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History favors Serena

Check out who is back in a Grand Slam final: two Williams sisters. Well, it might be more like one and a half.

When they meet today in a rematch of the 2002 Wimbledon championship, Serena Williams will defend her title against an injured opponent, big sis Venus.

While Serena hit on the practice courts at the All England Club on Friday, Venus stayed home to rest and receive treatment for the strained abdominal muscle that has pestered her two months and flared up during the semifinals.

"She's definitely a tough opponent, and she's playing very well, but it doesn't matter who is on the other side of the net," said Venus, the 2000-01 Wimbledon winner. "I'm still going to go for it. I would love to win here again."

It will be their sixth showdown for a major title, and it is not the first time Venus has been hurt. She was hindered by a right shoulder problem during the final a year ago, and two months later took on Serena for the U.S. Open title with tape on her right hand to cover a blister.

Both times Venus lost. Both times she discounted the injuries' significance. Neither appeared to be as serious as her current malady, which had her gasping or doubling over between points Thursday against Kim Clijsters.

"I never retired out of a Grand Slam match, and I just felt I couldn't do it," Venus said. "Obviously, if I got to the point where I really just was feeling really horrible, awful and awful, I would hang up the racket. I'm no fool."

From the first Wimbledon women's final in 1884 _ the only time siblings not named Williams met in a Grand Slam final _ a player never has quit in the match or failed to show because of injury.

Venus is the third woman to reach four straight Wimbledon finals _ Chris Evert (1978-81) and Martina Navratilova (1982-90).

Serena has played much like a player ranked No. 1 and someone who has won four of the past five majors (to lead Venus 5-4 overall in Slams). She is doing everything quite well.

"I can't afford to be 70-to-80 percent. If I'm not 100 percent, it is going to be hard for me to win," Serena said, looking ahead to today. "It's not easy for me to play someone I care so much about."

Serena Williams

RESIDENCE: Palm Beach Gardens

BORN: Sept. 26, 1981.

BIRTHPLACE: Saginaw, Mich.

HT/WT: 5-9; 130.

PLAYS: Right-handed.

TURNED PRO: September '95.

TITLES: 22 singles, 11 doubles.

SLAM TITLES: 5 singles, 6 doubles, 2 mixed.

Venus Williams

RESIDENCE: Palm Beach Gardens

BORN: June 17, 1980.

BIRTHPLACE: Lynwood, Calif.

HT/WT: 6-1; 160.

PLAYS: Right-handed.

TURNED PRO: October '94

TITLES 29 singles, 10 doubles.

SLAM TITLES: 4 singles, 6 doubles, 2 mixed.

HEAD TO HEAD

(Serena leads 6-5)

1998: Australian Open, hard-outdoor, R64, Venus, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1; Rome, clay-outdoor, QF, Venus, 6-4, 6-2.

1999: Key Biscayne, hard-outdoor, F, Venus, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4; Grand Slam Cup, hard-indoor, F, Serena, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

2000: Wimbledon, grass-outdoor, SF, Venus, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).

2001: U.S. Open, hard-outdoor, F, Venus, 6-2, 6-4.

2002: Key Biscayne, hard-outdoor, SF, Serena, 6-2, 6-2; Roland Garros, clay-outdoor, F, Serena, 7-5, 6-3; Wimbledon, grass-outdoor, F, Serena, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3; U.S. Open, hard-outdoor, F, Serena, 6-4, 6-3.

2003: Australian Open, hard-outdoor, F, Serena, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-4.

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