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Family affair fails to stir the passions
Reuters, PTI
London, July 05, 2003
First Published: 23:32 IST(5/7/2003)
Last Updated: 23:32 IST(5/7/2003)

Centre Court was filled to its 13,810 capacity on Saturday as Serena Williams won the Wimbledon title by beating her sister Venus in the final for the second year in a row.

But for most of the two-hour contest, the only noise that threatened to disturb the peace in this leafy southwest London suburb came from the grunting of the American players.

Polite applause followed points and the decibel level occasionally went up a little after a scorching winner, but in general the crowd behaved like a slightly embarrassed aunt caught in a family row -- frightened to take sides.

All a bit different from last week when Tim Henman's legion of fans turned this most traditional of sporting venues into a scene out of Hollywood epic Gladiator, whose director Ridley Scott was on the guest list for the Royal Box on Saturday.

The subdued atmosphere was not helped by doubts over Venus's fitness. Rumours around the All England Club before the women's showpiece suggested the 23-year-old, suffering from abdominal and thigh injuries, might not even finish the match.

That she managed to win the first set before sinking to a 4-6 6-4 6-2 defeat says a great deal about her determination to end a four-match losing streak in grand slam finals against her 21-year-old sibling.

That record, coupled with the injury, would normally put a Wimbledon crowd firmly on the side of the underdog.

But whether it is just good old British politeness, apathy or even awe, the match between the two just failed to stir the emotions on Centre Court.

Saturday's tussle was at least competitive, even if neither player was anywhere near their powerful best. But even during the crucial phases there were no clenched fists or steely stares across the net, nothing to ignite the crowd's passion.

Serena's celebrations after the final ball was struck were as subdued as if she had just won a first round match. The apathy continued even when all the dignitaries were in place for the presentation ceremony.

The sisters sat impassively side by side and Venus even had to be reminded to go up and collect her trophy, Serena managing just a brief twirl with the Rosewater Dish.

Then both players said just the right things.

Serena called Venus an inspiration and Venus said she felt she had to play for the fans.


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