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No. 1 Serena Williams will duel her sister Venus Williams, ranked no. 23, in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open at 7 p.m. EDT tonight. You do not want to miss this match of tennis royalty. Here’s why.
Serena is on track to make history
If Serena Williams wins the U.S. Open, she will have 22 Grand Slam titles — tying Steffi Graf for the most ever Grand Slam titles in the Open era. To put this in perspective, Roger Federer, oft called the greatest tennis player of all time, has the most Grand Slam titles on the men’s side with “only” 17.
Serena has already completed a “Serena Slam” — something she first accomplished in 2003 — winning the four consecutive Grand Slams starting with the U.S. Open in 2014 and rounding it out with the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in 2015. If she wins the 2015 U.S. Open, she will have completed a Grand Slam calendar year and join Steffi Graf and Rod Laver in the accomplishment.
It’s not surprising then, that for the first time in U.S. Open history, tickets for the women’s finals sold out before the men’s. Everyone wants to see Serena Williams make tennis history, but, unfortunately for Serena, her older sister stands in her way.
It’s a rivalry that has captivated fans for nearly two decades
The rivalry began in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open, during which 17-year-old Venus beat 16-year-old Serena.
The first time the Williams sisters played each other at the U.S. Open was in the finals in 2001. By that time, Serena had already won the U.S. Open in 1999, but as anyone with an older sibling knows, it’s not easy to beat big sis or big bro. Venus took the crown.
Venus reigned in those early years, but Serena would eventually come to flip the scoreboard. Today, Serena leads 15-11 and has won six out of their last seven face offs. Their last match was in July, and Serena took the win on the way to the Wimbledon title. Their last face off on hard court, however, was a year earlier, and in that, Venus took the win.
The rivalry has also caused much discomfort, especially for their family, who doesn’t plan on attending tonight’s match. Even Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 men’s player, felt uncomfortable watching. “It’s admiration,” he said of their rivalry, “But for me, somebody who has siblings, it’s hard to watch, honestly … The first thing that comes to my mind is how would I feel to play my brother, and I don’t think that would be possible.”
No player knows Serena’s game as well as Venus
“She’s a player that knows how to win, knows how to beat me and knows my weaknesses better than anyone,” Serena said in a press conference, “So it’s not an easy match at all.”
Serena and Venus have been playing against each other since they started playing tennis, and their father Richard Williams coached both of them. Serena hits hard. Venus hits hard. Serena serves big. Venus serves big. Their games are often identical, as Serena said so herself in an interview with ESPN.
It doesn’t help that the sisters are regularly teammates and have taken home 13 Grand Slam doubles titles.
Venus has been playing exceptionally well … and so has Serena
Venus cruised through her last match with a 6-2, 6-1 win. While battling in two three-setters in the first two matches of the tournament, Venus found her rhythm in the third round and again in the fourth.
After a near hiccup playing Bethanie Mattek-Sands — in which she lost the first set, battled back in the second and won the third decisively — Serena played a solid match against American Madison Keys with a 6-3, 6-3 win. Serena has won 32 consecutive matches.
As whenever these two play, look out for big serving and pinpoint precision.
Kristen Doerer is the digital reporter-producer for PBS NewsHour’s Making Sen$e.
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