- Australian Open 2003 - Does Serena have the edge on Venus?
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Friday, July 18
Does Serena have the edge on Venus?

MELBOURNE, Australia -- It's the Williams sisters' fourth-straight Grand Slam final appearance, which breaks the record of consecutive major final meetings between two players. They've surpassed Chris Evert-Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf-Monica Seles.

Pam's Picks
Pam Shriver
Former WTA Tour pro Pam Shriver is providing with in-depth analysis throughout the Australian Open. Shriver, a tennis analyst for ESPN, was ranked as high as No. 3 in singles play. She won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.

Last year here in the women's final, we saw one of the great comebacks, and this year in the semifinals, we saw another. Australia offers so much drama each year. The match between Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui, Jennifer Capriati the past two years, Jim Courier-Pete Sampras in '95, and Andre Agassi-Sampras in a couple of meetings here. Australia is never shy on drama.

None of the sister finals have been classics, but you keep holding out hope and maybe ESPN will be treated to that performance. It could happen because Serena is not playing head-and-shoulders above Venus this time. In fact, some people think that Venus put on a better performance in her semifinal against Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Serena played much of her match against Kim Clijsters very tentative. It wasn't until she got down in the third -- when she realized she didn't want to go out -- that we saw a little more aggressive play. It was the kind of play that got her to this position. Before, she was unusually tentative on shots. She didn't do anything as well as she does when she's playing at full-flight.

But you have to talk about how unbelievable she was when she got down at 1-5. She recognized that Clijsters got a little tight on the first match point. The second match point Serena fought off was one of the all-time greats. Total aggression, all caution to the winds -- what we wanted her to do earlier. You knew that Clijsters was in trouble when she served for the match the second time with five-straight faults.

Four in a row
Only three women have won calendar year Grand Slams -- Maureen Connolly of the United States in 1953, Margaret Court of Australia in 1970, Steffi Graf of Germany in 1988. Only two women have won four in a row in a non-calendar year:
Martina Navratilova '83 Wimbledon
  '83 U.S. Open
  '83 Aussie Open
  '84 French Open

Steffi Graf

'93 French Open
  '93 Wimbledon
  '93 U.S. Open
  '94 Aussie Open

Venus has been coming to the net a lot in this championships very successfully. So will she be able to keep that up? If Serena keeps playing as tentatively as she has, Venus will be able to get to net a lot. We're like a broken record on Venus' second serve, but that's been her problem since the beginning of last year. Serena is very aggressive whenever Venus doesn't get that first serve in.

It's going to be an interesting chance to see Venus' frame of mind. She's had some reflections on last year -- losing the No. 1 spot and losing every major final to her sister. This match might tell us how Venus is handling this incredible circumstance. After getting here without losing a set in her road to the finals, if she plays tentative and not well, then you really just feel that Serena has the mental egdge as well as a better all-around game.

Watch for the hunger factor. It seemed like Serena wanted it more last year. Venus just seemed to almost at times be too passive -- taking pictures of her sister holding the French Open trophy. Even if Venus doesn't win, I'd like to see a little more regret at losing. Shoot, her sister is where Venus wants to be. But let's face it, if you ever wanted to see Serena's hunger look at her performance at 1-5 in the third. She just never looked back.

Crowds have never really known which Williams sister to cheer for, but we're getting the impression here, after the crowd's negative reaction to Serena's injury timeout in the semifinal, that the crowd favorite will be Venus.

The final factor will be the pressure. Last year, Venus faced the pressure of being the defending champion at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. But Serena has more pressure on her than any other as she tries to do something that's only been done by a small handful before.

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