WIMBLEDON, England – No players infuse tournaments with drama the way Venus and Serena Williams do. Their influence is so great that it can sometimes seem they even control the weather.
The come-and-go rains at Wimbledon went away just long enough for Venus Williams to win, and came just in time for Serena Williams not to lose. "I was literally saved by the rain, and it gave me a second chance," Serena Williams said.
Early Monday afternoon, Venus Williams trailed Akiko Morigami 5-3 in the third set. But she snared the momentum and won four consecutive games and skipped off Court 2 with an uncontainable smile and a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 victory just as the rain showered her and sent fans scurrying for cover.
It was just the first of the two-part sister act. Hours later, Serena Williams buckled with a severe muscle cramp in her left calf and fell to the grass at Centre Court. She screamed, then cried.
But rain arrived, as if on cue, and the fourth-round match with Daniela Hantuchova was delayed for about two hours during the second-set tiebreaker. Williams returned and slowly worked out the kinks, winning 6-2, 6-7 (2-7), 6-2 over a wilting Hantuchova.
"It’s so hard to play against somebody that you know is struggling, and you kind of feel sorry," Hantuchova said.
Venus Williams will play No. 2 Maria Sharapova in the fourth round today. Serena Williams will play top-seeded Justine Henin in the quarterfinals.
Again, the Williams sisters –
winners of a combined five Wimbledon titles – have become the center of attention.
Serena Williams, seeded seventh, won the first set easily against Hantuchova, seeded 10th. But Hantuchova broke Williams’ serve early in the second set, and Williams started to feel tightening in her calf.
With the second set at 5-5, between points, Serena Williams suddenly stopped, jolted by pain, like someone who stepped on a tack.
She looked down at her bulging left calf. She screamed and banged at it three times with her racket, trying to loosen the knot. A trainer arrived and massaged the leg. Williams lay on her side, her face strained in anguish. Her screams echoed through Centre Court. Family and friends watched nervously. Richard Williams, her father, stood. Venus uttered, "C’mon, c’mon."
Serena, pushed by time limits, finally rose and put weight on her left leg. It buckled, and she winced. She tried again. Same result. Tears filled her eyes.
"I’ve never dealt with such pain," she said later of an injury described as a spasm-induced strain. "I can’t believe I won, really."
Eventually, play continued, but Serena limped around, sometimes struggling to walk. While she wiped away tears, up in the stands Venus used both hands to cover her eyes.
After Hantuchova went up 6-5, Serena somehow held serve to force a tiebreaker, getting to 6-all with a 110 mph ace and a shriek. With Hantuchova up 4-2 in the tiebreaker, a drizzle forced a suspension.
The match resumed about two hours later, in the early evening. Williams wore cropped pants and appeared to have both legs wrapped in bandages underneath. After Hantuchova won three consecutive points to capture the second set, the players held serve until Williams had a 3-2 lead.
She seemed to get stronger as the set continued, finding some bounce back in her legs. Hantuchova succumbed to the unfolding drama. Williams broke Hantuchova’s serve to take a 4-2 lead, then broke it again to take the match.
"I just kept saying to myself, `One more game, one more game,’ until finally there were no more games left," Serena said.Quote