As if we needed reminding, Serena and Venus Williams have proven yet again what a remarkable force they are – together and individually – by setting up a last four showdown at the Rogers Cup. It will be the 25th meeting in a rivalry that dates back to the last century, and it could be one of their most compelling. Check out the Serena vs Venus Head to Head.
Neither sister enjoyed an easy path to the semis, however. On Friday, Serena was kept on court for two hours, 41 minutes by Caroline Wozniacki, and while it’s true that the world number one was a few notches below top form, it’s also true that Caro made her work for every point.
The Dane, playing with true confidence for the first time since 2012, defended relentlessly and frustrated Serena by making her hit ball after ball. She also served and returned well, which meant that Serena, who was having something of an off-day in both departments, struggled to maintain leads in the deciding set. Eventually, it was Williams’ patented mental strength that made the difference in the final stretch. She eked out a hold then took advantage of a less-than-assured final service game from her friend to seal a gruelling 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory.
On her way to the locker room, Serena handed to baton to her older sister, who would have almost as tough a time against Carla Suarez Navarro. In a contest that featured 12 breaks of serve and 17 double faults, Venus was the one who played the big points better. After 131 minutes of messy but thoroughly entertaining tennis, the 34-year-old emerged a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 winner.
So what can we expect when the siblings face off on Saturday afternoon on court Central? Traditionally, matches between the Williams sisters have been hard to watch. Not only because of the inherent awkwardness of playing a loved one, but also because their games do not match up well from a spectator’s standpoint. Both are phenomenal ball strikers who like to dictate a rally from the earliest opportunity, which can lead to short, uninteresting exchanges punctuated by errors.
Yet what these matches lack in quality they usually make up for in competitiveness. Serena v Venus might not provide the contrast of styles so beloved of tennis fans, but what this match-up does offer is a chance to see two of the sport’s greatest ever fighters on court at the same time. Of their 24 previous encounters, 17 have featured either a tie-break or a third set: total blowouts have been few and far between.
With Serena looking human if not vulnerable and Venus enjoying a late-career renaissance (she will be back in the WTA top 20 next week), this Montreal clash could become another battle royale. Serena has the more dependable serve and her forehand is less likely to break down, but Venus is her equal in terms of movement and willingness to punish the short ball. We can expect the forced and unforced error count to rival the number of winners; we can also bank on high-intensity rallies in which the grunts rise in pitch with every shot.
Will Venus succumb to fatigue, unaccustomed as she is these days to playing demanding, back-to-back three setters? Or will Serena, usually a mental rock against other opponents, feel the unique pressure that comes with playing the sister who has also been her most formidable rival down the years? This one is tough to call, but we’ll pick Venus to do it in three. She seems to be the one enjoying her tennis most at the moment, and when she’s smiling off court, she’s dangerous on it.