Quite a few on Henman Hill watched Venus Williams and Serena Williams lose a match. For one of the latecomers, this was hard to believe.
"Come on, you must be kidding. I just heard on the radio they had won their matches," he said in anger. Oops, the Williams did lose, but this was the
ladies doubles match.
Coming on court just after defeating Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati in three sets each in singles, it was not easy for Venus and Serena to sustain the tempo. And if you want to know whether they like this feeling of losing, make sure you watch them on Thursday.
Defending champion Serena is in one of those moods where she will do anything to beat Kim Clijsters. And Venus knows each day at The Championships, she is answering critics who have questioned her motivation level.
There is talk of the sisters now being like chalk and cheese, where the younger sibling has scaled new peaks, while the elder one is perhaps playing the support role. How can one forget the conversation two years back which was so different when people said the results were already 'decided' whenever the two sisters faced each other.
For all those who doubted how genuine a Venus vs Serena match was, enough proof has come since the 2002 French Open. Four Grand Slam finals, leading to the Australian Open this year, and in all of them Serena triumphed against her elder sister.
To be sure, a lot of people are predicting one more Grand Slam final between these two sisters from Los Angeles, who know each others' styles inside out. But isn't that a bit premature? Serena has a lot of revenge to take, especially after her loss to Justin Henin-Hardenne in the semi-finals at Roland Garros.
By her own admission, Serena has become a bit of a pessimist after the French Open loss. More than the result of the contest, it was the crowd behaviour which hurt her. "Screaming in between first and second serves, come on, that's not on," she says today.
There's nothing wrong with what Serena is saying. Shouldn't spectators be cheering her for the way she has come up. These were the same sisters who as kids were brought up on public courts in drug-infested Compton (California). Why hate them for such dominance. Did anyone disturb Pete Sampras when he kept winning the men's singles title here? No, there was always appreciation.
Serena is in no mood to relent. Once on court, she shuts everything out of her mind. And if she did lose one doubles match here, it's going to be the right tonic for her to play even more aggressively.
Even if the crowds don't like it, she is going to do just what she knows best, play at top gear, even if it be monotonous. As far as Venus is concerned, she takes everything in her stride. At this point of time, she is not worrying about who is her opponent, what's going to happen to the WTA rankings next week, and what the weather will be like.
She knows Kim Clijsters, her opponent on Thursday is playing her best tennis. But this is Wimbledon, where Venus was the queen in 2000 and 2001. Venus is eager to return as champion, though she does not talk about it.
"It's all about attitude. Serena was the better shot last year. No matter who she was playing, she was very motivated. I don't come to tournaments just to have a good showing," says Venus.
Maturity is going to stand Venus in good stead in these conditions where rain breaks can ruin a player's rhythm.
Venus has seen all this before, and maybe this is the time she will surprise carping critics who think she has lost the hunger for winning.
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