Sisters are still hungry after fresh taste of success
Monday 07 July 2008
Venus Williams had a glass of champagne in her hand but her thoughts were on more humble fare. "I love McDonald's," the five-times Wimbledon champion said here late on Saturday. "That's always my treat after I win or after I lose. Cheeseburger, small fries. In the States I have a kids' meal. I like to mix it up. I love the curry sauce here. It's a special treat. If I lose, I feel happier. If I win, I feel on top of the world. So it works either way."
The Williams sisters have always been different to the rest. Some people in tennis have despaired of their attitude towards the less glamorous parts of the calendar – Serena won the Australian Open last year having played only five tournaments in the previous 16 months – but you had only to listen to Venus here after her latest triumphs to appreciate their dedication.
Venus and Serena do things their way and it works. Their reward here could not have been greater: a 7-5, 6-4 victory for Venus over Serena in the third all-Williams singles final and a 6-2, 6-2 win for the sisters against Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur to claim their third All England Club doubles title.
For Venus one of the major prices of success is the constant need to recharge her energy tanks. "Every morning I wake up and eat chicken, rice and pasta for breakfast," she said. "You have to try and make sure you've got enough energy for that first match.
"After practice I eat another meal, then I eat another before the doubles and after that I eat another one. I have to eat at least four meals a day. The funny part is that I'm still losing weight. If I wasn't eating all those meals I'd be losing even more weight.
"It's crazy, eating food I don't want to eat. I don't like pasta at all, but I have to shovel it down at least twice a day. It's just part of the job. I had to have another one between the singles and the doubles today, but for sure that's the last pasta meal I'll be having for a while."
What will she be eating in the coming days and weeks now that she has earned some time off? "I don't like breakfast, so I'll skip right to lunch," Venus said. "I'm going to go to McDonald's."
Pasta, nevertheless, is likely to figure on the sisters' menu for some years to come. There is no sign of any diminishing of their hunger for success, even though some cynics were ready to consign them to history four years ago.
The sisters won 10 of the 16 Grand Slam titles between Serena's US Open in 1999 and her 2003 Wimbledon crown, but 2004 was a barren year. Serena's Australian Open victory in 2005, however, proved the springboard for a new wave of Williams success, with Venus's win here the fifth Grand Slam title the sisters have won in the last four years.
How many more Wimbledon titles did 28-year-old Venus (who is two years older than Serena) think she had in her? "The goal is obviously to stay healthy and peak five years from now," she said. "I would love to win another one. It's like each one's a blessing. To say that five isn't enough is wrong, but to say I won't go for another one next year is wrong too. I'm going to go for it."
Did chasing Martina Navratilova's record of nine Wimbledon titles provide any additional motivation? "At this point I'm not focused on it," Venus said. "My achievements are separate from hers. My circumstances are different and I feel so honoured to have done what I have done so far already that I don't think it would make a difference."
Would the All England Club be an appropriate place to make her final bow? "That isn't even on my mind at the moment. When you retire, you know it's coming. For me, I'm still looking at racking up championships. Hopefully, I'll win more doubles titles with my sister. We've got great plans out there in the doubles and we're executing it. It's fun. I'm totally into that."
Venus would like children but having a family can wait. "With modern innovations you can have babies into your fifties, so I'm going to rely on technology and knowledge of men and try and play tennis as long as I can. I really love it out here. It's challenging, but I love it."
If Serena has seemed likely to finish her career with more Grand Slam titles – she now has eight while Venus has seven – her older sister has looked all but invincible on these courts. Venus did not lose a set here this year and after an edgy start in the final, when she trailed 0-2 and 0-30, outplayed her sister in almost every aspect of the game.
With her thunderbolt serve (one, timed at 129mph, was a Wimbledon record), booming groundstrokes and punishing volleys, Venus is made to succeed on grass. Serena never quite looked at her best this fortnight and eventually succumbed to the sheer power and consistency of her sister's game. Serving at 5-6 and 30-30, Serena bowed to pressure from a barrage of groundstrokes to the baseline and put two backhands in the net.
Even when the younger sister broke after a third game of the second set that lasted 14 minutes, Venus hit back immediately. At 4-5 and 15-40 Serena saved the first match point with her ninth ace but then put a backhand out after Venus had turned heroic defence into bold attack.
Having seen off Martina Hingis, who was looking likely to dominate the women's game for years to come until the sisters started blasting her off court at the turn of the century, the Americans have now outlasted Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, who have both retired, and are winning most of the battles against the next generation.
Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic represent the best of the current younger wave of players, but all fell early here and it remains to be seen whether they are in the game for the long run. Sharapova's form this summer has been poor and Jankovic has been regularly troubled by injury.
It will probably fall to Ivanovic, the French Open champion, to offer the strongest challenge to the sisters, but it is hard to imagine the 20-year-old Serb matching them on grass in the near future. The Williams era is not over yet, far from it.
Williams v Williams in Slams
(All meetings in finals)
2001 US Open
Venus won 6-2, 6-4
2002 French Open
Serena won 7-5, 6-3
Serena won 7-6, 6-3
2002 US Open
Serena won 6-4, 6-3
2003 Australian Open
Serena won 7-6, 3-6, 6-4
Serena won 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
Venus won 7-5, 6-4
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