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Serena steals sister’s crown

New York: Serena plumped for Catwoman over the Pink Panther on Saturday, but needed no superpowers at all to win the Williams family showdown and steal big sister Venus’s US Open crown. Just being Serena Williams was more than enough on a balmy New York night for the 20-year-old to crush the twice-defending champion 6-4, 6-3 in 72 minutes.

“It makes me run fast... jump high... like a cat,” she grins when asked about the skin-tight, black cat-suit she unveiled here last week and calls her Catwoman suit.

But in truth, she needed neither ability to any real extent as she strolled past an under-par Venus to bank $900,000. “I am just elated, now. Thanks daddy and thanks mom and all my sisters too,” she said as she collected the silver trophy. “Right now I am just so happy. My parents are the backbone of our family.”

Serena, who missed January’s Australian Open with an ankle injury, has now beaten Venus in the final of the last three Grand Slams, adding the US crown to her French Open and Wimbledon titles.

The victory sees her hold on to her world number one ranking and avenged defeat in the final here last year.

Only six other women in the history of the sport had won three majors in a row — Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Margaret Smith, Maureen Connolly and Helen Wills back in 1929.

Serena etched her name into the record books with a ferocious floodlit performance. “If I win in Australia it will be a Serena Slam,” she smiled.

With Americans braced for the September 11 anniversary, now just four days away, the night opened with another stirring show of patriotism culminating with a moving rendition of America, sung by the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin.

Franklin resisted the temptation to sing her hit Sisters are doing it for themselves, but Flushing Meadows staff were more easily swayed, pumping out the song with the sisters on the court.

Six-times champion Chris Evert spun the coin to decide which sister would serve first and then posed for a photograph with the top seeds — dwarfed by these powerful icons of modern tennis.

Serena looked the stronger from the start, latching on to Venus’s serve and punching winners at will. She broke through in the seventh game, cracking a forehand winner to take her sister’s serve. Venus broke back immediately but could not hold her serve again in the set and Serena served out with a 105 miles (169 km) per hour ace to ease ahead.

With a pink headband and wristbands, but not the “Pink Panther” shirt she wore to wow the New York crowd earlier in the week, Serena broke again for a 2-1 lead in the second set when Venus threw in her ninth double fault. The match, and title, was slipping from Venus’s grip as the champion here in 2000 and 2001 ran out of ideas.

She managed to fight off two match points while trailing 3-5 — with a second serve ace and a firm volley, but her 10th double fault gave Serena a third. The 20-year-old made no mistake this time, forcing Venus into a forehand error to clinch the title.

In Paris, Venus joined the photographers snapping away at her sister after June’s French Open final. On Saturday, it was father Richard who joined them to take pictures of his youngest daughter collecting the trophy she won in 1999.

Becker beats Big Mac

A year later than scheduled, John McEnroe and Boris Becker took to the court in an exhibition match preceding the women’s final, and the German emerged with a 6-4, 7-5 victory.

The exhibition was scheduled to take place here last year before Becker pulled out due to a foot injury. The 34-year-old Becker broke McEnroe in the ninth game of the first set for a 5-4 advantage and served out the set in the next game.

McEnroe got broken at love in the third game of the second set but broke back in the 10th game to level the set. But Becker broke again for a 6-5 lead and closed out in the next game.

Becker will donate the $50,000 first prize to a charity of his choice.

New award

A new award marking valour and bravery in women’s tennis was unveiled on Saturday. The Corina Morariu Courage Award will be given at the 2002 WTA Championship in Los Angeles later this year. Morariu, after whom the annual award is named, will be the inaugural recipient for her successful battle with leukaemia and subsequent return to tennis. (Reuters)

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