For the first time in 12 Grand Slam tournaments the women's semi-finals here will be contested by the top four seeds. In such a scenario you might anticipate tightly contested matches between two well-matched pairs, but you would need the optimism of the most diehard Russian patriot to believe that Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva will be doing anything more than making up the numbers here this afternoon.
Safina is the world No 1 and Dementieva the Olympic champion, but their opponents are the Williams sisters, who will be aiming to meet in their fourth Wimbledon final and to extend their decade of extraordinary dominance at the All England Club.
While Safina meets Venus, who has won five Wimbledon titles already, Dementieva faces Serena, who has won twice here but has a total of 10 Grand Slam titles, three more than her sister. The Americans' semi-final record is awesome: Venus has played in seven semi-finals here and won them all, while Serena has won her last seven in Grand Slam tournaments.
There has been only one Wimbledon final in the 21st century that has not featured a Williams sister – when Amélie Mauresmo beat Justine Henin in 2006 – and only one other occasion without a Williams winner, when Maria Sharapova beat Serena in 2004. "I would love it to be a Williams final, and so would Serena," Venus said.
Ask the sisters who they see as their greatest rivals and they invariably say one another. "We have a great game," Serena said. "We have strong serves. We have pretty good returns. Just solid all-around court players. We both move pretty well."
The sisters' father, Richard, who has guided their careers from the days he coached them on public courts in Compton, California, believes his girls are on course for their 21st meeting and their 10th in a final. Their head-to-head record stands at 10-10. "They are both playing super well," he said. "They're playing the Williams way. And when you're playing the Williams way, it's very difficult for anyone to touch you."
In the early years of the sisters' dominance there were allegations – always vehemently denied – that they took it in turns to win their matches. Dementieva stirred the pot when she suggested their father would decide who would win their next match and reopened the controversy here last year when she suggested their final would be "a family decision".
Those comments were made in the wake of Dementieva's semi-final defeat to Venus. Now she faces Serena, who lost to the Russian three times in a row until they met in this year's Australian Open semi-finals, when the American won in straight sets. Serena also came out on top in their only previous meeting on grass here six years ago.
Dementieva has enjoyed an excellent past 12 months and, like the sisters, has not lost a set here this year. However, the 27-year-old Olympic champion has not reached a Grand Slam final for five years, having lost in the finals of both the French and US Open finals in 2004.
Serena has outgunned her sister here this year by serving 40 aces to Venus's 22 and has also spent less time on court during her five matches. She has played in three of the past four Grand Slam finals and looks in better shape than Venus, who has been playing with a heavily strapped left knee.
Venus, however, has won 32 sets in a row here, not losing one since her third-round win over Akiko Morigami in 2007, while Safina had never gone beyond the third round until this year.
The Russian has reached three Grand Slam finals in the last 13 months and is the world No 1, but that will hardly worry Venus. The American has beaten world No 1s 12 times in her career, a record bettered only by Martina Navratilova (18) and Lindsay Davenport (14), though the Russian won their most recent encounter, on clay in Rome earlier this year.
Most of today's leading players prefer not to have the distraction of playing in doubles at Grand Slam tournaments, but not the Williams sisters, who reached the semi-finals yesterday by beating Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King 6-2, 7-5. They have won eight Grand Slam titles together.Reuse content