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Friday, June 4, 2010
Williamses don't leave Paris empty-handed

PARIS -- Venus and Serena Williams have put together their own Grand Slam in doubles: four in a row, culminating with their first French Open championship since 1999. They are only the third team in history to hold all the titles at once. Their statistical domination of women's tennis couldn't be any more complete. Serena is one of only five women to have been ranked No. 1 in singles and doubles simultaneously, and Venus is right behind at No. 2.

The sisters' efficient 6-2, 6-3 victory over 12th-seeded Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia capped a tournament in which, for the most part, they barely had to break a sweat. They had one walkover and three straight-set wins en route to the semifinal, where Liezel Huber of the U.S. -- the woman Serena will unseat at No. 1 in the rankings next week -- and Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain briefly interrupted the run by winning the first set. The sisters righted themselves and prevailed 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

It's clear that one of the reasons the sisters play is for the sheer joy of it -- something they discovered as kids growing up in greater Los Angeles. The first time they teamed up was memorable, as they recalled in their postmatch news conference Friday, dissolving into uncontrollable giggles.

Venus couldn't remember exactly how old she was when the girls lined up on a public court in Lynwood, Calif. One of their older sisters, Isha, was across the net with another partner. Their father, Richard, encouraged Venus to be more aggressive, and she took it to heart.

"He told Venus to -- that she had to cross more, and so I think she got upset and she crossed when the person was serving,'' Serena said, almost choking with laughter. "She ended up volleying the serve. Oh, it was so funny. I remember my dad, he's so positive. He's like, 'Oh, no, no, Venus, not that. Just wait until after the serve.' I promise you every tournament I think about that when we're in doubles.

"And I also remember my dad told me I had to play the forehand because I was young and I was smaller, and then he put Venus on the backhand. It's been like that ever since.''

Venus made it clear that doubles isn't just a lark for the sisters.

"You have to be really focused to play the doubles,'' she said. "I mean, when we're playing these matches, sometimes you can end up playing 13 [doubles and singles] matches. So playing the doubles for us is not just like fun or let's play for fun. We're playing for the title, because it does take that extra focus and determination.

"Obviously when you win a point and enjoy that point with another person, I think that part is fun, because in singles you don't. You just go to the next point."

The sisters won six Grand Slam doubles titles from 1999 through 2003 and began playing regularly again in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games. Since that summer, they've won six of eight majors as a team. They said they plan to keep playing the Slams as a team through the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.