Grand Sibling Rivalry Leaves Venus Williams a Distinct Underdog…

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How long ago was it? In the men’s final, Lleyton Hewitt defeated Pete Sampras.

THE WINNER SAID: “I always want Serena to win. It’s strange. I’m the bigger sister. I’m the one who takes care of her. I make sure she has everything even if I don’t. I love her. It’s hard.”

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Venus Williams, above, losing to Serena in three sets in the final of the 2003 Australian Open, which was the fourth straight Grand Slam final featuring the sisters.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

THE TIMES SAID: “There was no doubt about the effort as they grunted and grimaced through every point.”

2002 French Open: Serena in Two Sets

Serena experienced the longest major title drought of her career between her first in 1999 and her second here. After winning her first French Open, 7-5, 6-3, Serena would not win another at Roland Garros for 11 years. Venus has not advanced past the quarterfinals in Paris since.

THE WINNER SAID: “I was really fighting for this for so long. At one point, I wouldn’t get past the quarters; then I got to the final, maybe a semi here and there. But it was just kind of discouraging. I didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder.”

THE TIMES SAID: “Today, the Williams sisters reversed roles. Serena held on, while Venus came undone.”

2002 Wimbledon: Serena in Two Sets

Serena followed her first French Open title with her first Wimbledon title, 7-6 (4), 6-3. Venus had been the two-time defending champion, and after this match, she lost the No. 1 ranking to Serena, too.


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Serena Williams, above, losing to Venus in the 2008 Wimbledon final, the last time the older Williams has won a Grand Slam title.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

THE WINNER SAID: “I kept thinking to myself: ‘O.K., Serena, just stay calm. Venus already has two Wimbledons. Try to fight.’”

THE TIMES SAID: “Playing with the ferocity normally reserved only for others, Venus and Serena discarded their sibling code of conduct during today’s Wimbledon final.”

2002 U.S. Open: Serena in Two Sets

With a 6-4, 6-3 victory in Flushing Meadows, Serena completed a 4-0 season against her sister. Winning her third major in a row, Serena also tied Venus with four Grand Slam titles over all.

“Everybody has a year,” Venus said. “This is her year. Next year could be her year, too.”

THE WINNER SAID: “I prefer to play Venus because that means that we have reached our maximum potential and that we’ll both go home winners. For me, I’m happy to play her in the final.”

THE TIMES SAID: “If Venus and Serena continue to find each other at the end of majors the way Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi have all these years, there will be a universal appreciation for a rivalry that will never be re-created again.”


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Serena Williams after winning at Wimbledon in 2009. She has a 6-2 edge over her sister in Grand Slam finals.

Carl De Souza/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

2003 Australian Open: Serena in Three Sets

For the fourth straight Grand Slam event, it was Williams versus Williams. And for the fourth straight time, Serena was the winner, completing her first so-called Serena Slam. For the first time, the match went three sets: 7–6 (4),3–6, 6–4. (Serena completed another Serena Slam in 2014-15 by winning four majors in a row.)

THE WINNER SAID: “I never get choked up, never, but I’m really emotional right now and really, really happy,”

THE TIMES SAID: “In a breathtaking, fist-pumping, title-gobbling hurry, Serena Williams has become one of the greats.”

2003 Wimbledon: Serena in Three Sets

After an all-Belgian French Open final between Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, normal service resumed in the next major tournament. But this may have been the most awkward of the finals between the Williams sisters. Venus strained an abdominal muscle during her semifinal match, and later acknowledged that she might not have played if it had not been a Wimbledon final and if the opponent had not been her sister. Still, Venus battled for three sets, losing, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

THE WINNER SAID: “I was just telling myself, if anything, ‘This is Wimbledon.’ God knows if I would get this opportunity again, so I just kept telling myself that. I think, if anything, I fought harder.”

THE TIMES SAID: “It might be getting easier for Serena to play her older sister, but it is still not nearly the same as matching huge ground strokes and healthy egos with an outsider. Playing Venus when she was injured only added a layer of complexity.”

2008 Wimbledon: Venus in Two Sets

After the sisters played each other six times in eight major finals from 2001 to 2003, it took almost five years for them to meet in a final again. For the first time since their first Grand Slam final, Venus came out on top, 7-5, 6-4. It was Venus’s fifth Wimbledon title and seventh major championship over all, though she has not won one since.

THE WINNER SAID: “She played so awesome. It was really a task to beat her.”

THE TIMES SAID: “Sisters for life and doubles partners later in the afternoon, Venus and Serena Williams put most of that aside for nearly two hours on Saturday at Wimbledon, smacking serves and ground strokes in each other’s direction with a vengeance and an accuracy that have often been lacking in their previous family reunions.”

2009 Wimbledon: Serena in Two Sets

Venus was the two-time defending champion, and coming into the final, she had won 20 straight matches and 34 straight sets at the All England Club. But Serena would not be denied, winning, 7-6 (3), 6-2. She had claimed three of the past four Grand Slam events to bring her career total to 11.

THE WINNER SAID: (Of the Venus Rosewater Dish, presented to the winner) “It’s named the Venus, and she always wins it, and it’s just like wow. It hasn’t settled in that I won yet.”

THE TIMES SAID: “Serena’s victory on Saturday, in which she finished with 12 aces and never lost her serve, was the latest confirmation that she is on another memorable run.”

Serena Williams was not nearly done. Since that final, she has made 14 more, winning 11 for a career total of 22 Grand Slam singles championships. Venus has not been back to a final, with just two Grand Slam semifinal appearances.

Until this week. Seeded just 13th, Venus rolled back the years to seize an unexpected berth in the final in Melbourne. Once again, her sister stands in the way.

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