Thursday, September 10, 2015

Editorial: It's Serena vs. history now

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It's Serena vs. history now

Serena Williams of the US reacts as she plays against her sister Venus Williams during their 2015 US Open Women's singles quarterfinals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 8, 2015. 

(Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty Images)

Serena WilliamsVenus WilliamsU.S. OpenSimona HalepRoberta VinciFrench OpenAustralian Open

Two to go for Serena

Nobody beats Serena except Serena.

That mindset has carried Serena Williams to the top of women's tennis and the brink of history. She expects to win. When she doesn't, she's more likely to blame herself than to credit her opponent. The one player she fears? Her big sister, Venus.

"She's beaten me so many times," Serena said as she prepared to face Venus in Tuesday's U.S. Open quarterfinal. "She's a player that knows how to win, knows how to beat me and knows my weaknesses better than anyone."

Sisters Serena and Venus Williams gave each other a heartfelt hug after going head-to-head at the U.S. Open. Serena won the match and will now go through to the semifinals. Sept. 9, 2015. (Inside Edition)

Yes, Serena owns the higher ranking and the better record. Yes, she won that match. She's now two wins from a calendar Grand Slam, something no player, man or woman, has done since 1988. But Venus made her earn it, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.

As Serena sealed the win with a 107 mph ace, a wide smile broke out on the face of the loser. The sisters embraced at the net. "I'm so happy for you," said Venus, who'd just done her level best to crush her baby sister's dream in front of a sellout crowd that included Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey and Kim Kardashian.

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Williams vs. Williams has been a hot ticket since the sisters' first head-to-head in 1998, with Venus dominating the early matchups and Serena pulling ahead starting in 2002. Their impact on the sport goes far beyond collecting trophies and breaking records.

Before the Williams sisters came along, only one black woman had lifted the trophy at Wimbledon — Althea Gibson, in 1957. Since 2000, Venus has won it five times and Serena six. (Between them they own 115 singles titles, including 28 majors.)




AT 6:54 AM SEPTEMBER 10, 2015



In his 2001 book "Venus Envy," Sports Illustrated writer Jon Wertheim chronicled a year on the women's tour when the Williams sisters were teenagers. Venus began the year disappointed — months before, Serena had been the first to collect a major trophy — and ended with two majors of her own, two Olympic medals and a $40 million endorsement contract, the largest ever for a female athlete.

The next year's U.S. Open was the first of eight Grand Slam finals between the sisters.

Winning the four majors — Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open — in that order is a calendar year Grand Slam, last accomplished by Steffi Graf in 1988. Serena has twice held all four titles at once — a feat dubbed the "Serena Slam" — but not in the same calendar year. The first time, in 2002-2003, her opponent in all four finals was Venus.

The Williams sisters raised the level of women's tennis and its profile as a sport. Their marketability — and Venus' advocacy on behalf of female players — made tennis the rare sport in which women and men earn equal prize money.

"They're the best thing that's ever happened to women's tennis," Billie Jean King said in 2002.

Tuesday's quarterfinal showed that, at 33 and 35, they still are.

From the beginning, the sisters have had each other's back. In the first round of the Indian Wells tournament in 1997, Venus pounded Anne Miller, who had handed 14-year-old Serena a 6-1, 6-1 loss in her first professional match a year earlier. Shaking hands at the net, Venus made sure the message wasn't missed. "That's for beating my sister," she said.

Since then, Venus has beaten Serena 11 times, more than anyone else.

Who can stop the little sister now? The remaining three players are a combined 1-17 vs. Serena. First up for Serena is Italy's Roberta Vinci (0-4); the winner of that semi plays Romania's Simona Halep (1-6) or Italy's Flavia Pennetta (0-7).

With Venus consigned to spectator/cheerleader, two opponents stand in Serena's way. Three, if you count Serena.

Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune

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