An all Williams Wimbledon final

Congrats to Venus & Serena Williams!! Yesterday they both defeated their opponents to set up an all Williams Wimbledon Womens final on Saturday. Breakfast at Wimbledon begins at 9:00am EST on NBC Saturday July 5.

Venus defeated Russia’s Elena Dementieva, 6-1, 7-6 (3). Serena defeated China’s Zheng Jie, 6-2, 7-6 (5).

Reprising a Sister Act After a Five-Year Wait

WIMBLEDON, England — Standing on the now-patchy grass of Centre Court on Thursday and smiling at her family in the players’ box with delight and a bit of relief in her eyes, Serena Williams was also looking at the only woman left who can stop her from winning a third Wimbledon title.

That would be her older sister Venus, who will try to win her fifth singles title at the All England Club.

It has been five years since the Williamses played each other for a Grand Slam trophy, five years since Serena beat Venus here in straight sets in the 2003 final; five years since the sisters dominated their sport and the rest of the field was trying in vain to catch up to their power, athleticism and self-belief.

This summer, on the English grass, they have resynchronized their careers, surviving a wild, upset-filled Wimbledon in style to turn Saturday’s final into a family affair once more.

“I’m definitely surprised,” Serena said of the five-year gap. “It’s definitely been awhile. Unfortunately, our ranking fell. We’ve been on the same side of the draw a few times. You know, unfortunately, I lost a lot. But it’s good. I mean, this is a new start for us.”

Some of the Williamses’ longtime rivals, like Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters and Martina Hingis, retired young. The primary rivals who remain, like Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, were ambushed early here.

But Venus, 28 and seeded seventh, and Serena, 26 and seeded sixth, have swept through their draws without dropping a set.

Venus, the defending champion, went first Thursday, serving and moving impressively to defeat fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva, a Russian with great ground strokes but a suspect serve and nerve, by 6-1, 7-6 (3).

Serena went next against the unseeded surprise of the tournament: Zheng Jie, a stocky Chinese baseliner better known until now for her doubles prowess.

The two women had to work their way through two rain delays — the first one brief, the second more than an hour. Although Zheng lifted her compact, counterpunching game to a remarkably high level in the second set, she could not quite manage to push Serena into a third. Serena closed out the victory, 6-2, 7-6 (5).

“I knew there were millions and millions of people watching me back home,” said the 24-year-old Zheng, the first Chinese woman to play in a Grand Slam semifinal in singles. “I did really want to win. But over all, I’m quite satisfied with the performance that I had today. But her serve was too big for me, especially on the grass court.”

Serena finished with 14 aces and won 87 percent of the points when she put her first serve into play. But Zheng did adjust to the power as the match progressed, prevailing frequently in the extended rallies.

She had her lone set point with Serena serving at 5-6, 30-40 in the second set. Serena even provided Zheng with a second serve to return, but Zheng took a big swing with her backhand and struck the ball into the top of the net.

Serena then swept the next two points and finished off the game with an ace to make the score 6-6.

It was a harbinger of more clutch serving. Williams slammed three more aces in the tie breaker to take a 5-2 lead. Zheng clawed back to 5-5, but Serena hit a first-serve winner to make it 6-5. On match point, Zheng double-faulted into the net.

“She definitely pushed me,” Serena said. “She played a great game and played like she had nothing to lose, which she didn’t.”

The mystery now is how the sisters will respond to playing to each other. “We’re going to stop talking to each other now until the final,” Serena said jokingly.

That would be difficult, considering that they are sharing a house here. They are also in the doubles semifinals and scheduled to play Friday. But Saturday’s singles match, the seventh Grand Slam final between the sisters and their third at Wimbledon, is the one that matters most.

Serena leads their series, 8-7, but many of their encounters have been error-filled, awkward affairs in which neither the crowd nor the combatants were able to give full throat to their emotions.

But the Williamses’ most recent encounter — in the semifinals in Bangalore, India, in March — produced one of their best matches, which Serena won in a third-set tie breaker.

There have been suggestions in the past, never proved, that the Williamses decided within their tennis family which sister would win their matches. The Williamses have always scoffed at such allegations, but the issue resurfaced Thursday when Dementieva analyzed the final by saying, “For sure, it’s going to be a family decision.”

On Thursday, Venus reacted angrily to any suggestion of an arranged result. “I find the question pretty offensive, because I’m extremely professional in everything that I do on and off the court,” she said. “I contribute my best in my sport, and I also have a ton of respect for myself and my family. So any mention of that is extremely disrespectful for who I am, what I stand for and my family.”

Dementieva later issued a signed statement clarifying that she had been misunderstood.

“English is not my first language, and I apologize for not speaking it better,” Dementieva said in the statement. “I do not think for one second that matches between Serena and Venus Williams are family decisions. What I meant was it is a unique situation for a family to be in, to be playing for a Grand Slam title.”

Dementieva was erratic and ineffective early in her first Wimbledon semifinal. Venus pounced on her relatively slow, sliced serves and broke her three times in the opening set.

Like Serena, Venus put more than 60 percent of her first serves in play. She was also a regular and dangerous presence at the net.

“As always, to win a title, you’ve got to play aggressive and not just hope that your opponent misses,” Venus said.

Congrats also go out to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. They both won their semifinal matches today and will meet on Sunday, July 6. Of course I’m rooting for Rafa.

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