WIMBLEDON, England —Thrilled as she was to win her fifth Wimbledon singles championship, Venus Williams dialed down her celebration.
No hopping in place and skipping to the net after match point, the way she’s done so often on that Centre Court lawn. No giddy laughter and whoops of joy, as she’s let out in the past.
This title was different from her previous successes at the grass-court Grand Slam.
This title came at the expense of her younger sibling, Serena.
Reprising their Sister Slam Show in the Wimbledon final after a five-year hiatus, Venus and Serena Williams smacked big serves, hit hard strokes from all angles and chased down seemingly unreachable balls, like no one else does. Overcoming an early deficit, Venus beat Serena 7-5, 6-4 Saturday for her second consecutive title at the All England Club and seventh major championship overall.
“I’m definitely more in tune with my sister’s feelings because one of us has to win and one of us has to lose,” the No. 7-seeded Venus said. “You could never detract from winning a Wimbledon, so of course it doesn’t detract from that. But I’m definitely thinking about how my sister’s feeling.”
No. 6 Serena, meanwhile, was sullen as could be afterward, as though she had just finished losing to a stranger. Which, it turns out, was the way she tried to view Venus. That the champion’s trophy stayed in the family did not ease the pain of defeat.
“It’s definitely not any easier,” Serena said. “I just look at her as another opponent at the end of the day.”
Said their mother and coach, Oracene Price: “Well, you know, she’s going to have to learn how to suck things up. Say, ‘OK, I’m not going to win everything.”’
About 3 1/2 hours after the singles final ended, Price’s daughters returned to the same court, except now they were playing on the same side of the net, and they beat Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-2 to win the women’s doubles title.
A day that began with a meal together at the nearby house they’re sharing, ended with the sisters’ seventh Grand Slam doubles championship—and a total family payday of more than $2.5 million.
Saturday’s earlier encounter was the seventh all-Williams Grand Slam singles final; only one other pair of sisters faced off in a major tournament title match, and that was all the way back at the very first Wimbledon, in 1884.
Williams vs. Williams finals became routine for a bit, when they met in six of eight Grand Slam title matches from the U.S. Open in 2001 through Wimbledon in 2003. Serena went 5-1 in those, including beating Venus at the All England Club in 2002 and 2003.
But big sister got some payback Saturday.
“I didn’t want the same trend to keep happening,” Venus said. “So I climbed a tiny little notch up. It’s 2-5. Still behind, but I’m working on it.”
Venus is 28 and Serena 26, and both have been ranked No. 1. But injuries slowed both, and that 2003 Wimbledon final was the last time they met to decide a championship.
Things were still a tad awkward after all these years—for the sisters themselves, of course, but also for the 15,000 or so fans, who couldn’t seem to get into picking someone to support, leading to a subdued atmosphere; for chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who occasionally forgot to add the necessary first name when announcing, “Advantage, Miss Williams”; and, perhaps most of all, for the relatives sitting in the players’ guest box.
When Venus capped a run in which she claimed five of six games to erase an early 4-2 hole and take the first set, for example, Price simply stayed put, her face expressionless, her hands in her lap.
You’ve just seen one of your daughters win the first set of the Wimbledon final, and you don’t jump and applaud? Well, not if you’ve also just seen one of your daughters lose the first set of the Wimbledon final.
“That was a difficult one to watch,” Price said. “You feel happy that the one won it, but you feel so bad because there has to be a loser, too.”
Venus entered the tournament in the midst of an uneven season, with a 14-7 record and without so much as one title of any sort. As long has been the case, however, the grass brought out her best, and she didn’t drop a set all fortnight — not even against the woman she considers her toughest foe.
“I have the ultimate respect for her game and I have a lot of respect for her serve,” said Venus, who also won Wimbledon in 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2007. “If I was playing anyone else, I wouldn’t have to face what I had to face today.”
The same could be said by Serena.
No other top woman consistently serves as powerfully as the sisters do, and Venus broke her Wimbledon record with a 129 mph delivery Saturday. Repeatedly, precisely the way she’s done all tournament, Venus pounded serves directly at Serena’s body.
“I’m glad she did it,” Serena said, “because next time, I know what to expect.”
No other top woman consistently pounds groundstrokes the way the sisters do, either, and they produced fantastic points, even if a swirling wind played havoc with some shots and led Venus to catch her service toss countless times.
Neither held back, and the tone was set in the third game, when Venus came to the net, and Serena sent a stinging passing attempt right at her sister’s face. Venus managed to hit a reflex volley winner.
Then again, at 4-4 in the opening set, Serena conceded a point to Venus after the chair umpire called a let when Serena shouted “No!” as she hit a shot she thought was headed out.
Serena, who still leads Venus 8-7 in major titles, actually compiled more aces, 9-4, more total winners, 32-27, and fewer unforced errors, 11-13. But there was one key difference that tilted the other way: Venus was 4-for-7 converting break points, while Serena was 2-for-13.
One of those two conversions came early in the second set, when Serena wasted six break chances before converting the seventh as Venus slipped on the worn baseline at the end of a 10-stroke exchange.
That break put Serena ahead 2-1, but she failed to hold in the very next game, when a deep forehand by Venus forced an error to make it 2-2.
They stayed on serve until Venus was ahead 5-4, and she broke there to end it. On the first match point, her sister swatted a 100 mph ace—“classic Serena Williams,” as Venus put it.
But on the next point, Serena sailed a backhand wide. When they met beside the net, the sisters wrapped their arms around each other. The embrace after their doubles victory appeared far warmer.
Now both were champions.