With her heart racing as she stood two points from defeat in her third round match at Wimbledon, Serena Williams looked in serious danger of missing out on a 26th on-court date with older sister Venus.
For a fleeting second, the American even contemplated finding “a dance class” while she “hung around to watch Venus play” as brave Brit Heather Watson looked like she would deny the sisters a chance to renew their Wimbledon rivalry by toppling the world number one.
Those dance classes were soon a distant memory as U.S., Australian and French Open champion Serena kept alive her dreams of completing the “Serena Slam” by setting up a fifth All England Club showdown with her sister.
A contest that will feature two women who between them have hoisted the Rosewater Dish 10 times since 2000 has the potential to be a classic but could very well turn out to be the ultimate anti-climax as has been the case in many of their previous meetings.
“I’m one of the few people that has experienced what it’s like to play, in my case, my brother (Patrick) on the tour,” said American great John McEnroe.
“I know this is wrong but I thought to myself if I lose to my brother I’m going to go and jump off the top of the Empire State Building.
“I love my brother and it should be that if you’re going to lose to anyone, you want it to be your brother. But there is some weird dynamics.
“I’ve always been amazed that Serena and Venus have been able to handle it so well because the older person is supposed to win. Serena is feeling a lot of pressure as she’s going for history, go for the grand slam, so Venus has got an opportunity.”
Serena leads their overall head-to-head 14-11, and is 3-2 at the grasscourt major having won their last grand slam meeting in straight sets in the 2009 Wimbledon final.
Not everyone was sure if Serena was engaging in some mind games when she declared Venus was “in better form than I am and I think she has a little bit of an advantage going into that match.
“I’m playing the toughest player I’ve played in women’s tennis. That’s never fun.”
Five-times champion Venus, however, took that observation with a pinch of salt.
“There’s no easy points against Serena. No matter how Serena’s playing, she knows how to win,” said 16th seed Venus, who a year ago snapped a run of five successive losses to her sister in their last meeting in Montreal.
What is true is that Venus’s progress has been drama free and her run includes a 6-0 6-0 walloping of the unfortunate Madison Brengle in the opening round.
The one thing they both agreed was that it was “unfortunate the match was so soon” as Monday’s clash will be the first time they have met at the All England Club before the semi-finals.
“We’ll leave everything out on the court. When it’s done, we’ll go back to regular life,” Serena, seeking a 21st major, said about a rivalry that is now in its 17th year.
“I mean, she’s my sister today. She’s my sister next week. She’s my sister next year. I think that’s a little more important than a match.