Monday, November 29, 1999

Williams double act shows no sign of slowing down

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Venus Williams, a keen historian of tennis, would have noted that no woman over 30 has won a grand slam trophy in two decades.Such a statistic is unlikely to strike fear into the statuesque American, who celebrates the milestone birthday this week.Thirteen years after announcing her arrival at Wimbledon as a giggling teenager with a headful of colourful beads, Williams will be in hot pursuit of a sixth Wimbledon crown as she aims to become the first 30-something to win the grasscourt major since Martina Navratilova triumphed in 1990.The list of those capable of tripping her up is a short one, with sister, title holder and world number one Serena being her primary foe.The American siblings have grabbed the silverware at the All England Club in eight of the past 10 years and remain the ones to beat.Between them, they have banked almost $60 million in prize money and won 19 major singles titles, have both topped the world rankings and have seen many of their rivals come and go.Their appetite for success remains insatiable."I would like to defend the title if I can; that would be exciting," Serena, who lost the 2008 final to Venus before gaining revenge last year, said with typical understatement.Serena, 28, thrives on intimidating all those before her with her raw power and win-at-all-costs attitude while Venus can flatten anyone on the slick grass with her long limbs, described as a "the wingspan of a 747" by Navratilova.Such is the state of women's tennis that those immediately behind the Americans in the seedings, Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki, former world number one Jelena Jankovic and surprise French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, are unlikely to cause much of a stir.BELGIANS RETURNItaly's Schiavone lit up Roland Garros with her joyful celebrations earlier this month but she certainly felt no inclination to kiss the grass this week after she struggled to make the transition from clay, losing her opening match at Eastbourne in straight sets.Her victim in the Paris final, Samantha Stosur, should have the game to do well on turf since she hails from Australia, the home of many Wimbledon champions, but the 26-year-old has never made it past the third round in seven attempts.Instead two old warriors -- Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin -- will want to show what Wimbledon has been missing.Fans thought they had seen the last of the Belgian duo when they said their goodbyes to the sport, vowing they would never be back.The promises proved short-lived as within a space of a few months in 2009 Clijsters and Henin both felt themselves being drawn back to the big stage, and driven to return in search of an elusive Wimbledon crown."I've always had that feeling when I got to Wimbledon, like 'Oh my God, wow'," Clijsters, who is seeded eighth for her first Wimbledon appearance in four years, told Reuters. "As a young girl when I played juniors there, that was one of my biggest dreams, and one that I was living, Wimbledon."Wimbledon is definitely one that if you can have on your CV then that's the one," added the 27-year-old, who missed the French Open with a foot injury.While Clijsters captured the U.S. Open a month after returning from a 2-1/2 year maternity break, Henin stormed through to the Australian Open final in January just weeks into her own comeback.Fans marvelled at the sight of her delightful backhand in full flow but she was thwarted in the showpiece by Serena.Hence few would be brave enough to bet against a Williams name once again being etched on to the green-and-gold champions' board come July 3.(Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email
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