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Sister-Sister Is Too Much for Hingis

Tennis: Venus Williams knocks out No. 1 player after Serena almost did it in quarterfinals.

March 27, 1998|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — The teen rivalry moved to Florida and Venus Williams followed top-ranked Martina Hingis with her own arsenal of baseline weapons, plus a secret one from her younger sister, Serena.

"Before, I was the hunter," Hingis said. "Now I'm the hunted one."

Williams raised the level of her imposing game in her 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Hingis in Thursday's semifinals of the Lipton Championships. And in doing so, she raised the intensity in her rivalry with Hingis.

Williams didn't take out the biggest name in the game with her first shot--or second and third for that matter--but settled the issue on her fourth match point with a forceful forehand winner deep in the corner.

And then the 17-year-old raised the roof in a joyous celebration. She pointed with her finger in the air several times, did a little dance and finished by raising the roof, NBA style.

"I do that all the time," said Williams, who will play Anna Kournikova in Saturday's final.

"You know, it's a little dance. I don't do a full dance on the court. Maybe after I win a [Grand] Slam [tournament]."

Hingis had beaten Williams in the semifinals of the State Farm Evert Cup earlier this month at Indian Wells, Calif., 6-0, 7-6, then hugged her mother at courtside. There, the blunt 17-year-old pointed out that Williams had not beaten her in a major tournament.

This, then, was Williams' response. And afterward, she hugged her father at courtside.

Although Williams will move from No. 11 to No. 10 in the world when the rankings are released Monday, she viewed it more as a jumping-off point than a turning point.

"I haven't arrived yet," Williams said. "I'm just coming, on my way."

Hingis, who has lost to Williams in two of their three matches in 1998, was asked if she felt Williams was her equal in skill. Hingis answered but didn't address the question.

Later, she was asked again. There was a momentary silence--at least enough time for an ego to deflate.

"She is," Hingis said. "She beat me now. She beat me in Sydney. Of course she's going to be a tough opponent."

Two things helped Williams. Unlike in their previous match, she started well, winning the first set in 29 minutes, hitting 13 winners to Hingis' one. Second, Serena Williams had exposed a vulnerability in Hingis in the quarterfinals, holding two match points before losing in three sets.

"Serena gave me one pointer that really helped me," Venus said. "Which I will not disclose to y'all for fear it will appear in the papers and over television. That really helped me in the end."

Said Hingis: "I guess it's pretty difficult to play the Williams family two matches in a row."

It was starting to look like Sister Act, Part II, when Venus squandered three match points in the second set, serving for the match at 5-3.

"I was just too tight and too pumped," she said. "After I lost that game [at 5-3], it was like, 'Wow, how could I have done that?' But I'm not the type of player that gives up."

Against Serena Williams, Hingis took an injury timeout at a critical juncture and admitted to gamesmanship. Thursday, she left the court after the first game of the third set to change her shirt.

How much did it bother Williams?

She responded by breaking Hingis in the next game and won the next two to go up, 4-0, ending any third-set suspense. Afterward, she told a long, winding story about not wanting to disappoint her sister.

"This time, when I lost the second set, I found I had to do it for her," Williams said. "That's my soliloquy."

The message was not lost on a chastened Hingis. In the first three months of 1998, she already has lost three times. Last year, she did not lose her third match until late September.

Not that she's getting used to losing.

"Every time I lose, it's a bad loss," she said.

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