Saturday, January 25, 2003

Williams beats sister, completes Serena Slam



By Phil Brown
The Associated Press

[img]
Serena Williams holds the trophy after winning the Australian Open Tennis Tournament in Melbourne.
(AP photo)
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MELBOURNE, Australia - Serena Slam or Sister Slam - no matter what you call it, Serena Williams is truly grand. Williams survived an error-filled match to beat older sister Venus 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4 Saturday to win the Australian Open for her fourth straight major championship.

Serena added another Grand Slam title to the French Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon crowns she won last year, all against her sister.

After Venus slumped through four straight errors in the final game, the sisters met at the net to put their arms around each other's shoulders and whisper in each other's ears. While Serena blew kisses to the crowd, Venus applauded with her racket.

"I never get choked up, but I'm really emotional right now," Serena said at the trophy ceremony.

On the verge of tears, she added: "I'm really, really, really happy. I'd like to thank my mom and my dad for helping me."

Venus, who at 22 is 15 months older than Serena, gave her sister more of a test this time.

Venus served for the first set but couldn't close it out. She did win the second set, however, after being swept in their previous three matchups.

"I wish I could have been the winner. but of course you have a great champion in Serena and she has won all four Grand Slams, which is something I'd love to do one day," she said. "So, yeah, I'd kind of like to be just like her."

"I don't want to be just a player who won four Grand Slams, whether she wins five or 15," she said. "Look at those players who won 20. I still have a long way to go and not much time."

Serena now holds a 5-4 career edge over Venus in major titles and also owns a 6-5 lead in head-to-head matches. Serena collected $654,000 for this victory and Venus won $327,000.

This marked only the sixth time a woman has held all four of tennis' major championships at the same time, and the first since Steffi Graf in 1994.

It might not be a true Grand Slam - tennis purists demand that a player collect all four major titles in a single calendar year - but the accomplishment is rare.

And to do it, Serena had to beat her sister, best friend and practice partner each time. The Williams siblings are the first two women in Grand Slam history to square off in four consecutive finals.

Graf, Margaret Court and Maureen Connolly all won true slams. Graf and Martina Navratilova also held all four titles at once.

"I just can't believe I can now be compared to these women," Serena said.

"They're such greats and I don't know if I'll accomplish everything they have. But to even be in the category of winning four in a row is for me really amazing, it's something I've always dreamed of and wanted to do," she said.

While the tennis wasn't always brilliant, the Australian Open final did offer more intrigue than the last three all-Williams meetings.

There were junctures, particularly in the second and third sets, where both sisters chased down balls and slugged them with speed and power that no other woman can display.

Unlike at Roland Garros, the All England Club or Flushing Meadows in the series of all-in-the-family finals, there were a match's worth of long rallies, with brilliance from both sides of the net.

Both seemed to invest more of themselves emotionally than in previous encounters, with fists pumping, eyes rolling, and plenty of grunts on strokes.

And Venus took a set off little sis for the first time since beating Serena in the U.S. Open final in September 2001 - which was the first all-sibling Grand Slam championship match since the Watson sisters played at Wimbledon in 1884.

Now it's become rather routine.

Throughout the 2-hour, 22-minute match, Serena showed how intent she was on winning. Even so, Venus tested her more than in their previous three matches, which Serena won in straight sets.

After losing her serve for 4-5, Serena threw her racket.

In the first-set tiebreaker, she took a ball she thought was out and hit a forehand past Venus, who had stopped playing.

Then she turned on the line judge and shouted, "You just don't call them out, do you?"

After failing to cash in five break points in the final set's eighth game, Serena gave her sister a game point with a netted forehand and slammed down her racket.

Serena had 54 errors to Venus' 51, but beat her 37-28 on winners.

Serving while trailing 4-3 in the final set, Venus really showed mettle, fighting off five break points that would have allowed Serena to serve for the match - the last with a 120 mph service winner.

Serena held serve to go up 5-4, finishing with an ace and a backhand winner. And then she broke Venus' serve to win, with plenty of help.

The match's final four points went like this: Venus' backhand error, Venus' backhand error, Venus' double fault, Venus' forehand error.

The match was played under cover in the Rod Laver Arena due to the extreme heat in Melbourne, where temperatures reached 108 degrees.

This was the first time at the Australian Open that an entire women's final has been played with the roof closed. When Graf beat Chris Evert in 1988, the roof was closed during the match because of rain.

At last year's women's final, the roof was open with temperatures in the mid-90s. Jennifer Capriati and Martina Hingis escaped at times by taking refuge in the entrance tunnels. Capriati saved four match points and won when Hingis wilted.

Capriati also is the only player to dent the Williams sisters' domination of major titles starting at Wimbledon in 2000. She won the Australian in 2001 and 2002 and the French in 2001, but lost in the first round here, hampered by the effects of recent eye surgery.

In the men's doubles final, Frenchmen Fabrice Santoro and Michael Llodra got even for their loss in last year's final, beating Mark Knowles of the Bahamas and Canadian Daniel Nestor 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.




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