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Williams sisters stroll into semis

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Associated Press
July 1, 2009
— Her 19th consecutive victory at the All England Club already wrapped up, Venus Williams grabbed a seat and watched younger sister Serena win easily to reach the semifinals, too.

Afterward, Venus and Mom, Oracene Price, strolled out of Centre Court arm-in-arm, chatting and laughing.


Sure is fun to be a Williams at Wimbledon.


Five-time champion Venus beat No. 11-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-1, 6-2, before two-time champion Serena defeated No. 8 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-2, 6-3, a pair of overwhelming performances Tuesday that moved the siblings closer to another all-in-the-family final at Wimbledon.


“They are both playing super-well. They’re playing ’The Williams Way,”’ their father, Richard Williams, said. “And when you’re playing ’The Williams Way,’ it’s very difficult for anyone to touch you.”


Particularly at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament, where a Williams has won seven of the past nine championships.


If No. 3 Venus gets past No. 1 Dinara Safina of Russia in Thursday’s semifinals, and No. 2 Serena eliminates No. 4 Elena Dementieva of Russia, the siblings would meet Saturday in their second consecutive final at the All England Club and fourth overall.


It also would be the eighth all-Williams Grand Slam championship match; Serena leads 5-2.


“I would love it to be a Williams final,” Venus said, “and so would she.”


They are competitors, of course, but also form a team in many ways: The sisters are sharing a house during this tournament, practice with each other and have reached the women’s doubles quarterfinals together.


“We’ve got it all figured out at this point,” Venus said.


She is trying to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1991-93 to win three consecutive Wimbledon titles; Serena wants to add to the trophies she earned in 2002-03 by beating her sister in the finals.


At least one person has no doubt there will be a rematch Saturday.


“It will be. I’ll go home because I can’t watch,” their dad said. “I think they both definitely make it to the final.”


First things first. If the


19-year-old Azarenka and 20-year-old Radwanska represented up-and-coming opponents with little experience on the sport’s grandest stages—neither has reached a Grand Slam semifinal—Safina and Dementieva are far more accustomed to playing significant matches.


On the other hand, they’re not nearly as accustomed to winning them as the Williams sisters are, of course: Serena owns 10 major titles, Venus seven; Safina and Dementieva have zero.


Safina, who lost in the final at three of the previous five Grand Slam events, overcame 15 double-faults and wore down 41st-ranked Sabine Lisicki of Germany 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1. Dementieva, twice a runner-up at major championships and a singles gold medalist at last year’s Beijing Olympics, was never challenged by 43rd-ranked Francesca Schiavone of Italy and won their quarterfinal, 6-2, 6-2.


Asked about her double-fault total, Safina replied with a smile: “Fifteen? I thought it was much more. Sometimes even I don’t know what I’m doing with my serve.”


As the younger sister of former No. 1 Marat Safin, who lost in the first round at what he vows was his last Wimbledon, Safina knows about sibling success. But after losing the French Open final a few weeks ago, she acknowledged cracking under the pressure of trying to win her first major.


Looking ahead to facing Venus, against whom she is 1-2, Safina said, “I cannot go on court thinking I lost already.”


No, definitely, I think I have a chance there.”


Dementieva also sounded a brave tone, despite accumulating more unforced errors (18) than winners (13).


“I just want to see how tough I can be out there against her,” said Dementieva, who lost to Venus in last year’s Wimbledon semifinals and now takes on Serena. “Just looking for some good fight.”


Radwanska and Azarenka failed to make things difficult for the Williams sisters, who were at their dominant best.


“Not perfect,” Price said, “but pretty close.” Radwanska was playing in her third Grand Slam quarterfinal, 27 fewer than Venus, and while she upset Maria Sharapova at the 2007 U.S. Open, a stunner of that magnitude never seemed a possibility Tuesday. Venus won the first five games and the last six, compiling a 29-6 edge in winners.


Pounding aces at up to 122 mph, Venus won 16 of 18 points on her serve in the first set on a steamy day, the temperature about 90 degrees and not a cloud overhead at Court 1.


“Her tennis is so powerful,” Radwanska said. “Very hard to do anything.”


It took all of 68 minutes, leaving Venus ample time to shower, change, do postmatch interviews and still make it into the guest box for Serena’s match.


Azarenka hits the ball quite hard herself, letting out a grunt that sounds something like “Whoop!”, but she couldn’t keep up. She even felt compelled to clap after a couple of Serena’s best strokes.


“She really showed the unbeatable Serena,” Azarenka acknowledged.


Azarenka did break for a 3-2 lead in the second set, but Serena didn’t let her win another game. When Serena smacked one last forehand winner, she jogged to the net, pumping her fists. Up in the stands, Venus stood and applauded.


“We definitely upped our level of game today,” said Serena, who hit nine aces. “We had really tough opponents, so we had to.”


On Thursday, two more opponents will try to slow a pair of sisters who began playing tennis twenty-something years ago in Compton, Calif., and have made the most famous grass courts in the world their personal playground.


One particular family will be hoping for an all-Williams final. One nation will be pulling for an all-Russian final.


Dementieva proposed a unique alternative, asking: “Can we play just two finals instead?”


WIMBLEDON AT A GLANCE


-- look at Wimbledon on Tuesday:


-- Women’s quarterfinals: No. 1 Dinara Safina defeated Sabine Lisicki, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1, No. 2 Serena Williams beat No. 8 Victoria Azarenka, 6-2, 6-3, No. 3 Venus Williams defeated No. 11 Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-1, 6-2, No. 4 Elena Dementieva beat Francesca Schiavone, 6-2, 6-2.


-- On court today: No. 2 Roger Federer vs. No. 22 Ivo Karlovic, No. 3 Andy Murray vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero, No. 4 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 24 Tommy Haas, No. 6 Andy Roddick vs. Lleyton Hewitt in the men’s quarterfinals.


-- Today’s TV: ESPN2, 6-9 a.m. CDT and noon-4 p.m. CDT; NBC, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., all time zones.



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