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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, August 13, 2020

 
Serena Williams

Episode 31 was exceptional: Serena Williams slammed 14 aces winning the final four games to stop sister Venus 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Photo Source: AP

Throwback tennis was a titanic throwdown.

Episode 31 of the Williams sisters rivalry lived up to the hype delivering exceptional drama and eye-popping exchanges.

Tennis Express

A strong-willed Serena Williams slashed 14 aces and stormed back from 2-4 down in the decider edging older sister Venus 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to surge into the Top Seed Open quarterfinals.

The 38-year-old Serena squeaked out her 100th career victory from a set down seizing a 19-12 edge in this iconic rivalry.

“The last couple of games I just wanted to win because I’ve been losing a lot of those tight sets,” Serena said afterward. “I really needed to try to win this—not just for this but for my confidence. So I just really tried to focus on those last two games.”

The top-seeded Williams will play either American wild card Shelby Rogers or talented Canadian qualifier Leylah Fernandez for a semifinal spot.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion said the relative silence of the tournament evoked nostalgia for her junior days.

Today, Venus and Serena stood toe-to-toe turning back time with some crackling rallies in a fierce, physical duel that spanned two hours, 19 minutes and saw the sisters trading lightning strikes throughout.

Three decades after the Williams sisters waged daily duels on the public parks of Compton, California—and 22 years after big sister swept little sister in their first pro clash at the ’98 Australian Open—they squared off again showing us all the competitive fire still burns brightly in both women.

Venus saved 10 of 15 break points, pushed Serena back behind the baseline at time and was within eight points of her second win over her sister in their last three meetings.

Ultimately, Serena served with more precision—67 percent to 50 percent—earned eight more break points and had enough gas left in the tank to accelerate through the finish line.

“I think she played unbelievable—she’s doing so good,” Serena said of Venus. “I honestly don’t know how I was able to pull it out in the end. She fought well.” The first sisterly showdown since the 2018 US Open got off to a surreal start as the two superstars took the court without fans present—perhaps for the first time since their Compton clashes—amid 90-degree sweltering heat and wasted no time turning up blazing rallies.

Venus netted a mid-court forehand crosscourt as Serena broke to open. The six-time US Open champion had a break point for a 3-0 lead, but Venus answered with aggression.

Staving off a break point, big sister knocked off a forehand volley to get on the board in the third game. When Serena sprayed a backhand down the line wide, Venus broke back leveling after four games. In a concession to conserving energy on a scorching day, nearly everyone on court—from the sisters to ball kids—walked slowly between points.

When the ball was in play, Venus went after it with punishing intent. Spreading the court shrewdly with successive forehands, Venus left Serena looking flat footed earning triple break point. Venus banged a return right off the baseline scoring her second straight break for 4-2.

Dropping to a squat, Aga Radwanska-style, Venus fended off a deep Serena return, regained her balance and drew a netted error. Older sister saved another break point—by then she’d denied four of five—battling through her fifth straight game.

Serving with new balls, Serena relocated her first serve and stopped her five-game slide.

Forty-year-old Venus jolted a jarring body down the T to seal the 40-minute opener.



Playing with purpose and power, Venus protected her second serve with more care—she won 10 of 18 second-serve points—and was better on break points.

It was Venus’ third straight set over a former world No. 1 following her 6-3, 6-2 dissection of Victoria Azarenka in Tuesday’s opener.

If it wasn’t quite a match for the ages, it was a match of the ages.

The sisters combined age of 79 years, 19 days made it the third oldest singles match in WTA history and the highest combined age in a match since 2004 Charleston when a 47-year-old Martina Navratilova faced 31-year-old Amy Frazier, with a combined age of 79 years, 28 days.

Serving from a wider stance and launching herself into the serve more, the world No. 67 dodged a break point with her fourth ace before winning a crackling rally to draw even four games into the second set.

Pushing back her pony-tail streaked with purple highlights, Serena scorched a diagonal backhand return for break point in the sixth game. Venus saved it, but Serena shredded another return for break point. Getting her body behind the ball, Serena spun a backhand down the line breaking for 4-2.

Serena, who fought back from a 4-6, 4-4 deficit to defeat Bernarda Pera in her opener, was in no mood to settle for second today.




Accelerating through her shots, Serena drew a pair of netted forehands from Venus closing the second set. Younger sister did not face a break point to force a decider after 90 steamy and often exhilarating minutes.

For the first time since the 2009 WTA Finals, Serena, who owns the best winning percentage on the WTA after dropping the first set, would rally from a set down to top her sister.




Departing the court for about eight minutes with the Tour’s extreme heat rule in effect, Venus returned with fresh crimson-and-black outfit and held to start the final set.

The sisters traded breaks in the third and fourth games.

Then Venus, who was down an early break, drew a cluster of errors with deep drives for triple break point. Venus converted her fourth break for 4-2.

Responding to the deficit crunching a crosscourt forehand, Serena broke back with a clenched fist.

Throughout the match, Venus went big on both first and second serves, but her 11th double fault put her in break-point bind in the ninth game. Turning her hips and shoulders into her swing, Serena slashed a backhand off the line breaking with a shot for 5-4.

Down 15-30, a Serena serve down the T that was over-ruled as an ace. Serena followed with another ace that left Venus inspecting the ball mark suggesting it may have been wide.

When Venus sailed a forehand Venus was through in three. The sisters tapped Wilson racquets at net with Serena offering a raised eyebrow suggesting the strain of a big battle and relief of moving forward.


 

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