Sister act on cards as Williams’s set for final showdown

IT HAS been a year of unprecedented shocks at Wimbledon, but a women’s final without either of the Williams sisters would arguably top the lot.

While their chief title rivals have helped create grand slam history by failing to reach even the quarter-finals, Venus and Serena have not dropped a set during their march to the last four.

Now, all that stands between them and a third all-Williams finale at the All England Club is the mentally fragile Elena Dementieva and the giant-killing Zheng Jie.

On paper, defending champion Venus has the harder task against fifth seed Dementieva, the highest-ranked woman left in the draw.

But the way the Russian lost her nerve when leading 6-1 5-1 against compatriot Nadia Petrova in Tuesday’s quarter-final will be of huge concern.

While loathe to dissect Dementieva’s weaknesses, Venus had plenty to say about the Russian’s strengths.

“She fights really well, she has good movement,” Venus said. “And she’s a very consistent player.”

Dementieva made no attempt to hide the fact she choked against Petrova and is using every psychological trick in the book to stay relaxed ahead of today’s clash.

“Venus is the champion,” said the 26-year-old, “She likes to play on grass. She really knows how to play here, so I think she’s favourite..”

Because of the number of upsets this year, today will be the first real test Venus has faced in the defence of her title, with her highest-ranked opponent so far the world number 42 Alisa Kleybanova. The same cannot be said for Serena, who has seen off 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo and world number 11 Agnieszka Radwanska.

A semi-final against the world number 133 could prove therefore to be a complete mismatch.

But Zheng already boasts the scalps of top seed Ana Ivanovic, 15th seed Agnes Szavay and 18th seed Nicole Vaidisova, for the loss of just one set.

Serena has vowed not to take her lightly, revealing she has been swotting up on her rival.

“I’ve been watching her play,” said the sixth-seeded American.

“I think she’s doing a fabulous job and I don’t think it’s luck, her doing so well. I’m definitely not going to underestimate her.”

Zheng is already only the second wild card to reach the last four of a grand slam and is aiming to be the first to contest a Wimbledon final.

But she is approaching the prospect with great humility.

“Serena is a two-time Wimbledon champion and a very prominent grasscourt player,” said Zheng, who will celebrate her 25th birthday on the day of the final. “For me, it’s only the first time in the semi-final. Serena without doubt is an outstanding player and so far I haven’t found any weak link in her game,” she added.

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