2001 US Open: Venus defeats sister Serena
The Williams sisters drag women’s tennis into prime time, September 8 2001
Excerpts of The 100 greatest days in New York sports by Stuart Miller
You gotta admit, Richard Williams was right. For all his loudmouth trash talk, his daughters were indeed the best in women’s tennis and the best thing for women’s tennis too.
They might not have made a lot of friends, but they were good and compelling. Everybody wanted to see what they’d wear, what they’d do and how they’d win.
Serena won the US Open at 17 in 1999, Venus won it at 20 in 2000. In 2001 they met in finals – the first time two sisters had met in a major final since the Watson gals (Maud and Lilian) at Wimbledon in 1884; and thanks to their riveting personalities and powerful playing, the first time women’s tennis was deemed to have players ready for prime time. After years squeezed between the men’s tennis, the women’s final got its own show under the stars.
The Harlem Gospel Choir performed, a Marine Guard unfurled a court-sized flag. Grucci provided fireworks, and Diana Ross sang ‘God Bless America’.
Then came the tennis, which, though historic, was mostly boring. The five prior intra-Williams matches had been pretty awful too. This match was better, but both sisters still played nervously, not because of the pomp and circumstance, which they both relished, but because facing each other meant one sister would go home ad the loser.
Venus was, if not more serene, less erratic, making 19 unforced errors to her younger sister’s 36 in a humdrum 6-2 6-4 win.
Before Hollywood, fashion, and injuries began distracting them, the Williams sisters staged an encore in 2002. That time Serena won. But both nights the big winner was women’s tennis.