This showdown between the sisters was a long time coming (they last met for a title in a Grand Slam event here in 2003) but it certainly was worth waiting for as the rivalry of not only being siblings but also of being two of the best players in the world brought out championship-caliber tennis from both Venus and Serena.
Windy conditions on Centre Court did have some impact on their play but overall the match was one of high quality. It featured hard serving, pounding groundstrokes and some fine volleying. It also featured intense competitiveness with both players definitely putting forth everything they had and it was easy to see both of them wanted so badly to win.
Venus prevailed 7-5, 6-4 over her younger sister to become a five-time Wimbledon winner and successfully defend the title she came out of nowhere to win here last summer.
Over the last two weeks tennis fans have had the privilege to see Venus and Serena play outstanding and dominating tennis. There are no issues with their fitness, no injury issues -- just a flat out green light for both older and younger sister to play the caliber of supreme tennis their abundant talent can produce.
Having closely watched them this fortnight I find it perfectly legitimate to consider that Venus and Serena are getting to the point where they should be considered two of the all-time greats in the game.
Some people take issue with the aforementioned position of mine and others and they do so primarily on the basis that the sisters don’t play nearly as many tournaments as do most of the other elite players but that’s not what I believe to be the true barometer when it comes to determining the greats of the sport.
I make the call on whether a player is an all-time great based on that player’s performance in the Grand Slam events. The majors are to tennis like the World Series is to baseball, the Super Bowl to football, the NBA finals to basketball and the Stanley Cup finals to hockey. It’s the grand stage and if a player is a true great, she or he needs to perform on that stage like a champion and not just once but many times over the course of a career.
Serena has won the singles title at eight Grand Slam events and she’s been to the final in 11 majors. Venus has titles from seven Grand Slam events and she’s made the final in 13 majors. Those achievements without question speak volumes as to the lofty place for both sisters in the history of tennis. Serena even admitted that Venus and she are starting to think about their place in the annals of the sport. And they should given all they have achieved while also maintaining interests away from the sport. There’s also a solid possibility more is to come from the sisters at majors since Venus is 28 and Serena 26.
As for Wimbledon, there are three players that come to my mind as this major’s elite of recent times -- Billie Jean King won the title here six times, Steffi Graf won it seven times and Martina Navratilova won an amazing nine times.
Interestingly, Venus’ game in no way resembles the games of any of those three great players. Both King and Navratilova came from a different era when players couldn’t wait to visit the net. Incredible serve-and-volley talents, there’s no surprise that King and Navratilova account for 15 Wimbledon singles titles between them.
As for Graf, she was a different player than Venus because she had the monstrous forehand and slice backhand. That sliced backhand wasn’t delivering winners, but it was sending balls back very low, which helped her set up points.
Venus, has a very different style -- her style is today’s style where she has a big serve, hits power shots from the baseline and only occasionally ventures to the net.
Most believe it would be extremely unlikely for Venus to ever challenge Navratilova’s number of nine Wimbledon titles but after winning her fifth here she is at least allowing herself to dream she might one day equal Navratilova's record. That’s a dream that Venus could one day make come true. She has to be feeling that and it won’t be easy but Wimbledon is so special to her and she elevates her game to such a high level here that it can’t be ruled out.
Despite her loss Serena must view getting to the final a big confidence boost for she hadn’t been in the last singles match at a major since winning the 2007 Australian Open. She’s won three titles this year and she’s heading into a summer filled with opportunities, especially at the Olympics and the U.S. Open.
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Venus played the big points better and steadier. Venus always puts pressure on an opponent with her serve, tracking balls down and hitting so hard that she made it very difficult for Serena to take advantage of all but two of the 13 break points had. Serena, in contrast, often seemed lost as to what to do, what would be the better shot selection at the particular time and she didn’t always make the right choice.
This was obviously a match of conflicting emotions for the sisters and I suspect that Serena maybe felt those emotions a bit more than Venus did. This was the kind of match that historically in a second set Serena would be digging in deeper. But instead she just seemed to start fading away.
That wasn’t good for her but if both she and Venus continue to play at the level they displayed on the lawns, younger sister should have a bunch of future chances at reversing the outcome of this Wimbledon final. That’s good for Serena but most of all it’s great for women’s tennis that these two players could play the grand stage many more times before the hang up their rackets.
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