x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sister act for Venus and Serena

The siblings have the ability to surpass Navratilova's nine titles at Wimbledon, but have to show inclination and remain fit to do so.

Venus Williams won her fifth Wimbledon title.  Twice she was denied by her sister Serena or else she would have been closer to Navratilova's nine.
Venus Williams won her fifth Wimbledon title. Twice she was denied by her sister Serena or else she would have been closer to Navratilova's nine.

LONDON // If the Williams sisters had been totally committed to tennis after sharing the first four Wimbledon women's singles titles of the new millennium, the siblings would surely have enjoyed a decade of dominance over those who have overtaken them in the world rankings.

Outside interests such as fashion, acting and modelling have seen them take their eye off the ball in recent years and allowed players like Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova and most recently Ana Ivanovic rise to the pinnacle of the women's game. Should the powerful Americans decide it is time to regain their focus on doing what made them famous, rather than capitalising on that fame in other activities, then the other young ladies among the top 10 would be scavenging for crumbs in the hunt for grand slam glory.

The supporting Tier One tournaments on the WTA tour calendar will probably remain up for grabs because the sisters hinted that they are only interested in the top prizes. Venus now has seven of them under her belt after overcoming her younger sister in what was a far cry from the family stitch-up final that conspiracy theorists were forecasting. She was at her most determined to put her little sister in her place after coming off worse in the last five major finals that they had played.

With Serena equally desperate to increase her haul of eight grand slams - unlike Venus, she has a full set from all four major venues - it made for an excellent hard-hitting final for an appreciative Centre Court. It was the fifth time that Venus had held aloft the appropriately named Venus Rosewater Dish and it brought inevitable questions of how many more she could add if she gives it her undivided attention.

Still only 28, she is capable of putting Martina Navratilova's record of nine Wimbledon titles under threat if she stays fit and healthy. When Venus hits top form on the lawns of London SW 19, the only woman who appears to be capable of stopping her is Serena, as she proved in the finals of 2002 and 2003. "That would be the ultimate," said Venus when asked whether she ever dreams of emulating Navratilova. "That won't be easy. Her [Martina's] career spanned three decades so I am not sure I have that much time. If I did, I think I would definitely dream of that."

That dream would have been a realistic one but for Serena's outstanding play in those two other finals Venus has reached. She reflected on those matches: "I really tried on the occasions that I lost, but Serena put a ton of pressure on me. "She kept hitting back my best serves for clean winners and she just played better than me. "I didn't want the gap in our grand slam finals to increase to 6-1 so I've climbed up a little notch to 5-2, but I'm still behind so I'm still working on it."

Venus insisted that she would have been happy for her sister had the result gone the other way, as it looked like doing in the early stages of their 16th confrontation. Serena was less gracious in defeat, claiming that she did not pay any attention to the winner's celebrations. Serena has more time on her side than Venus in the hunt for more prestigious silverware but her physical condition is not as impressive as her big sister's.

A bulky frame which is carrying at least five kilograms of excess weight might prove a serious handicap to Serena's chances of ruling the roost in her advancing years. She is planning to keep her half of the bargain for more family finals in the near future, though. "If we stay in the opposite sides of the draw then there is a likelihood that we will meet in more finals. We are always trying to get to the finals [of grand slams] and even do better than that."

A simple way to guarantee that they will be kept apart in the draws for major tournaments is to regain their positions at the top of the world rankings. That is on the cards - if they put their minds to it. @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae