August 13, 2020
Serena Williams battled back to beat elder sister Venus in their latest action-packed showdown.
But she will need to find better form between now and the US Open.
Serena was tellingly brutal in the ninth game of the final set.
She fired a series of lethal returns and finally clinched the break with a searing backhand winner.
Earlier in the set, Venus had also been found wanting on serve. But she had broken straight back with equal determination. Not this time.
Serena edged it 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and seventeen minutes. She wasn’t entirely convincing, yet she was the familiar winner.
Serena said: ‘I just really wanted to win those last two games because I needed it for my game and confidence. But Venus played incredibly well.’
There was little sustained rhythm on display from either woman. And maybe that’s understandable.
They have played such little tennis in recent times. Then the sibling rivalry is always a tricky one.
Their father Richard preferred to avoid watching such battles – even in a Wimbledon final.
Maybe deep down it isn’t so easy for Serena to unleash her full force on her elder sister either.
Whatever the reason, this wasn’t a fluent contest.
It was scrappy and nervy. It was also totally absorbing. Dramatic tension hung in the humid air.
There was even psychological intrigue. Venus delayed the final set by walking off court.
Serena looked perplexed. Her sister may have sought a comfort break. She may also have wanted to break whatever momentum Serena had found.
Serena and Venus. Two tennis greats. Trying to find a way to prevail.
We can’t wait to see them at Wimbledon 2021.
Could it be the last time we see them as singles competitors at Wimbledon, the historic home of tennis?
They can’t go on forever. They have already surpassed most expectations.
Wimbledon 2021 will be all the more special for their presence.
Who would have thought, twenty years ago, these two supremely talented tennis sisters would still be battling for on-court superiority when one is forty and the other thirty-eight?
Just reward for doing things their way.
Serena, Venus and their influential father Richard were all criticised over the years for not playing enough tournaments.
But Richard’s decision to temper the rigorous demands of the tennis schedule paid dividends.
Here they are, still enthusiastic. Still giving it everything. Entertaining us before many rivals are back in their stride.
The afternoon heat in Lexington, Kentucky was oppressive. Not ideal for tennis superstars feeling their way back after so many months off court.
But these two tennis warriors have played in all conditions over the decades.
Their breathing may have been laboured – particularly Serena’s. But they fought on.
It was something of a surprise when Venus closed out the first set with a strong serve after 41 minutes.
After all, Serena had looked the more relaxed from the start.
And she seemed to be getting the better of her sister during the significant opening rallies.
In fact the younger sister had break points to lead 3-0. You wondered whether it might be one of those occasions when Serena’s power would drive the whole match.
Venus was having trouble with her revamped serve. Her confidence seemed to be evaporating against the sister who usually wins.
Of their thirty previous match-ups, Serena had led the way with eighteen wins.
But Venus possesses a remarkable fighting spirit too.
Somehow she clawed her way back into that important third game and put herself on the scoreboard.
From that moment, it was Serena who seemed to struggle for fluency in the opener. Even her serve began to let her down.
Suddenly it was Venus leading 5-2.
The elder sister was showing the form that had helped her sweep aside Victoria Azarenka in the previous round.
Serena did stop the slide but couldn’t prevent her sibling from finishing the set in style.
We expected Serena to fight more ferociously in the second set. We weren’t disappointed.
Venus dug in. She knew she would be unlikely to win in three.
But Serena’s intensity was growing. She broke with a sizzling backhand winner to lead 4-2.
Venus fought hard to try and break back when her little sister served for the set. She couldn’t quite do it.
We were level and the third set beckoned. Not until Venus came back from her little walkabout, though.
Whatever the motive for the break, it initally benefited Venus more than Serena.
The forty-year-old came out fighting like a teenager. She broke to lead 4-2 in the third. But then she lost her composure on serve.
Serena seized her chance and broke back with a fizzing forehand.
And when it really mattered, she summoned the ability to take the match.
That’s what makes her an even greater champion than Venus.
But at Wimbledon they are both legends.