Williams sisters look safe bet to renew sibling rivalry in final
VENUS and Serena Williams were out playing doubles on the new No2 Court yesterday, but they are stronger favourites than ever to be on opposite sides of the net on Centre Court for the singles final a week today.
Venus, the defending champion, meets Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round this afternoon. That encounter should be as brief as her previous two matches, in each of which the American dropped just five games. The No3 seed is in the upper half of the draw, and, on paper at least, that looks the tougher.
Several world No1s past and present are in it, led by top seed Dinara Safina. The 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo is in there, as are Jelena Jankovic, her fellow-Serb Ana Ivanovic, and the No5 seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova. Not one of them has done anything to suggest she is in the form to get the better of Venus sometime next week and prevent another all-American final.
In the lower half, Serena looks like having an even smoother path to the final. There was so little of note in her 6-3, 6-4 third-round win over Italy's Roberta Vinci yesterday that most of her press conference was taken up with questions about the death of Michael Jackson. "He was a great guy, a complete icon," the younger sister said after beating Vinci in a match which was also on Court 2. "Words can't express my shock and horror."
Declining to take the hint in that remark, a reporter asked her to discuss the nature of celebrity as it affected her and Jackson, whom she met several times. "For me he was the celebrity of all celebrities. To be in that position I can't imagine. Since he was a child he has always been Michael Jackson."
That much was indisputable, and it was clear what she meant. Eventually reverting to tennis, Williams said that in her next match against Daniela Hantuchova on Monday she would have to ensure she did not allow her opponent to dictate the pace. "She's such a smooth player and she takes her time on the court," she said of Hantuchova, who progressed yesterday with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Ai Sugiyama, her doubles partner. "I have to make sure I don't rush myself, because she is playing well and I think she's moving well. So I'm going to have to really bring a tough game."
Provided Williams does bring that type of game on to court, Hantuchova will not stand a chance. Unconvincing in the first round against the British 15-year-old Laura Robson, the Slovakian has improved over the course of the week, but lacks the aggression and energy needed to compete at the very top. Serena could eat six of her for breakfast and still not be full. Given the fact Hantuchova has been fighting a cold for the past few days, it will also be impossible for her to compete physically against the former champion.
"I have to bring my best game," Hantuchova accepted. "It's going to be interesting who's going to be able to do that."
Or at least it will be interesting – perhaps – if anyone is able to do that against either Williams. For although inconsistency is one of the main problems facing the likes of Jankovic and Kuznetsova, even at their best they are rarely able to get the better of the two Americans.
Fourth seed Elena Dementieva is the biggest supposed threat left to Serena in the lower half, and her path to the semis was cleared a little yesterday with the elimination of No7 seed Vera Zvonareva by Virginie Razzano. Dementieva is likely to meet Razzano in the last 16 if she first defeats Elena Vesnina, the unseeded Russian who yesterday knocked out No14 seed Dominika Cibulkova.
Yesterday Dementieva beat her fellow-Russian Regina Kulkova 6-1, 6-2, and looked much fitter than at the French Open last month, when she lost in the third round. "I took some time off after the French Open and was working on my fitness," she said. "It has really worked for me."
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Monday 20 May 2013
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