x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Serena to swing out for her sister

Rivalry between the Williams sisters, often friendly but occasionally deadly serious, has covered a variety of issues as they have travelled the world together for the last decade.

LONDON // Rivalry between the Williams sisters, often friendly but occasionally deadly serious, has covered a variety of issues as they have travelled the world together for the last decade. The younger sibling, Serena, has introduced another by suggesting that she should be closer to parity with Venus in terms of Wimbledon titles.

Serena was highly complimentary towards her big sister at the start of the Championships, describing the five-time champion as the finest grass-court player of her generation, but the message going into today's third-round confrontation against Italy's Roberta Vinci is that the time has come to start challenging that assertion. "I should have won more than twice here," declared Serena reflecting on her two final victories over Venus in 2002 and 2003. "But I haven't," she added lamenting about her two final defeats since, one by Maria Sharapova and the latest against Venus 12 months ago. "Hopefully I can rectify that this year."

Serena was delighted with the way she dispatched Australia's Jarmila Groth, whom she expected to be a tough opponent, for the loss of only three games in a second-round stroll but reflected: "There's always room for improvement. I think I could have returned a bit better and come to the net a bit more." Winning her two matches so far has been less problematical than preparing for them, Serena disclosed.

The American likes a snack in the locker room but was dismayed that there is now an eating ban there, despite bananas and chocolate bars being close at hand. "Im just confused as to why you supply something you consume if there is a sign that says 'no consuming'," she remarked. "I try to abide by the rules wherever I go but I've been drinking water in the locker room. Maybe I shouldn't have done that."

Devouring opponents is what the California sisters have become adept at during the last decade at the All England Club and Venus made short work of her latest offering yesterday, disposing of the emerging Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko 6-3, 6-2 in just under an hour. The defending champion wore protective strapping around her left knee but dismissed a series of questions about a possible injury scare. "It was just for support," she said. "It was really nice."

When pressed on the issue the third seed admitted: "I really hate tape - but I just needed it this time. I accepted that and I realise that this is Wimbledon. So since it was Wimbledon, I taped." She put her long limbs through just the right amount of exertion at this stage of the tournament, reflecting: "She [Bondarenko] got a lot of balls back in play so we had some longer rallies which was good."

Venus, who was pleased with the way she served, concluded: "I always felt like I needed to be the aggressive one and really take control of the points. So that's really how I want to play throughout the Championships. This was a good match for me." @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae