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Sister Act: Venus, Serena will face off in Open final

SHARE Sister Act: Venus, Serena will face off in Open final

NEW YORK — Serena Williams clubbed one last service winner on match point, then thrust out her arms, wiggled her hips and happily skipped to the net.

Barely two hours later, Venus Williams closed out her own semifinal victory Friday at the U.S. Open and celebrated with her trademark wave and pirouette.

The sisters paraded into the final with stunning ease, beating the world's two top-ranked players. Their prime-time sibling showdown to cap Super Saturday will be the first Grand Slam final between sisters in 117 years.

"All my life I've been waiting for this," said their mercurial father and coach, Richard Williams. "And now it can happen."

The pairing is no surprise — Serena won the Open in 1999, and defending champion Venus has won three of the past five major titles. But the way they waltzed into the final was remarkable.

Serena played almost flawless tennis in beating No. 1 Martina Hingis 6-3, 6-2. Venus, at 21 the older sister by 15 months, then overpowered No. 2 Jennifer Capriati 6-4, 6-2.

"It's sweet. It's sweet. Just real nice, had a lot of blessings from God, and we're happy that we're healthy, and we're happy to be here," Venus said.

Added Serena: "It will be great history."

Super Saturday will also include a rematch of the 2000 men's final, with a recently rejuvenated Pete Sampras trying to avenge his loss to Russian Marat Safin in the semifinals. Another Russian, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, will play Australian Lleyton Hewitt for the other berth in Sunday's final.

Then the sisters, also best friends, will take the stage for the first prime-time Grand Slam women's final. It's the latest, most dramatic achievement in their remarkable rise from the mean streets of Compton, Calif., to magazine-cover celebrity.

Venus had the tougher match Friday against Capriati, who has done wonders for the game's popularity herself this year with a resurgence that included back-to-back Grand Slam titles.

As her barrettes and groundstrokes sparkled in the sunshine, Capriati raced to a 4-1 lead, but soon shadows crept across the court and the sparkle was gone.

Williams, repeatedly picking on Capriati's backhand, won seven consecutive games to take command.

Capriati, playing in her first Open semifinal since 1991, became increasingly frustrated and frequently looked at her family between points. She reacted to one wild shot with a rueful grin, shrug and wave of helplessness to her father, Stefano. He smiled back.

Richard Williams, meanwhile, nervously roamed the stands, chatting with fans and taking photos.

The crowd was firmly behind Capriati, erupting in boos when a close call went against her in the final game of the first set. But at the end they applauded the second Williams win of the day.

"Venus, are you going to play another set?" Richard Williams shouted as she stuffed her racket in her bag. "I've still got some film."

The statistics told the tale of Serena's domination of Hingis. Williams smacked 40 winners, including serves, to five for Hingis. Williams hit 10 aces with no double faults, missed only seven first serves and won seven games at love.

In the last five games, Hingis put only four of 21 returns into play. Things went no better when she served, as Williams repeatedly feasted on her 65-mph second serve.

Hingis was on the defensive from the start, losing the first

six points and falling behind 5-1. Williams hit three aces and a service win to win the final game of the opening set, then walked off the court flexing her arm like a bodybuilder.

By the time she ran off 10 consecutive points midway through the final set, Hingis was clearly flustered. Her next serve barely made it to the bottom of the net, and soon she was in the interview room explaining her latest Grand Slam defeat.

"I couldn't read her serve," Hingis said. "She was hitting the lines in the corners. It was difficult to reach, and even if I got there, there was not much I could do with it."

The only previous Grand Slam final between sisters took place at 1884 Wimbledon, when Maud Watson rallied to beat her sibling Lillian for the first major tournament title. Although Richard Williams called Saturday's match a dream come true, he said he planned to head home to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and wouldn't watch, not even on TV.

"I doubt any person in their right mind would want to see their kids out there fighting like hell in an arena," he said.

MEN'S TOURNAMENT

After consecutive nights of riveting tennis — and a couple afternoons with much less drama — the men's title match at the U.S. Open will be set from a pair of intriguing semifinals.

Pete Sampras continues his unexpected push for a 14th Grand Slam title when he meets defending champion Marat Safin on Saturday, and Lleyton Hewitt aims for his first Slam final against Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

The Open has provided some scintillating tennis moments over the past two weeks, none more so than the matches Sampras and Hewitt won on two late nights on center court.

First, there was a battle of old masters, the 10th-seeded Sampras surviving a classic four sets — each decided in a tiebreak — against No. 2 Andre Agassi. Then came the Generation X showdown, with the fourth-seeded Hewitt beating No. 18 Andy Roddick in five sets.

Each match lasted more than three hours, each ended well past midnight and provided great theater.

Meanwhile, in the afternoon sun, the Russians advanced with less pulsating straight-sets victories.