Tuesday, July 8, 2008

ALL HAIL THE QUEEN: Venus Williams Defeats sister Serena To Win Her Fifth Wimbledon Title



Living sports legends Venus and Serena Williams have once again accomplished the impossible in tennis by soaring to the finals of both the singles AND doubles championships at Wimbledon in London, England and winning both events. Their singles championship match on saturday morning, July 5, 2008 was a record setting seventh time that the two of them have faced each other in a Grand Slam tournament and it also marked the seventh time in the last nine years that the Williams sisters have appeared in and won this highly prestigious event. My absolute favorite athlete on this planet--Venus Ebone Starr Williams (better known as 'The Queen') won her 5th Wimbledon crown (a tremendous feat that makes her only the third woman in modern tennis history to win at Wimbledon more than four times) and her equally dynamic and charismatic younger sister Serena whom Venus defeated in singles at Wimbledon was instrumental in helping them both win their seventh overall Grand Slam doubles title later today (a feat that they have accomplished at all four Grand Slam tournaments!) and their third joint Wimbledon doubles title.

Venus also owns the highest winning percentage of any female player in Wimbledon's history (58-7 lifetime or .892). To win 90% of your matches at the toughest, most competitive, and most prestigious tournament in all of tennis is an incredible feat and marks Venus as a true giant of the sport.

It bears repeating once again that never in the annals of American or international sports generally--let alone tennis--have there ever been two siblings who have so dominated their sport or done it in such a spectacular, dramatic, and awe-inspiring style as the two African American wunderkind from the city of Compton, California. Since they both officially entered the professional U.S. Women's Tennis Association (WTA) fulltime in 1997 Venus and Serena have amassed many of the most extraordinary records in the history of tennis.

In addition there is yet another astonishing factoid that we all should be both amazed by and extremely proud of:

VENUS AND SERENA ALONE HAVE NOW WON 42% OF ALL THE GRAND SLAM TOURNAMENTS PLAYED SINCE SEPTEMBER OF 1999! (15 of 36 GS titles) For a mere two individuals to have accomplished this against a global field of literally hundreds of players throughout the world seriously strains credulity but that's precisely what they've done.

I really think we all should just take a moment to simply acknowledge and hold very near and dear to our collective hearts the wonderful reality that what the sisters have achieved and continues to accomplish in the sport of tennis and in their lives is a genuine source of great pride and inspiration for us all. Greatness is as Greatness does and certainly the sisters truly represent and embody that fundamental truth in everything that they do that is positive, worthy, and useful in their still very young lives. LONG MAY THEY RISE AND THRIVE--BOTH ON AND OFF THE COURT...



July 6, 2008

WIMBLEDON All-Williams Final Is All Venus
New York Times

WIMBLEDON, England — Sisters for life and doubles partners later in the afternoon, Venus and Serena Williams put all that aside for nearly two hours Saturday at Wimbledon: slugging serves and ground strokes in each other’s direction with a vengeance.

It had been five years since they had played a Grand Slam singles final together, and the long wait resulted in one of their most intense and entertaining matches despite the gusty conditions that made Centre Court feel more like a wind tunnel.

But there is still no doubt about which Williams sister has the best record at Wimbledon.

Despite a ferocious start from Serena, Venus was able to absorb the shock and gradually impose her long-limbed presence on her favorite tennis court. Her 7-5, 6-4 victory gave her a fifth Wimbledon singles title and left Serena with two.

“I can’t believe it’s five, but when you’re in the final against Serena Williams, five seems so far away from that first point,” Venus said in her post-match remarks to the crowd. “She played so awesome. It was really a task to beat her.”

But it remains even more of a task to beat Venus at the All England Club. This was her second straight title and her third in four years.

Despite struggling this season, failing to win a tournament in the run-up to Wimbledon, she swept through the draw without dropping a set.

“She loves it here,” her hitting partner David Witt said. “She comes here, and it just seems like she just gets here and glows. She loves the grass, and obviously confidence is everything in this game.”

On grass, Venus’s huge serves and flat ground strokes penetrate like on nothing else. On grass, she is also more inclined to put her excellent volleys to use, and at 6 feet 1 inch, she covers a lot of air and space at the net.

That ability, along with Venus’s clutch serving under pressure, was one of the keys to this victory. Venus came to net 18 times and lost but three points once she did. But this was not just a day for boldness. It was a day for deep thinking and caution. With the wind playing nasty tricks on the servers, Venus repeatedly grabbed her tosses instead of hitting them and often pushed the legal time limits before serving, all too aware that her younger sister was returning very aggressively and effectively.

Venus would lose her serve once in each set, but if she had not served extremely well when she had to, she could have easily been broken on three or four more occasions. In total, Serena would fail to convert on 11 of her 13 break points.

“She was a little better today, so it didn’t work out the way I planned,” Serena said after the match.

When Serena finally did break Venus in the second set, prevailing on her seventh break point of the marathon game to take a 2-1 lead, she then lost her own serve much more quickly in the next game to let Venus get back to 2-all.

Serena looked dejected after that, and though she was still an imposing presence on the court, Venus was the more audible presence down the stretch: shrieking as she leaned into her ground strokes and playing world-class defense. Meanwhile, Serena was uncharacteristically quiet.

Perhaps it was resignation, perhaps it was frustration. After all, she had been the sister to start more strongly: taking eight of the first nine points with a flurry of winners and forcing Venus to work extremely hard to avoid turning the set into a rout. But with Serena leading, 4-2, Venus was able to build an edge.

She would win the first set by breaking Serena’s serve, and would win the match in the same fashion, taking the title when Serena knocked a two-handed backhand wide.

Unlike other years, there were no leaps in the air, no unbridled joy. But Venus was clearly delighted, and she and her sister have now each won eight matches in their 16 often anticlimactic encounters.

This, however, was one of the best.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company


American Beauty: Venus Subdues Serena To Win Fifth Wimbledon By Tennis Week Saturday, July 05, 2008

Venus joined Navratilova and Graf as the only women to win Wimbledon five times in the Open Era.

The synchronized shots suggested a shared exchange of anticipated action — a running dialogue between two sisters who have conducted a career-long conversation of crackling rallies.

Twenty years of sparring against her best friend, toughest rival and baby sister not only provides Venus Williams a sense of where sister Serena will be on court it gives her the guidance of knowing precisely where she needs to be going in order to invoke the last word in those explosive exchanges.

Moving as if powered by some internal map quest, Venus was often one step ahead of her Serena on pivotal points and she used prescient play, volatile power and unerring persistence to reassert her role as big sister and Wimbledon winner.

On a wind-swept, sunny Centre Court, the sisters staged a ferocious fight that was the higest-quality of their seven Grand Slam final showdowns as Venus showed her competitive spirit in subduing Serena 7-5, 6-4 to capture her fifth career Wimbledon championship.

A Williams sister has won seven of the last nine Wimbledon finals and after Venus added another in their growing garden of Grand Slam silveware to decorate their shared Palm Beach Gardens, Florida home, her thoughts turned to her sister.

"I have to first say great match to Serena. I can't believe it's five, but when you're in the final against Serena Williams five seemed so far away on the first point," Venus said. "She played a great match, it was really a tough test to beat her. It's so rewarding to perform here and that I every time I come back I have the chance to play well and make history."

Stretching her Wimbledon win streak to 14 matches, the seventh-seeded Williams solidified her status as this generation's premier grass-court champion in collecting her fifth Wimbledon championship joining Martina Navratilova (nine titles) and Steffi Graf (seven titles) as the only women in the Open Era to raise the Rosewater Dish five times. Navratilova and Billie Jean King were among the many Hall of Famers on hand to witness a magnificent match between the sisters, whose head-to-head series now stands at 8-8.

Firecracker forehands erupted in one of the most exciting exchanges of the match — a 23-shot, high-volume, baseline barrage of cross-court blasts crackling like a lit fuse — until Serena missed the mark beyond the baseline. Venus reached back and blistered a biting serve into the body that rattled Serena's black Wilson frame and trickled wide as big sister moved to within a game of the title with a 5-4 lead.

Serena fell behind 15-30 and on a second serve a predatory Venus was prepared to pounc. A tame drop shot attempt from Serena sat up and on the 11th shot of the rally Venus raced forehand and swung a backhand winner down the line to reach double championship point.

Serena was not done yet.

Slicing an ace out wide she saved the first championship point.

On the second, Serena went for the ace wide and missed offering Venus yet another second serve.

And this time there was no reprieve: when Serena's backhand sailed wide, it was over and the sisters met at net to engage in an embrace.

Venus, who has turned tennis' most precious piece of turf into a tennis trampoline jumping up and down for joy after winning the Rosewater Dish in the past, wore a wide smile after today's final, but was a bit more muted in her celebration out of respect for her sister.

"My first job is big sister: I take that very seriously," Venus said, adding "It was tough out there especially in the wind, especially playing Serena. Especially for such a close match. I love winning, but I realize one of us has to win and one of us has to lose. I've been on that losing end many times so I guess it was my time."

When Serena calls Venus "the toughest opponent out there" it isn't lip service. Against any other woman in the world, several of Serena's drives would have been winners. Serena can dictate most rallies once she forces her opponent on the run, but big sister's long strides, expansive reach, sheer speed and accuracy while extend means Venus can hit such lethal line shots while on the run she can create even greater angles with her running replies.

It was a bitterly disappointing defeat for Serena, who played intelligent and impeccable tennis in tearing through the first four games to construct a 3-1 lead. She was one point — and one dramatic net cord — from seizing a double break and stretching her first-set lead to 4-1, but it did happen and Venus responded with her most tenacious tennis of the tournament leaving little sister to ponder missed opportunities.

"She was a little bit better today; it didn't work out the way I planned," Serena said. "I'm so happy at least one of us was able to win. Venus played great. We're just glad to be back in the finals again. We hope for it to keep happening."

The match was a master class in how to play pressure points with a major championship on the line. Th reigning champion silenced the skeptics who questioned her ability to defend her title when she arrived at the All England Club with a subpar 14-7 record on the season before roaring through the fortnight in reeling off seven straight wins without dropping a set.

It was her two most suspect shots — her second serve and forehand — that were the key strokes to her 14th consecutive Wimbledon win. Venus won 19 of the 34 of the points played on her second serve (56 percent), while Serena, who possesses one of the most varied and penetrating second serves in the sport, wilted beneath Venus' onslaught of vicious returns in winning just 5 of 22 points played on her second serve (23 percent).

In their two prior Wimbledon finals, Venus suffered from a strained abdominal in the second and victimized by tenuous moments in the first, this time she played bold tennis on the biggest points when it mattered most. That aggressive mind-set never wavered and empowered Venus throughout the match.

"It was about the serve and who was able to return more serves," Venus said. "We both have different approaches to our second serve: I just like the speed. I just hit it. She's got a lot more kick."

Kick-starting her quest for a ninth Grand Slam singles title, Serena opened the match lashing a forehand winner down the line and two points later struck successive stinging forehands down the line to earn triple-break point.

Venus saved the first, but Serena abruptly extinguished a nine-ball rally blasting a backhand winner crosscourt to break at 15.

Putting more air under her forehand to ensure net clearance, Serena swatted a forehand winner crosscourt, came to net behind a forehand approach and snapped a slick forehand volley winner for 40-0. She held at love in a commanding start that saw her win eight of the first nine points.

Serena joked about "sabotaging" Venus by eating all the Wheaties in the pre-match breakfast, but it was her ability to gobble up the pace her big sister spat at her that saw her dominate the first four games.

Physicality is Venus' most obvious imposing asset on court, but she's matured from a big-hitter into an astute match player adept at making adjustments on the fly. Playing sharper angles in the third game, Venus followed a 116 mph serve down the T by teeing off on a forehand down the line. Serena, anticipating the shot before it was struck, moved to the spot by Venus read her reply and bent low to knock a forehand volley into the open court.

Venus came in behind a tame approach, centered behind the net. Serena blasted a backhand, but Venus stood her ground and blocked a backhand volley into the open court to get on the board.

The fifth game provided a pivotal point in the set.

Greeting a 117 mph serve that seared into her hip with punishing intention, Serena pounded a backhand winner down the line to move to within one point of a 4-1 lead. Realizing she had to attack, Venus raced to net behind a forehand and leaned low to scoop a forehand volley off her shoelaces, lifting a a cross court that clung to the sideline like metal to a magnet.

On the next point, Serena again blasted a backhand return down the line that seemed destined for a date with the back wall, but fortunate favored her sister.

A lunging Venus flicked a full-stretch one-handed backhand, the ball collided with the top of the tape and dribbled over like a single drop of water plopping out of a clogged faucet and that bit of good fortune helped her hold for 2-3.

Serving at 4-3, Serena's first double fault — just her 11th double fault of the fortnight — dropped her to 30-all. Pushed back by a bold Venus return, Serena sprayed a backhand wide off her back foot to face her first break point. Kicking a serve wide to send Venus off the court, she flattened a forehand into the open court to draw even at deuce. Venus earned a second break point and crushed a mammoth return that Serena could not control and suddenly a match which Serena had stamped with her authority was even at 4-all.

Venus sliced a 100 mph ace — her first ace of the match — wide for 30-15. The ensuing exchange was one of the best of the first set as the sisters cracked crosscourt forehands before Serena drew the short ball and slammed a smash for 30-all. Moving diagonally to her right in anticipation of a second serve to her forehand, Serena got exactly what she expected and fired a forehand return winner to earn break point.

Once again, she was one point from seizing a lead, but Serena did not do enough with a backhand drop volley though and Venus, swooping in from behind the baseline, swatted a running forehand pass down the line to draw to deuce. Venus earned a game point, but was victimized by a flurry of forehands from her sister. She saved a second break point with a forehand that knocked Serena into a split.

Two points later Serena, believing her backhand would go wide, yelled "out!" in frustration. Chair umpire Carlos Ramos immediately called a let but Serena, whose scream prompted the let call, conceded the point and the sisters sat down after the longest game of the match with Venus holding a 5-4 lead.

Serving to stay in the set at 5-6, Serena got caught drifting behind the baseline and was reduced to berating herself after floating a backhand long to fall behind 0-30. She responded with a 121 mph missible and a blocked backhand volley winner.

Paying the price for a shorter second serve, Serena's stretched backhand met its demise in the net to hand Venus set point.

Determined to stamp her authority on the rally with her return, Venus cracked a return and a scrambling Serena sent a backhand into the middle of the net dropping her Wilson racquet to the grass in disgust after seeing a 4-3 lead slip away. Venus victimized Serena's second serve as younger sister won just one of nine points played on her second serve in the first set.

Loosening her right arm up as the match progressed, Venus crushed a 129 mph serve — the fastest women's serve ever recorded at Wimbledon — after staving off a break point to hold in the opening game of the second set.

The third game was an absolute epic spanning 20 points in which Venus withstood seven break points and two knock downs casued when she lost her footing behind the baseline. Serena won the game when a back-pedaling Venus toppled to to turf and landed on the back of her skirt beyind the baseline, but that war of wills seemed to sap some of her strength.

Story update and Tennis Week Editor-At-Large Richard Evans' complete match story to follow.


A Wimbledon final to savour - hats off to Venus and Serena

The Williams sisters made the women's Wimbledon final every bit as compelling as the men's
by Richard Williams Guardian London July 8, 2008

Every now and then sport rises to match its own best notion of itself. Sunday was such an occasion, when Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in a tennis match that defined the platonic ideal of sport as an expression of grace and chivalry as well as of skill and the hunger for victory. And if the winner claimed the spoils, the loser could console himself with the knowledge that it was the ferocity of his struggle to hold on to his championship which exalted the occasion and legitimised the claims of those who believed they had watched the greatest Wimbledon final of all.

There had been another tremendous final 24 hours earlier, although it seemed not to have impressed a friend of mine. Perhaps she won't mind being described as one of those English tennis fans who don't give the game a thought for 50 weeks of the year but switch into Pimm's-and-strawberries mode as soon as Sue Barker heaves into view from SW19. And I'm afraid I lost my temper when she said: "That women's singles final - it was a bit flat, wasn't it?"

Yes, it was flat if you think, for instance, that the sight of a 6ft 1in woman serving at upwards of 125mph into her opponent's body could ever been seen as showing a lack of competitive bite. When Venus Williams did that to her sister Serena, she left no doubt that all vestiges of sibling affection had been put in abeyance for the duration of the contest. In every respect, this was a full-on tennis match between two players sharing not just a family but an equal hunger for another Wimbledon title.

Further proof came from the look on Serena's face as she watched her sister lifting the great silver dish. She was simply furious with herself for having failed where, in their two previous meetings in the final of the championship, she had prevailed.

The score, 7-5, 6-4, looks unremarkable but it masks a match of relentless effort and high quality, including a handful of individual points that each contained more great tennis that some complete women's finals: King versus Cawley in 1975 (6-0, 6-1), anybody? Or Navratilova v Garrison in 1990 (6-4, 6-1), Graf v Seles in 1992 (6-2, 6-1), or even Venus versus Bartoli last year (6-4, 6-1)?

By their willingness to take each other on in front of a crowd whose initial scepticism was made plain by the reticence of their applause, Venus and Serena Williams rescued a women's singles tournament whose final stages would otherwise have lacked quality. For once, a packed second Saturday crowd on Centre Court got value for their money even before the doubles players came along to provide light entertainment - or, in the case of Venus and Serena, who re-emerged in the women's doubles a couple of hours later, a demonstration of power play that singed whatever grass remained on the parched court.

For that reason, too, the whole world of women's tennis should be getting down on its knees to thank the Williams sisters. They, and they alone, maintained the veneer of competitiveness that permits the WTA to demand equal pay with the men on behalf of its players. The top four seeds were gone before the first scuff marks had appeared on the show-court baselines, and those who remained put up a challenge that could best be described as weedy. How can Elena Dementieva, however efficient her ground strokes, have made her way into the top five and into this year's semi-finals without putting herself to the inconvenience of acquiring anything remotely resembling a decent serve in her 10 years as a professional?

As is increasingly being noted, the Williams sisters adhere to a restricted competition schedule that may frustrate tournament organisers but allows them to live as fully functioning human beings, a useful corrective example to those who believe that hothousing is the way to bring up a champion. If you were Laura Robson's parents and you had the choice of going for advice to Richard Williams or to Yuri Sharapov, which would you choose?

Finally, here's a suggestion for those who think that matches between the sisters are necessarily the victims of some sort of "family decision", as Dementieva foolishly claimed, or "fix", as others more baldly put it. While watching the match on television, try half-closing your eyes and pretending that one of the players is white. That might do the trick.


Venus and Serena Williams win Wimbledon 2008 doubles title July 5, 2008

Eleventh-seeded Venus and Serena Williams defeated sixteenth-seeded Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur 6-2 6-2 and won their third Wimbledon doubles title.
That is Venus' and Serena's seventh Grand Slam doubles title, and they have an amazing 7-0 record in Grand Slam doubles finals.

The sisters have added the Wimbledon 2008 title to the ones from the years 2000 and 2002. In addition, Venus and Serena have today scored their 100th victory together.

Congratulation to the Williams sisters who won the Wimbledon doubles title only hours after their fantastic encounter in the singles final.



Williams Sisters Claim Doubles Crown Venus and Serena Williams Win Third Wimbledon Doubles Title After Singles Faceoff

Serena Williams right, and her sister Venus embrace after their win in the Women's Doubles final against Australia's Samantha Stosur and Lisa Raymond of the US on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, Saturday, July 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Kirsty Wigglesworth - AP)

By Chris Lehourites The Associated Press Saturday, July 5, 2008

WIMBLEDON, England -- When Venus Williams won her second match point of the day at Wimbledon, even little sister Serena could celebrate.

About 3 1/2 hours after Venus beat Serena to win the women's singles title, the Americans paired up Saturday to win their seventh Grand Slam doubles title, beating Lisa Raymond of the United States and Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-2, 6-2.

The victory improved Venus and Serena to 7-0 in Grand Slam doubles finals, and gave them their third doubles title at All England Club on the same day they played each other in their third all-in-the-family Wimbledon singles final.

"We've both worked really hard this year, and I think the results showed here, both in the singles and the doubles," Venus said after winning the Wimbledon singles title for the fifth time.

The sisters last won the doubles title at Wimbledon in 2002, the first of two straight years in which Serena beat Venus in the singles final. On Saturday, Venus beat Serena 7-5, 6-4 on Centre Court before the pair returned to the same stadium for yet another victorious Grand Slam final.

In the doubles match, Venus and Serena broke their opponents twice in each set, showing little emotion throughout and only whispering tactics to each other with their hands covering their mouths. Venus, with tape near her right knee, served out to win each set.

When Venus' backhand lob sailed high into the darkening sky in the final game, both Stosur and Raymond watched the ball land on the baseline for the final point of the match.

Serena, standing near the net with her racket at the ready, didn't even know if the ball landed in. Once she realized she, too, claimed a Grand Slam title on the second-to-last-day of the 2008 tournament, she raised her arms in celebration and hugged her older sister.

The pair declined to speak to reporters after the doubles match.

The Williams sisters have entered 34 tournaments as a team and won 11 titles, including the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Venus first won both singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon in 2000, and Serena matched that in 2002.

Including the prize money awarded to the singles champion and runner-up, along with what they earned for the doubles championship, the Williams family netted more than $2.5 million Saturday.