By Erik Gudris | Saturday, August 9, 2014
Venus Williams continued her run in Montreal with a three set semifinal win over top seed Serena Williams.
Photo Credit: Getty
When Serena Williams and Venus Williams play each other, the expectation is that anything could happen. Sometimes, their matches are instant classics. Sometimes, the results are one-sided. In their milestone 25th career meeting at the Rogers Cup semifinals in Montreal on Saturday, the outcome was somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.
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But for the older Williams, her first win versus her younger sister in over five years will likely rank as one of her most satisfying wins in their friendly rivalry.
Venus entered the tunnel leading to the main court smiling and looking just happy to be there. It wasn't a year ago that many thought seeing the 7-time Grand Slam champion in a WTA Premier Mandatory semi would never happen. But this season, Venus started showing the form that took her to No. 1 all those years ago.
Serena, on the other hand, looked all business at the start of the match. Or was that serious look her way of masking any nerves? As top seed and defending champion, Serena was expected to win. Yet a ragged opening service game from Serena allowed her sister to take a quick lead. Both settled into their games and those watching found themselves treated to quality hitting. No awkward moments from either as in earlier encounters when they were younger. Each wanted this win.
Serena broke back to love and leveled the set at 3-all. The match's theme revealed itself with Serena striking sizzling first serve aces with pinpoint accuracy. Yet it was Venus's aggressive second serve return position well inside the court that proved problematic all day long for the World No. 1. As Venus kept her usual poker face no matter what the score, Serena looked agitated and unsure.
Venus fought off a set point late at 5-6 with a deep forehand response and eventually a tiebreak resulted. Serena, though not having played her best, took advantage of two errors from her sister early in the breaker including a near miss forehand that would have been a winner. That propelled Serena to claim the set 7-6 (2).
Winning the first set didn't seem to do much for Serena, however.
As her level dropped again, Venus kept hers steady. Rolling off 12 out of 14 points, Venus cruised to a 3-0 lead. Even as Serena fired off her 15th ace by now, it didn't seem to inspire the rest of her game. Serving to stay in the set later down 2-5, Serena appeared to lose interest. Serena handed the set to her sister after back-to-back double faults and then by dumping a backhand into the net.
Serena continued striking down first serve aces. But she still had no answers against Venus and her serve as they navigated their way through the final set that lacked some of the quality from earlier. At 2-all, Serena crunched a return winner while standing almost at the service box. While that moment of frustration and perhaps intimidation threw off Venus for a few points, she still held for 3-2.
Serena ran out of time and opportunities to break her sister. Venus, holding break point, won a tense rally and went up 4-2. Venus again enjoyed an easy hold of serve for 5-2 putting the pressure back on her sister.
Serena responded with a service hold and threatened Venus in the final game. Venus responded with one more final big serve as she closed out the 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3 victory.
Though Serena fired off 19 aces, she earned a poor 37% on her second serve points won. Venus proved much more efficient on her second serves at 57% won.
This result now puts Venus Williams back into a Premier Mandatory final for the first time since Madrid 2010. It's her first win over Serena since Dubai 2009. This is also her first win over a reigning No. 1 since beating Dinara Safina at Wimbledon in 2009. She awaits the winner of the second semifinal between Agnieszka Radwanska and Ekaterina Makarova.
"She was really opening the court well," Serena said to WTA.com. "She's such a good mover. She moves really well. I think her serve was way more consistent than mine. I had more aces, but she served better. Ultimately I think she returned better as well, so, yeah."
Despite the loss, Serena was happy for her sister.
"You know, she's been doing really well. Obviously I always want her to do the best that she can. I want to do the best that I can, too. But yeah, I'm really happy for her."
When asked by ESPN's Renee Stubbs what the win meant to her, Venus said, "I don't think we've played that often in the last five years. That has been my fault. And I'm working on it. I tell you I am."
Now having shown her best tennis once again this season against a tough opponent, Venus believes that only helps her.
"The better player that I play they help me to raise my game. And I think Serena helps me to raise my game. It's so motivating when your opponent is playing well and you have no choice to play better or be beaten. Today I played a little better."
The 25th chapter in the Williams rivalry proved intriguing yet again. But now Venus Williams, at age 34, still has perhaps more tennis history to write Sunday in her own career. After saying that she wouldn't leave until she was ready, one of the sport's most enduring stars proved again that she plans on sticking around for quite some time.