Sisterhood slams door on spectacle

Back in 1987, when they were ranked two and three in the world, Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander met in the semi-finals of the US Open. Since both are Swedes, the tournament planners stuck them on first at 11am in a virtually empty stadium because, this being so-called Super Saturday, when Grand Slam traditions are annually hurled to the wind by this misbegotten tournament in favour of TV ratings, matches involving Americans were deemed more appealing to the nation's late-rising couch potatoes.

Mats and Stefan did their stuff, Wilander winning in four sets. Afterwards the pair were asked if they minded being insulted by the arrogant scheduling. Rather than a straight yes or no, Wilander offered this parable: two tennis players, a Czech and a Swede, jump into the deep end of a New York swimming pool. Who sinks first? Answer: who cares? Much the same comment applies to this year's women's final, which was due to be coming to an end this morning at roughly the time our nation's early birds were reaching for coffee and cornflakes. Once upon a time, the result of the women's final at the US Open made it into the Sunday papers of more than just the United States. Now the match has to be played as the CBS Prime Time final on Saturday night. And anybody who doesn't like it can jump in a pool and sink.

But, be honest now, how many really care whether Venus Williams or Serena was the winner this morning? This was the third consecutive Grand Slam final contested by the Super Sisters; the fourth in the last five. A bit like Lewis-Tyson IV, this was a contest too far. In raising women's tennis to a new level of bludgeoning skill, the Williamses have, in effect, wrecked it as a spectacle, though of course CBS Prime Time would not agree. Opponents are already staggering from bomb-proof bunkers with raised arms and shattered rackets. Jelena Dokic, the Miss Dismal of whatever nation she happens to be currently representing, has opined that there is no point going on court against Venus or her "baby" sister. Some baby, eh? Others haven't quite got around to being so frank as Dokic, but you can see from their expressions as another 120mph ace screams past them or a smash threatens their wellbeing that they are thinking pretty much the same.

Lindsay Davenport's face was a mask of resignation mixed with despair as she was pummelled to the deck in Friday night's semi-finals by the catsuited Serena. Had a cartoon-strip bubble been floating over Davenport's head it would have read "Why bother?" All Serena lacked in that match was the executioner's mask.

Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and Amélie Mauresmo are all big punchers who have fancied their prospects against a Williams, while those who play slower-paced stuff with style and skill, such as Martina Hingis and Monica Seles, have been out of serious contention for a while. Now suddenly the other big hitters are being outhit, particularly by Serena, who went into last night's final having reeled off 30 straight sets in Grand Slam play.

She reached this final by winning six matches in less time than it took Marat Safin to get through his first-round contest against Nicolas Kiefer. Once on Friday night, having netted a volley at the start of the second set, Serena picked up the ball and stared hard at it, as if about to admonish it for daring to fail to do her bidding. Such is confidence.

Naturally, they will be delighted about all this at the Williams family patch in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. His daughters' domination is a tribute to the eccentric skills and gritty drive of Richard Williams, determined that two black children should storm a white-dominated sport. However, though it is a wonderful tale, the Williams girls have turned their sport into a bore simply by virtue of their unassailability.

With Capriati and the Williamses having won the last 10 Grand Slams, the United States can safely be accepted as the dominant factor in the women's game, the "new wave", if Capriati can thus be described at 26. The same does not apply to America's men. Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, whose combined age would qualify them for a bus pass, were the home nation's hopes in the semi-finals. Things haven't quite panned out as planned for the guys, particularly in the case of Andy Roddick. Sampras called him "the future of American tennis", and he may yet prove to be just that. But there has already been a worrying intrusion of hype over the Florida-based Nebraskan. He already has a full-time publicist, a sister-in-law called Ginger.

Though he won two tournaments earlier this year, Roddick's record in the first three Grand Slams was unimpressive. So, come Flushing Meadows, Andy was expected to climb on to the stage and announce show time. A quarter-final against Sampras was anticipated with relish. At least the lad himself was not carried away. After subsiding to a straight-sets loss, he told the press: "You guys say Pete is washed up, but I've never said that."

The hullabaloo over Roddick is similar to the noises made over the arrival four or five years ago of the photogenic Jan-Michael Gambill, whose most impressive statistic of late is the number of Jaguar cars he has amassed. Perhaps the best bet for a new leading American will turn out to be the unassuming James Blake.

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before