Venus and Serena Williams advanced to the final

By Steven Wine Associated Press Published:

Venus and Serena Williams advanced to the final with stunning ease, beating the world's two top-ranked players and setting up the first Grand Slam final between sisters in 117 years.

Serena won first on Friday, clubbing one last service winner on match point and happily skipping to the net. Barely two hours later, Venus closed out her own semifinal victory and celebrated with her trademark wave and pirouette.

"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. More remarkable was how they waltzed into the final by humbling the world's two top-ranked players.

Serena played almost flawless tennis in beating No. 1 Martina Hingis 6-3, 6-2. Venus then wore down No. 2 Jennifer Capriati 6-4, 6-2, ensuring the first Grand Slam final between sisters in 117 years.

"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," said Venus, 21.

"It will be great history," added Serena, 19. "We just go out and work hard. Good things come to hard workers, like the ants."

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 final berth.

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.

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

Venus has won four of five times when the sisters have played each other, including the 2000 Wimbledon semifinal when they embraced afterward at the net and Serena walked off in tears.

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

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 to win long, grueling points, swept seven consecutive games to take command.

Capriati, playing in her first Open semifinal since 1991, became increasingly weary 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.

Capriati fell to 0-4 against Venus.

"I definitely ran out of gas," Capriati said. "It's the first match that I really had to run down a lot of balls and work the point so much every point."

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, won seven games at love and made every first serve _ 17-for-17 _ in the second set.

"I can't serve any better than that," she said with a laugh. "Oh my gosh."

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.

Hingis will remain No. 1 next week because she plays more matches and more consistently than the other top players. But she hasn't won a major title in 2 1/2 years and admitted to feeling frustrated against Williams.

"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 Williams sisters play an overpowering style of tennis that Maud and Lillian Watson probably wouldn't recognize. The Watsons took part in the only previous Grand Slam final between sisters at Wimbledon in 1884, and Maud rallied to win 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.

The girls aren't fond of playing each other, and there has long been debate about whether their father predetermines the outcome of their matches against each other.

"I'm just appalled that anyone would hint something like that," Venus said. "I don't think that has ever been the case and that it ever will be."

The family has always denied such allegations, which intensified last March when Venus, citing knee tendinitis, pulled out at Indian Wells shortly before her semifinal match against Serena. There had been no hint of the injury previously in the tournament, and the crowd reacted to the ill-timed withdrawal by booing the family.

Suspicions have also been raised because the quality of play when the sisters meet has often been poor. Perhaps it's just because they don't like to play each other, and a sloppy match is a distinct possibility Saturday night.

But the sisters promise their best effort.

"If you ever noticed, the winner gets $850,000," Serena said with a

laugh. "So I won't have any problem going out there and trying to

win."

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