BY THE NUMBERS54 -- Minutes the match lasted6 -- Aces by Serena8 -- Double faults by Venus13 -- Straight matches won by Serena at FCC
It ended with a ball shanked off the frame, and a simple handshake between sisters.
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The sibling rivalry between Venus and Serena Williams is the stuff of tennis legend (and now a feature-length movie), the 24 meetings between the sisters including the finals or semifinals of nine Grand Slam events.
Venus and Serena had not played each other since 2009, making Saturday’s semifinal meeting at the Family Circle Cup one of the most anticipated matches in the 41-year history of the tournament.
But in less than an hour, a record crowd of 9,538 at Billie Jean King Stadium saw that Venus, 32, is no longer in a position to challenge the primacy of her younger sister.
Serena, 31 and ranked No. 1 in the world, moved to within one win of her third Family Circle Cup title, taking an easy 6-1, 6-2 victory over Venus in the biggest rout ever between the sisters.
Serena will face No. 9 seed Jelena Jankovic, the 2007 Family Circle Cup champ, in today’s 1 p.m. final. Jankovic fought hard for a 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 win over Stefanie Voegele on Saturday.
Against Serena, Venus double-faulted eight times and ended the match by cracking a ball off the frame of her Wilson racquet. The sisters then clasped hands at the net — no hugs, just a handshake.
“It’s great to see her at No. 1,” said a wistful Venus, “and fulfilling every dream.”
Venus herself, of course, was No. 1 in the world and owns seven Grand Slam titles (to 15 for Serena). The sisters are the only two women in WTA Tour history to crack the $25 million mark in career earnings.
But over the last couple of years, Venus has been slowed by an autoimmune disease that forces her to watch her diet and can sap her energy. Having to play two matches on Friday, one a three-setter, didn’t help, either. Serena played twice Friday, as well.
“She’ll never admit it, ever, but I don’t think she was 100 percent,” Serena said of Venus, whom she has beaten five straight times and in 14 of 24 meetings. “You will never get that out of her, but quite frankly, three matches (in two days) is much tougher for her than for me.
“It’s definitely not easy, because I’m struggling, and I can’t imagine what she must be feeling.”
Serena was right, as Venus, now ranked No. 24, made no excuses.
“I had a chance to win the match,” she said. “We both had racquets and everything. I didn’t take advantage of my opportunities, so there’s no reason for me to be upset about that. I just have to improve my game. You know, I’ve been off balance for a long time, and I’m trying to regain my balance.”
Serena often expressed her pride this week in Venus’ comeback. But on Saturday, there was no on-court recognition that this match was different from any other.
“When I’m out there,” Serena said, “I’m really just focused on the ball. I don’t really focus on anything else.”
It took Serena just 22 minutes to win the first set, and Venus tugged at her visor in frustration after her fifth double-fault helped Serena break to start the second set.
Down 3-2, Venus had her best chance to stay in the match when Serena ended a long rally with a backhand drop shot into the net, then double-faulted to go down 0-30. The crowd was behind Venus, but she missed a return and hit a backhand wide before Serena hammered a 117 mph ace (one of six) and ripped a backhand winner to hold for 4-2.
The end came quickly after that, but one thing seemed clear. Long after they are done playing, Venus and Serena will remain just that — Venus and Serena.
“We all come together at the end,” Serena said. “And we just try to love each other like we always do.”