WIMBLEDON, England — Richard Williams refuses to watch daughters Venus and Serena play each other. Says he simply can't bear to see it, no matter the setting, no matter the stage.
So once again, he is heading home to the United States before the Wimbledon final. That's because the women's singles championship at the All England Club is Venus Williams vs. Serena Williams for the second year in a row and fourth time overall.
The way the sisters won in Thursday's semifinals could hardly have been more different.
"Serena nearly gave me a heart attack," Richard Williams said. "Venus played as if she had someplace to go, and she was in a major-league hurry to get a great dinner."
Serena went on Centre Court first and came within a point of losing to Beijing Olympics gold-medalist Elena Dementieva before grunting her way to a 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, 8-6 victory that lasted 2 hours, 49 minutes — longer than any Wimbledon women's semifinal or final on record.
"Definitely one of my more dramatic victories," said Serena, who served a tournament-high 20 aces. "I felt like I was down pretty much the whole match."
Venus then dominated No. 1-ranked Dinara Safina in an easy 6-1, 6-0 win that took merely 51 minutes and equaled the most lopsided semifinal result here in the last 74 years.
"The score just showed my level of play," the third-seeded Venus said. "I was just dictating on every point."
In Saturday's final, Venus will try to win her sixth Wimbledon and eighth Grand Slam title. Serena will try to win her third Wimbledon and 11th Grand Slam title. It's the eighth all-Williams major final (Serena leads 5-2) and their 21st meeting on tour (tied at 10).
"The more we play, the better it gets. When we play our match on Saturday, it's for everything. This is what we dreamed of when we were growing up in Compton, (Calif.) 20-something years ago," Serena said.
Venus has won 20 consecutive matches at Wimbledon; if she makes that 21, she will become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1991-93 to win the tournament three straight years.
Today, Venus and Serena play as a pair in the doubles semifinals. Richard Williams said Serena persuaded him to stick around for that match. But he will get on a plane Saturday and remind the pilots not to tell him who wins the singles final.
How will he find out which daughter is Wimbledon champ?
Not from TV, the Internet or their Twitter feeds. No, he will read the sign that his neighbors in Palm Beach Gardens always post on the gate of their house — "Congratulations, Venus!" or "Congratulations, Serena!"
"All I know," he said, "is a Williams is going to win."
Serena nearly didn't make it to the final. Seeded second, she hadn't lost a set all tournament, yet found herself trailing the fourth-seeded Dementieva.
Dementieva double-faulted eight times, but there were moments when that stroke got her out of trouble, including a second-serve ace at 110 mph. Surprisingly, it was her normally sturdy groundstrokes that let Dementieva down.
Dementieva's match point came at 5-4 in the third set, with Serena serving at 30-40. Dementieva had a backhand passing shot set up and tried to hit the ball cross-court, but Serena hit a backhand volley that clipped the tape and landed in.
"The only regret I have — maybe I should take a little bit more risk on match point, go down the line," Dementieva said.
The match might very well have hinged on a key point, when Dementieva led 4-3 in the second set and Serena double faulted to 30-40. One more point and Dementieva would serve for the match. But Serena hit a forehand winner that barely landed on the chalk on a sideline.
Wimbledon's official statistics for aces date only to 2000 on all courts, and to 1995 on the show courts, and they show no woman hitting more than 19 in a match until Serena on Thursday.
"I wasn't sure if it's Serena or Andy Roddick on the other side," Dementieva said.