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Publish Date: 9/5/2005

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Venus Williams, left, walks away from the net after winning a point as her sister Serena reacts in the background during their match Sunday at the U.S. Open in New York. Venus, who beat Serena in straight sets, is now 7-7 against her sister.AP/Amy Sancetta

Relative ease
Venus advances to U.S. Open quarters over sister Serena


NEW YORK — Far from a family feud, matches between Venus and Serena Williams create a family crisis.

This time neither of their parents could watch.

Artistry gave way to sheer slugging again in Sister Act XIV, the ongoing saga of siblings who hate to play each other — especially if it’s not for a Grand Slam title.

Venus’ 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory Sunday to reach the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open evened their head-to-head matches at 7-7 and gave the elder sister her second win this year after losing six straight to Serena.

Venus bottled up her emotions, not her power, and could hardly manage a smile when it was over. Serena Williams shrieked and bounced her racket before limping off, angry at herself and achy.

It was the ninth time they met in a Grand Slam match, and the earliest since Venus won the first clash in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open. Serena had won their last five matches in majors — all in finals.

“Serena is the baby so she’s going to do her little tantrum,” said older sister Lyndrea, the only immediate family member watching at courtside. “You kind of want to pull for her because she is the baby. It’s hard but I had to be there for them.”

The 25-year-old Venus, who won her third Wimbledon two months ago and is going for her third U.S. Open title, could see that Serena, three weeks shy of 24, was struggling to control her shots and temper.

“When she doesn’t play her best is the best time to get a win against her,” said Venus, who next plays No. 4 Kim Clijsters, a 6-1, 6-0 winner against Venezuela’s Maria Vento-Kabchi.

Women’s top seed Maria Sharapova had no trouble dismissing India’s rising star, Sania Mirza, 6-2, 6-1, and next plays fellow Russian and No. 9 Nadia Petrova, a 7-6 (4), 7-5 victor over Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic.

Defending men’s champion and top seed Roger Federer advanced to the round-of-16 with a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 6-2 victory over Olivier Rochus. Federer next plays Nicolas Kiefer.

Former champion Lleyton Hewitt barely escaped the same fate as French Open champion Rafael Nadal. A day after James Blake knocked the No. 2 Nadal out in the third round, American Davis Cup teammate Taylor Dent came close to ousting the third-seeded Hewitt in a five-set thriller in the same round.

Dent, best known for his role as the hitting partner of the cute actor who played the son of Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf in a TV commercial, wasn’t acting when he produced some of the best tennis of his career before going down to Hewitt, 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (2), 6-2, 7-5.

Hewitt next plays No. 15 Dominik Hrbaty, who beat No. 17 David Ferrer 6-7 (7), 7-5, 7-5, 7-5.

Italy’s Davide Sanguinetti won the longest and perhaps most exciting match of the tournament so far, beating Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) in 4 hours, 24 minutes.

Serena Williams was in trouble from the start against her sister, losing the first three points on serve in the opening game. But Serena kept scrambling back — often with the help of Venus’ errors. Venus broke her for a 4-3 lead in the first set and served for the set at 5-4 when she suddenly tightened. After winning 11 straight points on serve in previous games, she hit two double-faults and made two errors to even the set.

The tiebreaker was a messy affair filled with minibreaks before Venus won it when Serena dumped a backhand into the net. Serena bounced her racket onto the court and stalked angrily to the chair.

A swirling breeze contributed to the erratic play, but didn’t account for all of it. Serena kept talking to herself, screaming at times, bouncing her racket and once coming close to busting it on the court. She thought better of that at the last moment and held up, but couldn’t control her wayward shots. Neither sister was happy with their play.

“I had some bad patches,” Venus said. “I think Serena had some tough patches, too, and then some good ones. It was tough. Today the wind was from behind, especially on one side, so that kind of threw the serve off.”

Serena was limping near the end but said she didn’t reinjure the left knee that swelled up last month, or the left ankle that bothered her earlier this year.

“I was just having problems at the end because I was moving a lot and stopping a lot,” Serena said. “It always gives me a little trouble after a certain time period. Nothing happened out there to make it worse at all.”

They both used the same term — “bizarre” — to describe playing each other this early in a tournament. It was almost inevitable, though, since their rankings had dropped, largely because they’ve been injured or ill. Serena was seeded No. 8, Venus No. 10.

“It was distracting for both of us, to be honest,” Venus said. “I’m really dedicated to get my ranking up. I’m tired of being ranked this low. I just know myself that I’m better than No. 10. We were sad when we were heard the draw. We didn’t talk about it until now. It’s hard because I want her to be in the tournament. I want her to win just as much as I want to. If it’s a final, it’s obviously different. It was super strange, for sure.”

Serena agreed that’s easier to play her sister when there’s something more important at stake than merely a berth in the quarters.

“Early on it’s kind of very weird and awkward. And bizarre, to say the least,” Serena said. “I definitely had my chances. I had a set point, I had a lot of different opportunities. I don’t think I played my best today at all. I don’t think Venus did, either.

“We were talking in the locker room afterward about just how horrible we played. I said, ‘You played terrible.’ She said, ‘I know.’ I said, ‘I played much better against (Francesca) Schiavone,’ and she said, ‘Yes, you did.’ It was definitely a match I could have played better and she could have played better. ... I can’t believe I’m out of the tournament.”

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