Archive for Sunday, January 26, 2003

Perfectionist’ Serena holds all four major titles

Williams joins Connolly, Court, Navratilova, Graf in accomplishing rare feat in tennis

January 26, 2003


— Serena Williams has said all along that she's the perfectionist in the family. Now she has a perfect set of trophies from the last four major tennis tournaments.

Williams completed her "Serena Slam" by defeating older sister Venus at the Australian Open, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4 Saturday. Serena has beaten Venus in the final of the last four majors.

The match was filled with mistakes, and Serena committed 54 errors, compared with 51 for Venus. Serena slammed down her racket after a few of the more serious miscues, and she berated a line judge even after winning a key point.

"I think she just about had me," Serena said of her sister. "I just wanted to win so bad."

Serena missed last year's Australian Open with an injury, ruining her shot at becoming the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win a true Grand Slam -- all four majors in the same calendar year.

But after winning last year's French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles, and now the Australian, Serena joins an elite group of players who have held all four major titles at once; the others are Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court, Martina Navratilova and Graf. Connolly and Court also won all four in the same year.

"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."

'Keep fighting'

What's next?

"I'm just going to keep fighting, keep working hard and keep smiling," Serena said.

Venus, who now trails her sister 5-4 in major titles won, said she's more motivated than ever.

"I don't want to be the player that won four Grand Slams, whether she wins five or 15," said Venus, who has won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open twice each. "When you look at the great players who have won 20 and all those kinds of numbers, I still have a long way to go -- and not much time."

Serena Williams, left, accepts congratulations from her sister,
Venus, after winning the Australian Open.

Serena Williams, left, accepts congratulations from her sister, Venus, after winning the Australian Open.

Venus turns 23 in June, while Serena won't be 22 until September.

Errors cost Serena two service games in the first set. After she netted a forehand with Venus out of position, leaving herself at 4-5, she tossed her racket.

But Venus couldn't serve out the set, losing serve for the second time as well. Later, she held for 6-all, helped by a forehand that sent Serena stumbling.

In the tiebreaker, Serena reached 3-1 by taking a ball she thought was out and hitting a forehand past Venus, who had stopped playing.

Serena then turned to the line judge, and shouted, "You just don't call them out, do you?"

The second set was the first Venus had won from Serena in five matches since she beat Serena in the U.S. Open final in September 2001.

The two traded early breaks in the final set, and Serena had five break points to go ahead 5-3. She violently hurled down her racket after finally netting a forehand to give Venus game point.

"That's fine," Venus said. "She's questioning calls and yells and slams the racket. I'm more or less the one that's kind of silent."

In the last game, however, Venus went out with four straight errors, ending with a forehand hit long.

Despite having more errors than her sister, Serena had a 37-28 edge in winners.

Emotional ceremony

The sisters met at the net to hug and whisper in each other's ears. Then 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."

Serena collected $654,000 for winning; Venus received $327,000.

If Venus had served in the first and third sets as she did in the second, "I wouldn't have a chance," Serena said. But she added, "I had great returns. ... I think she did a mighty fine job."

Speaking about the mental toughness she needed in the tiebreaker, Serena said, "Most of my fight and courage I've gotten from Venus."

In the first round against Emilie Loit and the semifinals against Kim Clijsters, Serena nearly lost. She had a painful blister on her right foot in the latter match, when she rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the final set.

"This one definitely was more demanding," she said, comparing the tournament to her previous three majors.

As temperatures reached 108 degrees, the match was played with the roof closed over Rod Laver Arena.

"It felt great," Serena said. "I love to play indoors."

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.

Temperatures in the mid-90s at last year's final, with the roof open, sent Jennifer Capriati and Martina Hingis seeking any shade they could find between games. Capriati won when Hingis wilted.

Capriati 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.

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