Rachel Nichols,WIMBLEDON, England,The Washington Post
There are emotions that are supposed to accompany this kind of thing: two sisters, competing in the final of Wimbledon, two sisters, dominating this sport in a way no siblings ever have before. But if Venus and Serena Williams wanted to express joy, or pride, or excitement at the notion of Saturday’s All-Williams final — much less celebrate that they have met this way three times in the last four Grand Slams — they had to do it in private Friday, or at least within the shelter of the tennis court, where they won their quarterfinal doubles match, 6-2, 6-0. Once they stepped outside the white lines and became singles players again, the smiles disappeared, replaced by a defensiveness that has all too regularly been required to stand guard at their side. And sure enough, within the hour, came reports of a new barrage. Serena’s semifinal opponent has said on French television that she thinks the final will be fixed. “I think that it’s fixed; I don’t have any information, nothing at all, but having seen the matches, it could be fixed,’’ Amelie Mauresmo said. Justine Henin, Venus’s semifinal opponent, thinks fans would rather see other players in the finals. John McEnroe believes the Williamses matches are not fixed now, but has some thoughts about their previous matches. “We’re not here to talk about John McEnroe, anything he says or does,’’ Serena finally said. Last week, she had more patience for these subjects, pointing out that if the sisters were fixing matches, “I think that I should have at least won a few more Grand Slams-I mean, it took me forever to win another one. Just up until a few months ago, Venus had this command on me.’’ But by Friday, she had heard enough, as had her mother, Oracene. “It’s just so untrue,’’ Oracene said. “I don’t know, but I think there’s still this slavemaster mentality that they should be aggressive toward each other — people forget they’re sisters. They’re always going to act a certain way toward each other.’’ Oracene added it would be naive to think race isn’t at least a factor in the way people see the Williams sisters, although she acknowledged that in this sport, clouds of criticism have often surrounded whoever has climbed to the top, regardless of their color. Pete Sampras was accused of stifling tennis with the dullness of his dominance; Monica Seles was told her grunting unfairly tripped opponents. And while rivalries are supposed to be the elixir to such talk, forcing actual match drama to replace gossip, Venus and Serena have yet to establish themselves as adversaries in the public eye, despite their 5-3 record against each other (Venus leads) or their different personalities. They live together, travel together, eat together. They plan to practice together the day of the final, and Friday on the doubles court, they exchanged everything from shopping secrets to serving tips. They also say they feel like they both win when one wins — even if the scorecard officially lists the other as the loser — and that attitude, while not unusual between siblings, is considered highly suspect between elite tennis players. “They have some responsibility in this, because they know that the general public wants to see a contest, that they want to feel they can cheer for one or the other of them, and they haven’t always been able to provide that separation,’’ said former player Pam Shriver, although more than anything, she added, any backlash against Venus and Serena may be part of another time-honored tennis tradition: jealousy.