They both limped and grimaced with screaming grunts signifying the sound and fury, but it was the younger sister Serena coming out the victor in the Williams vs. Williams battle Thursday night at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, defeating Venus 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to advance into the final.
The win will see Serena keep her No. 1 ranking come Monday, as a loss before the final would have elevated Russian Dinara Safina into the top spot for the first time.
The win also evened the sister rivalry at a career 10-10 win-loss for each.
Serena was limping badly and grimacing between points by the end of the third set, but when the point started was dashing side-to-side at top speed, seemingly unhindered.
“I was also thinking I’d love to remain No. 1, so obviously I’m really excited about that,” Serena told reporters. “I think I was more happy about that than winning the match at the end. I’m really happy to get over this one.”
Venus had beaten Serena earlier this year in Dubai, and at their previous meeting in the 2008 year-end tour championships.
“It was a well-fought match. My serve wasn’t going as well as I wanted but she brought a lot of balls back and played really tough,” Venus said. “When I come to a tournament I come to win. So I’m disappointed right now. But I’m looking forward to working hard and doing better next time.”
In the final Serena will face Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka, who overcame a bout of choking to defeat another mentally-challenged opponent, Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.
Azarenka served for the match at 5-4 in the third, immediately slamming her racquet repeatedly on the court after netting a backhand to go down 0-30, eventually losing serve when she double faulted on game point. She broke the next game, then served out the match for the win.
“When it got back to 5-all, I just thought that I had to keep going, no matter what,” Azarenka said. “She played well on the match points, so it’s not something I lost. I’m so happy I found the energy to fight at the end. It wasn’t so much energy in the last few games, more like adrenaline. It was getting really, really tough to even walk through the last points.”
Azarenka is 2-4 in tour finals, and trails Serena 0-2 in career meetings. Azarenka won the first set off Serena at this year’s Australian Open before retiring in the second set with illness.
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