SPORT

Venus Williams wins her fifth Wimbledon

GOING FULL TILT: There were no signs of sisterly love blunting competitive instinct as Venus and Serena played out a pretty well-contested final.

GOING FULL TILT: There were no signs of sisterly love blunting competitive instinct as Venus and Serena played out a pretty well-contested final.   | Photo Credit: — PHOTO: AP

Nirmal Shekar

The two most dominant Wimbledon champions of this millennium give it their all



Venus rallied from a break down in the first set

Overall she converted four of seven break points



London: Sshhh… stop all the cynical whispers and save all the snide remarks for another occasion. For, if the outcome of this one was decided at the breakfast table in the Williams’s rented mansion in the Wimbledon village on Saturday morning, then we should perhaps be looking forward to more such discreet sibling pacts in women’s tennis.

There was nothing at all wrong with Venus Williams’s 7-5, 6-4 victory over her sister Serena Williams in the women’s singles final of the 122nd Wimbledon championships on Saturday. The win, which brought the older one her fifth singles title at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, not only featured one of the most competitive sets — the first — seen in the women’s event in this year’s championship but also dealt a blow to the popular belief that these Sister Acts are often pre-determined, or Daddy-managed, if you wish.

Richard Williams himself had taken a plane out of Heathrow on Friday, saying his job was done and it did not matter to him who won on Saturday.

But it did matter to Venus; and yes, it did matter to Serena too. And they produced a thoroughly entertaining contest that lasted an hour and 51 minutes. It was the third Wimbledon final featuring the sisters and the earlier two, in 2002 and 2003, had seen Serena come out triumphant.

As John McEnroe said on BBC television before the start of the contest, in the past, there had been a “bit of awkwardness” about their matches, for the sisters as well for the fans and the media. There was a feeling that you weren’t sure what to make of them.

But that was a long time ago, an era of the Williams hegemony in the women’s game. That was a time when Venus and Serena played each other frequently in Grand Slams finals — in fact, they featured in five of six Slam finals from the French Open in 2002 to Wimbledon in 2003, Serena winning all of them — and did not seem to enjoy their battles.

But now, at a time when their rankings have slipped and they have so many other interests in their lives, they perhaps understand better how precious an occasion a Wimbledon final is. Venus is 28 and Serena is 26 and they know, too, that no matter their extravagant natural gifts, the show is not going to go on forever.

In the event, the two most powerful hitters in the women’s game went at each other like a pair of young prize fighters with an eye on their first big purse. Their uninhibited shot-making and breathtaking athleticism made for a special offering for over 15,000 fans on the centre court on a sunlit afternoon.

Off to a flier

At the start, it was Serena who appeared the hungrier of the two, winning 10 of the first 12 points in the match. Venus, less likely than her sister to wear her heart on her sleeve, quietly set about doing the repair work after losing her opening service game.

And just when it appeared that the younger one was ready to put on a burst of speed and take the game away from the defending champion, Venus took advantage of a double fault and a backhand error from Serena to put the set back on serve (4-4).

By now it was obvious that the Williamses, the two most dominant Wimbledon champions in the new millennium, were giving everything they had out there.

“Sibling rivalry represents one of the great Darwinian paradoxes,” wrote the British table tennis player and columnist Matthew Syed in The Times on Saturday.

Indeed it does. While it is never easy to go for the jugular when you share 50 per cent of your genes with someone, the emotional undercurrents are harder to deal with when the siblings are as close to each other as the Williams sisters.

“My first job is as a big sister,” said Venus after receiving the Venus Rosewater dish for the fifth time from the Duke of Kent.

Then again, the benevolent ‘big sister’ role was the last thing on her mind in the heat of the battle as Venus turned things around superbly midway in the first set before breaking Serena’s serve again in the 12th to get ahead.

Serena’s best chance

Serena’s best chance to play herself back into the match came early in the second set after she broke Venus’s serve in the longest game of the match. But somehow, after the loss of the first set she did not appear quite as fired up as she normally is in the face of adversity.

Venus levelled at 2-2 and then, with Serena serving to stay in the match, charged ahead to hit a backhand pass that gave her two championship points. Serena wiped one out with an ace but floated a backhand wide on the next.

The big difference on this day was how much better Venus was on the big points. Serena had 13 breakpoints. She could convert only two. Venus, on the other hand, had only seven, she converted four of them.

Nestor-Zimonjic pair triumphs

Later, Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia won the men’s doubles title with a 7-6(12), 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-3 win over Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden and Kevin Ullyett of Zimbabwe.

THE RESULTS

Prefix denotes seedings

Women’s singles: Final: 7-Venus Williams (USA) bt 6-Serena Williams (USA) 7-5, 6-4.

Men’s doubles: Final: 2-Daniel Nestor & Nenad Zimonjic bt 8-Jonas Bjorkman 7-6(12), 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-3.

Mixed doubles: Semifinals: Bob Bryan (USA) & Samantha Stosur (Aus) bt 12-Jamie Murray (Gbr) & Liezel Huber (RSA) 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-4.

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