How Serena turned her 30th meeting with Venus into a one-sided rout

by: Steve Tignor | August 31, 2018

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Court Report: It was a Serena Williams rout on Friday night

NEW YORK—There was a point in the third game that should have let us know how the rest of this night would go.

Serena Williams had just taken a medical timeout for what looked to be a problem with her right ankle. Then, when she went back out out to play, she had watched as her sister Venus, to the delight of the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd, had fired a forehand winner to go up 30-15 on her serve. We appeared to have a match on our hands.

After a short rally to start the next point, Serena pushed her sister out of position with a crosscourt backhand. All Venus could do was flip up a weak one-handed backhand that barely made it over the net. At first, it looked as if Serena would have to let the ball bounce, instead, she put on a sudden burst of closing speed and made it there in time to slam home a swing volley into the open court. Yes, Serena’s foot seemed to be OK. Her game, it turned out, was even better.

In their first 29 meetings, the Williams sisters had, understandably, produced few classics. But two of their better contests had come at the US Open, in the 2008 and 2015 quarterfinals; so there was hope for something good tonight. We did get something good, but only from one sister. Serena was at her brusquely efficient best from start to finish. Of the 113 points played, 94 were over in four shots or less; of those 94, Serena won 62.

“She played so well,” Venus said, “I never really got to touch any balls.”

(Photo by Anita Aguilar)

You could see this coming in Serena’s previous match, against Carina Witthoeft. Her forehand return had clicked early, and her serve had followed. Both were clicking again tonight; Serena hit 10 aces and 34 winners to Venus’ 14. More telling, though, was the fact that Venus managed to win just 48 percent of points on her first serve. The harder she hit her serve, the harder it came back, and the harder it went past her.

In the end, Venus-Serena XXX was one of the most one-sided in their reluctant, two-decade-old sibling rivalry. Serena won 6-1, 6-2 in 72 minutes and faced just one break point. Venus said afterward that she hopes her sister can keep that level up. While Serena may meet more resistance from Kaia Kanepi on Sunday, she has to be the favorite for the title at the moment.

The fans in gave Venus a powerful ovation as she waved good-bye; during the match, they did what they could to lift her up. But before you can make any good shots, you actually have to be able to touch your opponents’, right?

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