Venus and Serena Williams will meet in the sixth episode of the Grand Slam final sister act tomorrow after contrasting victories over Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne yesterday.
Venus gave a gutsy display to overcome a painful abdominal strain - not to mention Clijsters - 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 to set up a sixth Grand Slam final against her sister since the US Open of 2001. Venus won that, Serena has prevailed in the other four, including here last year. Serena progressed 6-3, 6-2 yesterday.
Serena stopped short of terming yesterday's victory "revenge" for losing to Henin-Hardenne in an acrimonious French Open semi-final four weeks ago. On that occasion, Williams had accused the Belgian of "lying and fabricating" after a controversy over a Williams serve.
Yesterday Williams said of her opponent: "She's a good player. I think she's a nice girl." She added: "I think it's more the press want to start a rivalry between people. It used to be the Williams sisters and [Martina] Hingis. I think you guys make a mountain out of a molehill. In this case there's not even a molehill there."
Serena certainly gave Henin-Hardenne a mountain to climb. After a rain delay that meant play did not start until 2.41pm, she coasted into a 4-0 lead in the first set. Though there was more to her dominance than sheer power, it was the key factor on the match's important points.
After saving two break points in the first game, Williams broke the French Open champion with force, battering a double-handed backhand past her opponent to secure one advantage and then sealing the game with thundering drive down the line. Henin-Hardenne did herself no favours hitting two forehands into the net after entertaining rallies where her guile was a match for Williams' strength.
After reaching 4-0, the champion then showed frailty on her own serve and Henin-Hardenne broke back twice for 4-3. The first of those breaks - one of five in total in the first set - was sealed with a luscious lob. The second was taken with a deft slice. The intervening Henin-Hardenne service game was lost by her opponent through a wild, swinging drive that flew long.
Williams broke for 5-3 when Henin-Hardenne hit the ball into the net, and then served for the set. She then broke Henin-Hardenne on a double-fault in the first game of the second set and fought back from 0-40 on her own serve to make it 2-0. Both players held serve comfortably until the seventh game when Henin-Hardenne's long lob gave Williams a 5-2 lead. That brought a yelp of delight from the American, who then served out for the match.
Perhaps Williams felt in need of a positive shout in her direction. The crowd, while never nastily hostile, had been on Henin-Hardenne's side throughout, cheering every point she won and many of Williams' unforced errors.
"I played really well," Williams said. "I was really focused and I had to be."
Talking about Henin-Hardenne's double break back in the first set, she added: "It was no hiccup. Justine started playing really well and hit some good shots... I think if anything it put me on my toes a bit more, to realise that I have to keep fighting because Justine wasn't going to give it to me. If anything that definitely kept me going."
The players exchanged a firm handshake and a few words at the net at the end of the match. Williams had already let her game do the talking. Henin-Hardenne said: "We don't have any problem with each other. The past is the past and we are both professional. It's good if we can get a good relationship, and it's like this right now.
"Serena played a high level of tennis. She wanted so much to win right now, and I think she proved that she is No 1 in the world. She was just too good today and I didn't play my best tennis. I was getting a little bit nervous at the beginning of the match, and she deserved it."
Serena's sister, Venus, certainly deserved her win yesterday. She had to call the trainer on to the court at one stage for treatment and during a rain break after the first set she was in apparent pain and was seen looking tearful. But after the break she came back fighting and by the third set was in complete control.
Whichever Williams sister wins the women's singles will collect the same amount of prize-money this year as winner of the men's event. The All England Club will pay the men's winner £575,000 and the women's winner £535,000. The sports bra manufacturer, Berlei, announced yesterday it will fund the £40,000 difference. The WTA released a statement saying it was pleased to get a boost. Or words to that effect.Reuse content