For stretches of the 27th edition of Williams vs. Williams, Venus gave Serena all she could handle.
And when Serena took control down the stretch to emerge with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 victory in a well-played U.S. Open quarterfinal, allowing her to continue pursuing the first calendar-year Grand Slam in more than a quarter-century, a smiling Venus wrapped both arms around her little sister for a warm hug at the net and whispered, “So happy for you.”
“Obviously we are very, very tough competitors on the court,” Serena said later, “but once the match is over, the second it’s done, you know, we’re sisters, we’re roommates, and we’re all that.”
Serena called their unique sibling rivalry “the greatest story in tennis,” and who would argue? A couple of kids taught by their dad on cement courts in Compton, California, making it all the way to the top.
With two more match wins, the No. 1-ranked Serena would become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to collect all four Grand Slam titles in a single season. Plus, if she can win what would be her fourth U.S. Open in a row, and seventh overall, she would equal Graf with 22 major championships, the most in the professional era and second-most ever behind Margaret Court’s 24.
“That would be huge, not just for me, but for my family, just for what it represents and how hard we have worked and where we come from. So it would be a moment for our family,” said the 23rd-seeded Venus, who is 15 months older. “But at the same time, if it doesn’t happen it’s not going to make or break you. We don’t have anything to prove. She has nothing to prove. She’s really the best ever.”
Serena is 16-11 in their all-in-the-family matches, including 9-5 in majors and 3-2 at the U.S. Open. And 14 years to the day after Venus beat Serena in the 2001 final at Flushing Meadows, they met again with so much at stake.
Well-known folks such as Donald Trump — who was booed when shown on video screens — Oprah Winfrey and Kim Kardashian dotted the teeming stands in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and the sellout crowd of 23,771 got its money’s worth.