x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Williams' in a league of their own

Richard Williams was on his way back to the US yesterday as his daughters prepared for their fourth Wimbledon final and their 21st competitive meeting since they started travelling the world together a decade ago.

The Williams sisters will walk on to Centre Court tomorrow to contest the women's final, their 21st competitive meeting.
The Williams sisters will walk on to Centre Court tomorrow to contest the women's final, their 21st competitive meeting.

Richard Williams was on his way back to the United States yesterday as his daughters prepared for their fourth Wimbledon final and their 21st competitive meeting since they started travelling the world together a decade ago. He doesn't like watching two of his offspring go head-to-head. The latest renewal of the sibling rivalry had been forecast from the day the draw kept them apart and only Russia's Elena Dementieva, in a pulsating semi-final on Thursday, looked like interrupting their well-laid plans for an American Independence Day party.

Wimbledon officials, who have overseen a disappointingly predictable women's singles tournament - Dementieva's desperately close defeat by Serena notwithstanding - will be hoping the two Californians put on a feast of a match, unlike several of their previous clashes which have led to allegations that the result has often been decided in the locker room beforehand. The fact that they are tied at 10 wins each after 11 years of campaigning only adds to the conspiracy theory.

Both sisters react angrily whenever such aspersions are cast on their character. They pride themselves on being excellent ambassadors for the women's game, and it is not their fault that their is a dearth of box-office attractions. Serena, who beat her big sister in the first two Wimbledon finals they contested in 2002 and 2003 but lost last year's battle, has been suggesting for the last two weeks that this is her year.

But she knows she was lucky to survive against Dementieva and she is well aware that Venus has played the better tennis so far. Indeed, the five-times champion arrives in her eighth final without having dropped a set and she has allowed her six vanquished opponents a miserly aggregate of only 19 games. At the business end of the tournament, from the last 16 onwards, she has conceded only six games (Ana Ivanovic retired injured in the fourth round) and was one of the most emphatic semi-final winners ever in destroying world No 1 Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-1.

That tremendous victory on Thursday means Venus has now won 34 consecutive sets since the Japanese Akiko Morigami took her the maximum distance in the third round of 2007. Venus is delighted with the form she has shown as defending champion but she knows her credentials will be put to their stiffest test this afternoon. "I've got immense respect for Serena," she said. "Even if she's not playing her best, it's just that fight she has, you're facing that.

"So there's so much to face when you play her. It's definitely a lot to get your mind around." Serena insisted that the extraordinary length of her semi-final - 2hr 49min, a Wimbledon record - compared to Venus' rapid fire passage in under an hour is an irrelevance ahead of the final. "It doesn't matter what the score is as long as you come out of it with a big W [win]," she said. "I don't feel tired at all and I certainly won't be tired on Saturday. I'll be fine."