Big sister won for a change in the latest Williams family showdown, and little sis took it poorly.
Venus Williams ended a streak of six consecutive losses to sister Serena, winning, 6-1, 7-6 (10-8), last night in the quarterfinals of the Nasdaq-100 Open at Key Biscayne, Fla.
Meeting for the first time since July 2003, the sisters produced the same tense, sloppy tennis that has marred the rivalry in the past. But there was plenty of effort and emotion.
When Serena lost the first five games, she took an angry swipe at the hardcourt and mangled her racket, prompting jeers from the crowd in a stadium that was only two-thirds full.
Then, when Venus smacked a crosscourt winner for a 3-2 lead in the second set, she walked to her chair with a glare, her teeth gritted in determination, while Serena admonished herself and screamed a profanity.
In the tiebreaker, Serena pushed a forehand into the net to fall behind, 9-8, then flung her racket and buried her face in her hands. She sailed a backhand long on match point, and Venus raised her arms in jubilation.
The sisters met at the net and hugged, and Venus consoled her younger sister with a pat on the back.
In tomorrow's semifinals, No. 8-seeded Venus will play No. 2-seeded Maria Sharapova, who interrupted Justine Henin-Hardenne's comeback from a seven-month layoff by winning, 6-1, 6-7 (8-6), 6-2. Reaching the men's quarterfinals were top-ranked Roger Federer, who beat Mario Ancic, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, to extend his winning streak to 19 matches, and six-time Key Biscayne champion Andre Agassi, who beat French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2.
Lobsters draft Navratilova
Even though the enduring Martina Navratilova last wore a Boston uniform in 1978, and a lot of balls have gone over the net since then, she's headed back as a principal for the resurrected Boston Lobsters of World Team Tennis.
She was selected first by Boston businessman Bahar Uttam at the league's annual draft yesterday. Uttam purchased a franchise in the 12-city league, revived the Lobsters, and installed them at Harvard's Bright Arena for the 14-match season from July 4-24.
Former Harvard star James Blake was the next player picked by the Lobsters. His older brother, Tom Blake, also a former Harvard player, also was selected.
Rounding out the Lobsters' roster are Aussie lefty Scotty Draper, Czech Federation Davis Cup player Daja Bedanova, and Kristen Schlukebir, top US junior and 18's singles champ in 2000.
"It'll be great to be back in Boston," said Navratilova, 48, who plans to play the Italian and French Opens plus Wimbledon before the WTT season. Those will be doubles and mixed doubles gigs, although in the match format -- five one-set encounters -- she could be called on for singles by player-coach Anne Smith.
Grandest coup for the league was the coaxing of Steffi Graf from retirement by Jim McIngvale, owner of WTT's other new entry, the Houston Wranglers. McIngvale also acquired Mardy Fish and Tommy Haas. Graf, whose children are used to cheering for their father, Agassi, considers herself primarily a mother now, and will not play a full schedule. BUD COLLINS