NEW YORK (AP) With each dynamite stroke and dominating victory, Venus Williams looks more and more like the best women”s tennis player in the world.
Except, that is, when she plays against younger sibling Serena.
While Venus routinely comes out on top, as she did Saturday night in the first U.S. Open final between sisters, the quality of their matches never lives up to the significance of the occasion.
“We both know that when we come out there, it”s going to be two competitors competing against each other. That”s just the way it is,” said Venus, who”s 15 months older. “When you walk out on the court, if you”re not a competitor, you”ve just got to go home.
“There”s nothing like winning a Grand Slam.”
She should know.
By beating 19-year-old Serena 6-2, 6-4 in their latest lackluster encounter, Venus capped two weeks of brilliance in which she didn”t lose a set en route to her second straight Open title.
It was also her second straight Grand Slam championship, after Wimbledon. She”s now won four of the last six majors, plus two gold medals at the Sydney Olympics, over the past two years.
Regardless of the pecking order in the women”s rankings Venus is No. 4, behind Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport it”s clear who really is the top player right now.
Venus is 46-5 in 2001, with six tournament titles. She”s 24-1 with three championships since her shocking first-round exit at the French Open, which is played on clay, the surface least conducive to her game.
Her ranking suffers because of a system that rewards those who play more often. Hingis, for example, has entered eight more tournaments than Venus this year.
Venus is at the vanguard of a new style of tennis, combining pure power with an impressive athleticism that allows her to track down opponent”s apparent winners.
With their forehands and flair, Venus and Serena have helped reinvigorate women”s tennis. Saturday”s meeting drew 23 million TV viewers, making it the most-watched program of the night.
Yet, it wasn”t beautifully played, much like their previous six pro matches. Perhaps it”s because it”s tough to look across a net at your sibling and summon the killer instinct required in sports.
Chris Evert, who won six U.S. Open titles in the 1970s and “80s, can relate. She hated playing younger sister Jeanne.
“It certainly wasn”t a Grand Slam final, that”s for sure, but I felt sick. I wanted to throw up on the court. It”s an awful feeling,” Evert said. “You”re filled with so much emotion. I didn”t want to beat her, but I didn”t want to lose to her. I didn”t look her in the eyes. I just wanted to get off the court.”
Venus and Serena played as though they felt that way, avoiding the smiles and fist pumps they normally display. They turned their backs on each other after points, and twice avoided making contact by walking around opposite ends of the net during changeovers.
Sisters Sledgehammer combined for 55 unforced errors and lost serve a total of seven times. And it”s tough to recall a major championship won by a player who conjured up only seven winners.