Playing Sisters

by: Peter Bodo April 07, 2012

Ss

by Bobby Chintapalli

CHARLESTON — Three women made the cover of yesterday’s local newspaper, The Post and Courier. The picture of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was just a little bigger than that of Venus Williams and Serena Williams. But the sisters’ pictures also occupied two-thirds of the Sports section cover; they dwarfed an image of golfer Lee Westwood, who was leading at Augusta National, a golf club that did not allow African-Americans to join until 1990 and still does not accept women as members.

The Family Circle Cup, of course, has a long history with the women of professional tennis. And this week Charleston has been rooting for the Williams sisters in particular, hoping to be the setting for their 24th tour match against each other (and their first since 2009).

But a rematch won’t happen yet. At last’s night awe-inspiring, star-studded event honoring the Original 9, the nine founders of women’s professional tennis, Venus took the blame for that: “If I’d have found a way to win my match, I’d be playing her tomorrow.”

She lost to No. 2 seed Sam Stosur 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinals yesterday, and it was at 2-2 in the third set that unseeded Venus lost her away. She hit a forehand into the net to get broken, and that was the beginning of the end. On a day that was surprisingly cold and windy, with sunshine coming and going, the omniscient DJ played ‘Here Comes the Sun’ at the changeover. Venus won just one game after that.

Which meant Stosur won her first match against Venus in five attempts. Stosur moved well and used slice effectively, but she attributed her success to serving better and returning more aggressively in the final set.

“[When] you’re hitting second serves against someone like Venus, it’s pretty dangerous territory to live in,” she said. “So I think that was an important turnaround from the second to the third set when I started serving better and kept going for it.”

Venus said her own errors didn’t help but attributed the result mostly to Stosur playing aggressive tennis and playing it well. It took her a set and a half to adjust to Stosur’s game.

“I just haven’t played her in a long time, and she plays a lot differently than everyone, so I needed some time to adjust,” Venus said. “I don’t mind power.  Every game is so different, I enjoy the challenge of it, but obviously she plays a power game well and executes it well, so that gives her a lot of advantages.”

At her post-match press conference Venus talked more openly than she sometimes does about living with the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s Syndrome. (I wasn’t at the post-match press conference, because I left for the Original 9 event. However, read this transcript if you get the chance.) She talked about having to be more realistic about what she can and can’t do, about being frustrated when she’s too tired to train, and not knowing when those days will happen, but also about forgiving herself more and about how so much these days “is like icing on the cake.”

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Next up for Stosur is the other sister, Serena. Here’s information on that match, mostly from the WTA match notes and some taken directly.

*Their head-to-head record is 5-3 in Serena’s favor.

*Both are former Family Circle Cup winners. (Serena won the title in 2008, and Stosur won it in 2010.)

*If Serena wins today she’ll cross the $35 million career prize money mark.

*Serena has won her last 5 matches against Top 5 players.

*In her career Serena has won more matches than the other semifinalists (509) and lost fewer (106).

*In her career Serena has earned more in prize money than the other three semifinalists combined (just under $35 million for Serena compared to $13.9 million for the others.)

*Serena will likely move up to No. 9 in the rankings, while Stosur can’t improve her ranking this week.

*If Stosur wins she’ll become the eighth player to beat both Williams sisters at the same tournament. The others are Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario, Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis, Kim Clijsters (twice), Lindsay Davenport, Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic.

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