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CBSSports.com: Venus, Serena support for each other will take Saturday off

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- Still the big sister. Venus Williams made that clear. As before, she made clear how overwhelming she can be on the lawns of Wimbledon, her little Edens in the chaos of big-time tennis.

She's back, like the shark in Jaws. Venus is back, in the final once more, playing Serena Williams once more Saturday, the Fourth of July, perfect for two Americans.

Almost as perfect as Venus was in destroying the player seeded first, the player first in the women's rankings, dumbfounded Dinara Safina.

"I think," sighed Safina, "she's just too good on grass. She gave me a pretty good lesson today."

Venus needed only 51 minutes for what was less a match than a mismatch in one of Thursday's two semifinals.

Serena didn't have it quite as easy or swift. She was one shot away from losing to Elena Dementieva, who like Safina is Russian. But Dementieva couldn't make that shot, a cross-court backhand, in the 10th game of the third set, and Serena finished a 6-7, 7-5, 8-6 winner.

The shortest set in that one was only a minute less than Venus' entire match. In the end, Serena and Dementieva, who was more aggressive, hitting better forehands, but couldn't hang on, played 2 hours, 49 minutes, the longest women's semi in Wimbledon's records.

So it is Venus, trying for a sixth championship and third in a row, against Serena, who lost to her in the final last year but won a couple of Wimbledon titles herself in 2002 and 2003.

Sibling against sibling, Williams against Williams, for the fourth time in a Wimbledon final, the 21st time overall. Each has 10 victories. Each feels compassion toward the other. Each desperately wants the trophy, interestingly named the Venus Rosewater Dish.

"It is different," Venus said of playing Serena, "because I'm happy for her to be in the final, but I have to face her and defeat her. I don't necessarily want her to lose, but for sure I want me to win.

"Maybe that doesn't make sense, but when I'm playing someone else, I want them to lose. I don't like to ever see her disappointed in any way. But at the same time, I don't want to see myself disappointed."

Venus is 29 and more protective than 27-year-old Serena, who, with her Twitter and Facebook, is considerably more outspoken. Venus is cautious in her remarks. Serena can be outrageous.

"But, you know," a candid Venus said, "I need to get my titles, too. I'm still the big sister."

The first few times the Williamses met, in the U.S. Open at the beginning of the decade, at Wimbledon, there were suggestions their father Richard decided who would be the winner before they took the court.

Whether that was legitimate speculation or stupid contemplation, their early matches seemed to lack emotion.

But over the years any hesitancy has disappeared. They charge and slug and chase down balls against each other as they would against anyone else.

Venus wanted Serena to win Thursday. "It's like, if she didn't win, the dream doesn't come true that we're playing in the final."

Serena wanted Venus to win. "It was like, great going." Now they don't want the other to win.

Venus has to be favored, not only after her clubbing of Safina but because Venus has won 20 consecutive matches at Wimbledon, and 34 sets.

"I feel going into this final," said Serena, "I have nothing to lose. Obviously she's playing the best tennis at this tournament. Start with that and just keep positive."

Serena very well could have lost, maybe should have lost. She challenged a couple of calls that originally went Dementieva's way but that the instant-replay review, Hawk-Eye, verified were incorrect. By fractions of an inch.

But Serena refused to concede she was lucky. "I don't think there was too much luck involved," she said.

Not when Serena was serving. She had 20 aces.

"I definitely owe this one to my serve," she agreed.

Her usually strong forehand was nonexistent. "He didn't show up today," she cracked. "I think he went to Hawaii. But I've called him ... er, her, and asked her to come back for the final. Hopefully she'll come back."

No question Venus has come back. Someone whose English carried a strong Eastern Europe accent told Venus that the score of her match, Safina winning one pathetic game, "is very strange."

Not to Venus.

"I like the score," she said with a smile. "Be honest about that. I think the score just showed my level of play. I was just dictating every point. I felt like my performance has been building each round, better and better."

And only one person can stop her: little sister.

- - - - - -

http://www.cbssports.com/tennis/story/11917043
© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.

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