WIMBLEDON, England -- So, so long ago -- in 2003 -- the most recent Williams-Williams Grand Slam final featured Venus Williams limping onto Centre Court with a screaming abdominal muscle and a revolting thigh, then drawing raves for moxie in a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 defeat.
In the ancient times back then, she said she had to "take one for the team," a reference to refusing to default because of the backdrop of criticism her family absorbed when she defaulted from a 2001 semifinal against Serena Williams at Indian Wells.
Five years on, an updated edition of Williams vs. Williams played Wimbledon before most Southern Californians could wake today -- 6 a.m. PDT -- in a Wimbledon final featuring Venus Williams at 28, Serena Williams at 26 and a mild tinge of freshness.
That's because what once qualified as commonplace -- they played six of the eight Grand Slam finals between the 2001 U.S. Open and the 2003 Wimbledon -- then became absent across five rocky years of injuries and injurious improvement from other players.
"Yeah, I'm definitely surprised," Serena Williams said of the five-year dearth of Williams-Williams Grand Slam finals.
"It's definitely been a while. Unfortunately our rankings fell. We've been on the same side of the draw a few times. You know, I unfortunately lost a lot. But it's good. I mean, this is a new start for us."
The new start came abruptly, following an Australian Open in which both lost in the quarterfinals and a French Open in which both lost in the third round. Suddenly there has come a Wimbledon in which sisters ranked Nos. 6 (Serena) and 7 (Venus) lost zero sets before the final, with Venus carrying the elan of the defending champion -- plus that serve -- and Serena carrying the envy of a former No. 1 -- plus that frightful will.
It has renewed the old, ticklish dynamic of Wimbledon finalists who double as doubles partners -- they're in the doubles finals, also set for today -- and flatmates, and sisters.
Serena led the series, 8-7, entering this final, and led, 5-4, in Grand Slams, and led, 5-1, in Grand Slam finals, with the quality of their matches often suffering from the emotional freight, and with both sisters and their sister Isha Price agreeing that the baby of the family gets her way while the older sister mines protective instinct.
"And, I think, you know, if other people did find themselves in that situation," Venus said, "I think they would be happy for their sister or brother or their sibling because they would really want to see them do well and they wouldn't want to see them have a tough loss."
In turn, the younger sister has confessed to greater title greed, recalling grief over losing a semifinal to Venus in 2000, stating exasperation that some would call Venus the favorite and cheekily reminding listeners that the Grand Slam title count (Serena, 8-6) trumps the Wimbledon title count (Venus, 4-2).
Still, Serena said, "We're sisters the moment we shake hands."