opponent who hits the ball hard, just another player trying to deny her a Grand Slam title.

She wasn’t facing just anyone, of course. She was playing her older sister Venus. And when the latest all-Williams final finished, when Serena wrapped up a 7-6 (3), 6-2 victory for a third Wimbledon championship and her 11th major title, she jogged to the net with her arm extended for a handshake.

Venus pulled her close for a warm embrace.

“I didn’t think about Venus at all today. I just saw her as an opponent,” said Serena, who also beat her sister in the 2002 and 2003 finals at the All England Club. “At one point, after the first set, I looked on the side of the court at the stats, and it was like ‘Williams,’ ‘Williams.’ I couldn’t figure out which was which.”

Monday’s rankings will say Serena is No. 2 and Venus No. 3 - behind No. 1 Dinara Safina, a 6-1, 6-0 loser to Venus in the semifinals - but it is clear who the best woman in the world is at the moment. Serena has won three of the past four Grand Slam titles and even poked a little fun at Safina, who is 0-3 in major finals.

“If you hold three Grand Slam titles, maybe you should be No. 1 - but not on the WTA Tour, obviously,” Serena said. Then, alluding sarcastically to two less-than-major events won by Safina, Serena doubled over in laughter after saying: “I see myself as No. 2. That’s where I am. I think Dinara did a great job to get to No. 1. She won Rome and Madrid.”

The sisters’ father, Richard Williams, used to say his youngest daughter would be the better of the two, and the numbers back that up at this point: Serena leads in Grand Slam titles (11-7), in head-to-head matches (11-10) and in all-Williams major finals (6-2).

It was the 14th Grand Slam final for each Williams; no other active woman participated in more than four. Serena is 11-3 in such matches; Venus fell to 7-7, with all but one defeat coming against her sister.

Asked if it’s easier or harder losing to a sibling, five-time Wimbledon champion Venus said: “There’s no ‘easy’ to losing, especially when it’s so close to the crown.”

She was the two-time defending champion and had won 20 matches in a row at Wimbledon, the past 17 in straight sets. But Venus - at 29, she’s 15 months older than Serena - appeared a step slow, perhaps bothered by the left knee that has been heavily bandaged since the second round, although she refused to place blame there.

“She played so well, really lifted her game,” Venus said. “I had an error here and there. Today, I couldn’t make errors.”

Serena had more winners, more aces and fewer unforced errors.

About 3 1/2 hours after their match ended, Serena and Venus returned to Centre Court and capped their domination of Wimbledon by winning a second consecutive doubles championship. Slapping palms between points, the sisters beat Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs 7-6 (4), 6-4 to collect their ninth women’s doubles Grand Slam title and fourth at Wimbledon.

During the singles final, the Center Court crowd of about 15,000 was not altogether sure for whom to cheer, going stretches without supporting either sister. Mom sat in the stands with arms crossed, while Dad had already left town because he refuses to watch his daughters play each other.

Serena lost Wimbledon finals to Maria Sharapova in 2004 and to her sister last year; she really wanted to end her six-year gap without a title from this tournament. Her trophy in tow - it’s called, coincidentally, the Venus Rosewater Dish - Serena went to check out the board that lists Wimbledon’s champions. She ran her fingers over all of those references to “S. Williams” and “V. Williams” in gold type on a green background - eight of the past 10 years, one or the other appears.

“Actually, I felt like my name should have been there at least once more,” she said. “At least I got in another one.”

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