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Is it sunset for the Venus, Serena sibling rivalry?

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[FILE] Venus Williams ( R ) and Serena Williams ( L) pose for a picture before their 2015 US Open Women’s Singles Quarterfinals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center September 8, 2015 in New York. AFP PHOTO/KENA BETANCUR / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR

When the draw came out, it presented their likely meeting in the third round, 20 years after their first clash at the US Open in 1998. This year, Venus was the first to reach the third round with a victory over Italy’s Camila Giorgi, while Serena later defeated Germany’s Witthoeft. Then the hype commenced.

The archivists released the record of their previous 29 career meetings, with the younger Williams in front 17-12. Their 30th encounter could be the last, considering the private life of mother Serena and the age of Venus.

Venus made her debut at the 1997 Open, fittingly as the new stadium was named after Arthur Ashe, who had won the first tournament open to all players in 1968, defeating the “Flying Dutchman” Tom Okker in the finals.

With beads in hair and teeth in braces, Venus powered her way to the finals losing to Martina Hingis. Baby sister was waiting to make her professional debut a year later.

In the semi-finals of 1997 women’s event, there was an incident. At one of the changeovers after odd games, Venus almost bumped into her opponent, Miss Spirlea, who later made a comment. “Who does she think she is; f … Venus Williams?” This made news with insinuations of racism.

However, a comment by Venus gave hint of the years ahead. ”She was lucky it wasn’t my sister.” It was a notification that Serena had more of the mean streak.

Their father and coach, however, said that Serena was technically better than Venus, although they had the same instructors all along.

Their first career match-up took place at the 1998 Australian Open and Venus won in two sets. She also won their second, the same year in Rome and the third in Miami. However, Serena was the first to win a Grand Slam, at the 2000 US Open. She deprived her sister eight Grand Slam titles, three of them in 2002 all in the finals.

During the build-up to their first meeting at the 2001 US Open, the Media Room was abuzz with discussions that the two sisters did not like competing against each other. References were made to Muhammad Ali who once said: “Aint nobody gonna pay to watch two buddies fight each other.” Therefore he and Joe Frazier had to feign disdain for each other and they staged a pre-match “fist fight” in Philadelphia before their 1970 battle in New York’s Madison Square Gardens.

In sports, does one have to generate some level of resentment towards an opponent in order to win? Rod Laver said that he took balls on the rise because “there must be no rest for the ‘wicked’ bloke across the net trying to beat me.”

While pugilists pound at each other, the tennis player hits the ball in a sport aptly described by the great Harry Hopman as: “a game of control and restraint; hitting ball where the other fellow aint.”

It is true that the two sisters could not have that dose of disdain for each other. But their mother said: “Every time they compete against themselves, you guys should just sit down, relax and watch a great exhibition.”


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