Wimbeldon, England Ignore the rankings. Ignore recent form. Remember this: You never can count a Williams out.
That's the lesson Venus Williams is providing at Wimbledon, precisely the way her younger sister Serena did at the Australian Open six months ago.
Out of the top 30, never so much as a semifinalist at any Grand Slam over the past two years, Venus Williams moved a victory away from her fourth title at the All England Club by outclassing No. 6 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, 6-2, 6-4, in Friday's semifinals.
"Something about us - no matter what we're ranked, no matter where we are, no matter what the next person says - ultimately we just believe in ourselves," the elder Williams said, "and I think that's what makes the difference."
In her sixth Wimbledon final, the 27-year-old American will find a surprising opponent on the other side of the net today: Marion Bartoli of France, who came back from a set and a break down to stun No. 1 Justine Henin, 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Before this year, the lowest-ranked female finalist at the grass-court Grand Slam was Williams, who was at No. 16 when she won the 2005 championship.
This time, it's No. 31 Williams vs. No. 19 Bartoli.
"I have nothing to lose tomorrow," said Bartoli, who played 21 majors without ever making it past the third round until reaching the fourth at the French Open last month. "Venus has been the champion here already. I will try to figure out the way to play against her."
If Williams can credit her three consecutive lopsided wins over women ranked No. 2, No. 5 and No. 6 to an edge in experience and a game built for grass, Bartoli had a more unique reason for her success against Henin - Bond, James Bond.
Yes, that's right. While falling way behind against six-time Grand Slam title winner Henin, the Frenchwoman noticed actor Pierce Brosnan sitting in the stands.
"I said to myself, 'It's not possible I play so bad in front of him,"' Bartoli said, earnest as can be. "I saw he was cheering for me, so I said, 'Oh, maybe it's good.' I kept going and I won, maybe a little bit for Pierce Brosnan."
She began to turn things around after getting broken to trail 4-3 in the second set. Hitting two-fisted forehands and backhands, reminiscent of Monica Seles, Bartoli somehow started to put every ball her racket touched in the right spot.