S. Williams dethrones sister for U.S. Open title


NEW YORK - With her straight-set championship victory last night at the 2002 U.S. Open, Serena Williams further helped solidify her savvy but eccentric father's status as a prophet for all the sporting ages.

Richard Williams said older sister Venus would wow the world when she took the court for her first pro tournament in Oakland, Calif., at age 14.


He said younger sister Serena would soon follow and together, Venus and Serena would dominate the tour by raising the bar on women's tennis and taking home all the sterling silver hardware and prize money.


And last night, on a strangely quiet court at Arthur Ashe Stadium where a record crowd of 23,164 seemed perplexed on how to handle this new era of all-Williams domination, the final prophecy by father Williams was all but substantiated.

He promised that the younger daughter - a gregarious star with a killer's instinct lurking underneath her family-first demeanor - would soon prove to be better than the elder, whose mind seems to yearn for something else.

Last night, Serena delivered. In her sleek black bodysuit, Serena beat Venus, 6-4, 6-3, in 72 minutes to claim her second U.S. Open championship and the $900,000 first-place check.

Fresh off Grand Slam victories over Venus at the French Open and Wimbledon, too, Serena, 20, has created a small but significant new plot twist in women's tennis. That is one in which Serena is separating herself - if only by a notch - from her accomplished big sister, 22.

Serena, the first woman since Martina Hingis in 1997 to win three of the four Slams in a calendar year, kept her No. 1 ranking with the victory. Second-ranked Venus would have wrested the top spot back had she won.

Still, Serena said she enjoyed winning her first Grand Slam title as the top-ranked woman and has no plans of relinquishing control.

"I'll tell you what: I really like it here. I'm going to have some fun next year," said Serena, whose first Grand Slam came here at the 1999 U.S. Open. "I'm just happy to win here again. It's been a long time since 1999. I almost nearly forgot how it felt."

Her older sister, meanwhile, seemed relieved that the Open was done and that, as usual, at least one of the Williams sisters had won. That it wasn't Venus did not seem to be terribly disturbing.

"I think Serena likes the attention. I think she is comfortable," said Venus, whose demeanor at this Open has been a noticeable contrast. Last night, the mental fatigue proved Venus' undoing.

In the 10th meeting between the two sisters in official competition - the record is 5-5 and they each have won four Slams - it was almost all Serena as she capitalized on her older sister's service woes.

Venus had 10 double faults and won only 51 percent of her first serves. She also had 33 unforced errors, compared to Serena's 19 - a sure sign that of the two, Serena's focus continues to be locked.

Last night's results were consistent with how the sisters worked their way through the draw. Serena did not lose a set the entire two weeks while Venus dropped two, one to Chanda Rubin in the fourth round and another to Amelie Mauresmo in the semifinals.

"It started in the fourth-round match. I couldn't do anything right. I posed and pretended that I was doing things right, but I wasn't," Venus said.

The older sister, who was the two-time defending U.S. Open champion, seemed to be bothered by a blister on the palm of her racket hand. More telling, however, was Venus' admission that she needs a break.

"I need a break. I just want to enjoy a normal life. I just want to get away from the hype surrounding everything," she said.

Any doubt that Venus had the game to regain No. 1 form against her sister seemed to be dispelled when the elder Williams held off four break points in the opening game.

She held serve by unleashing an ace and two forehand volley winners. In trouble again in the fifth game, Venus dug out three more break points to also hold serve.

But finally, Serena won her break on her ninth chance, gunning a forehand return for a cross-court winner to take a 4-3 advantage. Three games later, Serena gunned another forehand winner to win the first set and set a powerful tone for the championship win.

As the all-Williams final became more inevitable, the sisters were asked whether their stronghold on tennis was bad for the game. The sisters scoff at this, saying they will not purposely begin to emotionally separate from each other off the court in order to fuel their on-court battles.

The two have faced each other in four of the past five Grand Slam finals; Serena sat out this year's Australian Open with an ankle injury.

Theirs is a rivalry that seems destined to get no more heated than last night, unless Venus finds a way to recharge her batteries and exude the hunger that Serena now seems to possess for titles and the spotlight.

But to say this is bad for tennis and eliminates drama takes away from the accomplishments of these two sisters/athletes/champions.

It also obscures the growing nuances of their sibling rivalry. And that primary nuance would be how Serena seems to like attention and the spotlight and that it is she who has the mental determination to make the best use of athletic talents that the sisters share.

"Tennis is really all I have right now. It's the biggest thing," Serena said, who said she still holds catching and defeating Venus as her ultimate goal.

"That's what I keep telling myself so I can have a goal that I can look up to: Catching Venus."

If she does not want to admit that, like her father predicted, she will be a more enduring champion than her sister, Serena has good reason.

"I would never be reluctant to go out and work hard. Venus and I are very even," she said.

"It doesn't serve as an impediment to my game. Family's first. I don't want to get a bad rap with her. Ten years down the road, I might need her. That's not the way we do it. We realize that our love goes deeper than the tennis game."

It may go deeper, but last night, Serena Williams was all too happy to admit she was loving being the undisputed champion of New York and the world.

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