Just Williams: a plot with little passion

Women's singles final: Conspiracy theorists abound as sisterly sympathy takes edge off an all too cosy confrontation

The amazing Richard Williams has never been a man fazed by reality. Among the many outlandish claims he has uttered have been his intention to buy New York's Rockefeller Centre for £3.9bn (no matter that it wasn't for sale), buy air space over India that would make him millions, and make Wimbledon "my family's personal property". Progress in respect of the first two is unknown, but then when you have succeeded in the third it scarcely matters, does it?

Not for the first time here on Centre Court we felt rather like intruders as America's first sporting family followed Independence Day with a Declaration of Serena's Supremacy Day, with the massed ranks of Williamses present - excepting rather perversely Richard, who apparently finds it difficult to be a spectator when his two youngest daughters are in combat - to witness this second triumph in the Championships by the younger of the pair, who was defending her title. Welcome to the All Williams Club.

The strangest aspect of this duo is that they can trade strokes with the blood-thirstiness of a couple of broadswordsmen engaged in mortal combat, all sweat, grunt, and anguish; then, within seconds of the conclusion of the contest, haul out the family camera and request an obliging official to take assorted shots of themselves and admiring family members and friends as though they are enthusiastic visitors doing a tour of the Club.

Such moments help to endear the Williams sisters to an audience, who you feel are still slightly perplexed as to how to respond to the phenomenon of two siblings brought up with a calculated end in mind by their slightly wacky father who is also their self-taught coach. In earlier rounds, there was little doubt where the spectators' allegiance lay, and it was not with the Williams.

Father Richard and mother Oracene - they are now divorced - maintain there is nothing racist in that preference, despite the hostile atmosphere at the French Open. It is merely a case of the crowd favouring the underdog. Maybe, although one suspects there is something of an ABAWS attitude about it all - Anybody But A Williams Sister. Whatever the explanation, antipathy from such spectators was in vain; the sisters' unfortunate opponents having been dispatched with relative ease.

If the Williams sisters suffer in their public perception it is primarily because both their games are so dependent on the prime asset of power. Certainly, they can both volley with aplomb, if required, but they rarely offer that dimension. Although some of yesterday's rallies were exhilarating enough in their own right, it was scarcely a compelling final, despite its progression to a third set.

But then, it never would be, given the relationship of the participants. There were more conspiracy theorists out and about than at an open day at Roswell. Explanations for Unusual Flying Objects, notably the curious trajectory of certain tennis balls on Centre Court, abounded, and none more than when Venus, on two set points, presented her sister with a shot that had a message on it reading: "Please put me away." Serena inexplicably failed to complete the smash, instead producing a shot lacking any hostility. Venus went on to win the point and secure the set. Such incidents, and there were others, were accompanied by mutterings that it was all the result of a Williams family stitch-up.

Which doesn't quite explain how Serena rallied with such conviction, belying the conspiracists' arguments, to take the match. Unless, of course, the whole thing had been the result of a mischievous exercise in audience manipulation.

Nevertheless, what is undeniable is that the confrontation lacked the edge that one might have anticipated if, say, one of the defeated Belgian semi-finalists, Kim Clijsters or Justine Henin-Hardenne, had been in opposition. Yesterday you just could not imagine any suspect line calls heralding indignant complaints to the umpire.

All just a touch too cosy? Serena denied that she was holding back initially because her sister was injured. "I was telling myself, if anything, 'This is Wimbledon'. God knows if I would get this opportunity again. I think if anything, I fought harder," she retorted.

The drama, such as it was, surrounded the various medical bulletins issued pertaining to Venus' stomach muscles, her left thigh, you name it; sufficient, in fact, to have occupied a full Holby City episode. The whisper in the two hours before the match was that Venus would be unable to play. Once on court, her thigh strapped up, there was the suspicion that she would not last the duration. Her response to that assumption was to take the first three games, barely losing a point.

Venus eventually did require a medical time-out for treatment which prompted us to question whether she would return. She did, but merely to accept a defeat to which she had appeared destined once the pair had entered the second set. Serena was candid enough to accept that, but for the injury, her sister would "definitely have been Wimbledon champ this year". She added: "Everyone can see throughout the championships that she's serving well, running well and her ground strokes were very solid."

But it wasn't to be. For the second year, Serena held the trophy aloft and accepted a cheque for her trouble, a cool £535,000 as she confirmed, yet again, a father's faith. A father who knew that he would boast a daughter who would end the day a champion. And the frightening thing is that the oldest one is only 23.

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