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Thursday, September 28
Williams sisters win gold in women's doubles

SYDNEY, Australia -- The Williams Invitational, also known as Olympic women's tennis, ended with a fittingly ferocious flourish.

On championship point, Venus Williams socked a 115-mph serve. Kristie Boogert somehow managed to return it, so Serena Williams whacked an overhead slam for a winner and the gold medal in doubles.

Williams sisters
Venus, left, and Serena Williams won their match in just 50 minutes.

The sisters dominated in Sydney from start to finish, beating the Dutch team of Boogert and Miriam Oremans in the final Thursday, 6-1, 6-1.

The gold was the second for Venus, who won the singles title Wednesday.

"For me, this is almost bigger than singles," she said. "To have a victory like this with Serena, my sister and best friend, doesn't happen very often."

In fact, they're the first sisters to win a gold in doubles. And Venus is only the second woman to win a gold in singles and doubles, joining American Helen Wills, an Olympian in 1924.

"To be a part of history is really important," Williams said. "To be able to cap an opportunity and succeed is really, really rewarding."

Williams played -- and won -- 11 matches in 10 days.

"It's been a good 10 days," she said. "I didn't really have any doubts. The only thing I was hoping was that I wouldn't pull any muscles along the way and have to pull out. It was just a matter of how my body was going to last."

The sisters weren't too taxed in the doubles final, which took just 50 minutes. The men's singles final lasted 3 hours, 34 minutes, with Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia outlasting Tommy Haas of Germany 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

Venus and Serena lost only three points in the first three games, and Oremans double-faulted three times in the seventh game to lose the opening set. Then the Americans raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set.

When Serena lowered the boom with her slam on championship point, the sisters shrieked, flung their rackets in the air and hugged. Holding hands, they waved to the crowd, then skipped happily across the court carrying American flags.

From the medal podium, the sisters beamed during "The Star-Spangled Banner," and Venus closed her eyes through much of the song, savoring the occasion.

"It only lasts one minute, but it's a good time," she said.

"It was a happy moment for me Wednesday, watching Venus win," Serena said. "It was the same kind of feeling today."

The sisters extended their winning streak in doubles to 22 matches, complementing Venus' 32-match streak in singles. They've won three of the past four Grand Slam doubles tournaments they've played.

"This takes the cake," said Serena, who turned 19 Tuesday. "Every year I can win a Slam. This is every four years, and you never know what's going to happen."

The U.S. men fared poorly at Sydney, winning just one match -- their worst Olympic showing since 1912. But American women swept the gold in singles and doubles for the third time in as many Olympics.

The women's tour will get a bit of a break this fall because Venus and Serena plan to return to school and cut back on their tennis schedule. That will raise anew doubts about their dedication to the sport.

They have the talent to dominate for years. But do they have the attention span?

"I don't know," U.S. coach Billie Jean King said. "Do they stay injury-free? And what do they really want for their lives?"

In Sydney, at least, the sisters achieved their objectives.

On a mild, sunny day, Kafelnikov and Haas held up well physically despite many long points and long games. The match came down to the only break point of the final set, and Haas hit an easy backhand into the net. That gave Kafelnikov a 5-3 lead, and he served out the match at love.

The jubilant Russian heaved his racket 15 rows into the stands and threw a ball into the upper deck. He then waved a Russian flag to cheers from the crowd, which included International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Kafelnikov improved to 5-1 this year in five-setters, including three victories at the French Open and one at the U.S. Open.

The tournament title was the first this year for the Russian, a two-time Grand Slam champion. He had talked of skipping the Olympics because he was discouraged by the way he was playing.

Arnaud Di Pasquale of France won the bronze in men's singles Wednesday, beating Roger Federer of Switzerland 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (7-9), 6-3.


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