Can Venus pull ahead of Serena in U.S. Open wins?

9/2/2008 - Tennis

Editor's note: In advance of the Serena Williams-Venus Williams U.S. Open quarterfinal -- their 17th head-to-head meeting in the past 10 years -- ESPN.com writers Bonnie D. Ford and Greg Garber engaged in point-counterpoint discussion on what many people would consider the virtual final of this Grand Slam.

Bonnie D. Ford: They're 8-and-8 lifetime, Greg, but are the sisters even in terms of their form coming into this match?

Greg Garber: It depends on how you want to quantify that.

In terms of confidence, you have to give it to Venus because the last time they played -- that magnificent final at Wimbledon -- Venus came away with a 7-5, 6-4 victory. Here at the U.S. Open, they've been remarkably similar. The sisters have each won all eight of their sets and Serena has the narrowest of margins, winning 48 games and losing 14. Venus is 48-15.

That Wimbledon victory, though, was achieved on grass. Bonnie, does the fact that this is a hard-court match give Serena the advantage?

Ford: That will pivot on on how well Venus is serving -- and how much she indulges in her new favorite pastime of coming to the net. That might flummox Serena as much as anyone, since she's so accustomed to Venus' "usual" game. Although neither of the sisters has really broken a sweat in New York, Venus has had to go through tougher opposition: Agnieska Radwanska, her fourth-rounder, is a terrific young player who just cracked the top 10. But if you want a gauge of confidence on the surface, just look at Venus' schedule this year. The Beijing Olympics was her first hard-court event since Miami in late March-early April. If she liked it, she'd play on it more. Serena has two hard-court titles this season.

Let's move on to the intangibles. Who wants it more, and does that matter? If hunger counts, and I think it does, Serena has far more at stake. Venus has won twice at Wimbledon since Serena made her sensational run at the '07 Australian. Your thoughts?

Garber: "Hunger," I think, is the operative word in Venus' renaissance. Think about the sibling psychology here. Venus, the eternally good older sister, won the first three matches between them on the pro tour. And, the first three Grand Slam meetings, lastly the 2001 U.S. Open final. And then little sister ran off six straight victories, the last five in consecutive Grand Slam finals. While the world celebrated the Serena Slam, how do you think Venus felt? Can you imagine the psychic damage that was inflicted? Now, five years removed from that fall from grace, Venus has won three of the past four matches, including two in majors. With a title here, Venus would equal little sister's accomplishment of eight major championships. Who's hungry now?

Ford: Fair enough, and I've long since stopped being fooled by Venus' almost languid manner in talking about this stuff. But I think Serena will put more pressure on herself, and I think that's a good thing. You had to be struck by her somber demeanor in her news conference Monday night. She's obviously disappointed that they're meeting this soon in the tournament -- among other things, she's got a shot at No. 1 and needs the rankings points -- and she already had her game face on. Even though Serena has shredded the opposition, she kept repeating that she hasn't played her best yet. I think she'll turn herself inside out to avoid feeling the way she felt in the Wimbledon final. She was crushed, even though Venus was favored there. Venus will have had a successful season no matter what happens Wednesday night.

Hard to believe that neither has won here since 2002. Don't you think the fact that it's the United States Open ups the stakes?

Garber: Of course it does. It's their national championship -- and the last major event of the season. As amazing as it seems, a Venus victory would make her a leading candidate for the women's player of the year award. She would have won only two tournaments, but half of the Grand Slams. With Maria Sharapova, the Australian Open champion, injured, with No. 1-ranked French Open champion Ana Ivanovic a nonfactor in the last two majors and with Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva still looking for her first Grand Slam singles title, who else could it be?

For years, the sisters were criticized for being emotionally flat in their matches. This year, they played a lively three-set match in Bangalore before finally letting it fly at Wimbledon. What kind of match do you see on Wednesday night, Bonnie?

Ford: Just to get back to your previous answer for a second, in the vacuum left by Justine Henin's abrupt retirement, it would be nice to see one of the top women really go for the No. 1 ranking and the rest of the goods this season instead of fleeing from the top as if it were the penthouse of a burning building. You make a good case for Venus being the POY if she wins here, but I have a hunch Serena would be more likely to maintain her motivation for the rest of the season. I think she's going to play lights-out. I'm less sure about Venus, but I think the quality of the match will be a B-plus to A-minus.

As you've probably guessed, I'm picking Serena in straight sets. And you?

Garber: Well, inferring from my comments, you probably saw this coming: I think it goes to Venus. In the battle of Olympic doubles gold medalists, I think Venus takes home the silver trophy this time.

Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at bonniedford@aol.com. Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.