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It's a Williams sister act at Wimbledon again

FOR the eighth time in 10 years, the Wimbledon women's trophy will be lifted by a Williams.

The Williams sisters are back in the final again - Venus for the eighth time and Serena for the fifth. And it's the fourth Williams-vs.-Williams final at the All England Club and eighth in a Grand Slam title match.

Fittingly, the show will take place on the Fourth of July, Independence Day in the United States.

"The more we play, the better it gets," Serena said. "When we play our match tomorrow, it's for everything. This is what we dreamed of when we were growing up in Compton (California) 20-something years ago. This is what we worked for, and this is what we want."

If the semifinals are anything to go by, five-time winner and two-time defending champion Venus is clearly the one to beat.

Two-time champion Serena had to save a match point and use all her fighting skills to overcome Elena Dementieva of Russia 6-7 (4), 7-5, 8-6 in a tense match yesterday that lasted 2 hours, 49 minutes - longer than any Wimbledon women's semifinal in at least 40 years.

"It's definitely one of my more dramatic victories for sure," said Serena, who hit a backhand volley winner off the netcord to erase match point in the 10th game of the final set.

The Centre Court spectators barely had time to pop out for a refreshment and settle back into their seats by the time Venus completed a 6-1, 6-0 demolition of Dinara Safina in 51 minutes - the most lopsided women's semifinal since 1969.

"The hardest part is next to come - to play Serena Williams," Venus said.

Venus won Wimbledon in 2000 and '01 before Serena beat her older sister in the 2002 and '03 finals. Venus won again in 2005 and 2007 and beat Serena in last year's final. Serena holds a 5-2 lead in all-Williams championship matches at Grand Slams. Overall, the sisters are 10-10.

"That's intense, huh?" Venus said. "I guess this will be a tipping point match. My hope is that there will be many more to come."

The men's semifinals are Friday, with five-time champion Roger Federer facing Tommy Haas of Germany and two-time finalist Andy Roddick playing Andy Murray. Federer is closing in on a record 15th Grand Slam championship, while Murray is seeking to become the first British men's winner in 73 years.

Venus is bidding to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1991-93 to win Wimbledon three years in a row. Venus was cheering for Serena to win yesterday, but will now do all she can to stop her sister and win her eighth major title.

"I'm happy for her to be in the final, but I have to face her and defeat her," Venus said. "I don't necessarily want her to lose, but for sure I want me to win. I don't want to see myself disappointed. I need to get my titles, too. I'm still the big sister, but I'm still going to play great tennis."

Serena considers herself the underdog.

"I feel like going into this final I have nothing to lose," she said. "I feel she's playing the best tennis at the tournament."

The sisters' mother, Oracene Price, said anything could happen.

"Serena hates to lose," she said. "And Serena played so raggedy today that she might be on her game Saturday. It's just whoever's mind is better on the day."

Father Richard Williams said: "All I know is a Williams is going to win."

First, the sisters will set aside their rivalry to team up Friday in the women's doubles semifinals. They have already won three Wimbledon's doubles titles and are the defending champions.

"I'll be telling her tomorrow, 'You can do it. You're the best. Your serve, let's hold,'" Serena said.

The contrast in the two women's semifinals couldn't have been more striking. After Serena's back-and-forth marathon against a revitalized Dementieva, Venus lost only 20 points against an overmatched Safina.

"She's just too good on grass," Safina said. "It's not my favorite surface, and it's her favorite surface. She gave me a pretty good lesson today."

One remarkable statistic summed it up: Venus had just one unforced error.

"The score just showed my level of play," she said. "I was just dictating on every point."

Venus deflected questions on whether the one-sided match cast doubt upon the strength of women's tennis and Safina's status as the No. 1-ranked player. The Russian has reached the top spot without having won a Grand Slam tournament. She has lost in three major finals.

"I respect Dinara Safina immensely," Venus said. "You should, too. Women's tennis is fantastic."


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