CHARLESTON, S.C. — What a week for the Williams sisters.
Serena gained a title, Venus found a renewed belief in her game and both showed a calm confidence at the Family Circle Cup born of perspective and enduring difficult times.
Serena capped a dominant week with a powerful performance in the finals Sunday, defeating Lucie Safarova 6-0, 6-1 to win the championship. It was Serena Williams’ 40th career tournament title and her first win on clay since taking this event in 2008.
“It all came together a little bit,” Serena Williams said. “So hopefully I can improve on this and just use it as one block of building.”
Sister Venus has similar hopes. The 31-year-old star and seven-time grand slam winner was playing just her second tournament since an autoimmune disease — Sjogren’s syndrome — kept her sidelined for more than six months. Venus Williams reached the quarterfinals in her return at the Sony Ericsson Open and did the same here, showing off some solid tennis of her own in her first clay-court event in two years. Venus nearly made it to the semifinals, missing out on her first matchup with Serena since 2009 when Samantha Stosur rallied to win.
Then Serena got a bit of sisterly revenge, ousting Stosur in dominating 6-1, 6-1 fashion.
Still, Venus’ effort moved her up about 60 spots in the rankings from where she started last month at 134th in the world. “I’ve never been so happy to be ranked 70,” Venus said with a smile.
It was that sort of tournament for the Williamses, who both showed an easy grace throughout the Family Circle.
Serena cracked herself up plenty after matches, joking about having the game to defeat friend Andy Roddick or having her dogs pop out in the media room after beating Safarova.
“I hated seeing her in here,” Serena said of her dog, Jackie. “That’s my baby girl, though.”
Serena, 30, said she’s got plenty on her plate off the court which keeps her mind free for tennis when it’s time to compete. Williams spoke of re-launching her clothing line on a TV shopping network and papers she’s got due for school that she hasn’t done.
She’s even thought of moving to Paris, which she’s said several times is her favorite city.
“Yeah, I was thinking about it and I told my mom the other day, how would she feel if I moved to Paris,” Serena said. “I didn’t tell my dad, though.”
Venus, 31, spent more time discussing her changed attitude about tennis than about what strokes she needed to improve.
“I think a lot of people go into matches and they’re worried about their game,” Venus Williams said. “I don’t worry about that anymore, so my priorities are completely different.”
Williams was honored to help celebrate the legacy of women’s tennis at the Family Circle. She took part in a gala dinner Friday night in honor of the sport’s “Original 9” players led by Billie Jean King who started the women’s pro tour in 1970. Three years later, the WTA was founded and the Family Circle began. “So I feel grateful to have this job,” Venus said with a nod to the founders.
There was a time when about the only priority for both sisters was coming out on top. The two have combined for 20 grand slam titles — Serena has 13, Venus seven — and their matchups were can’t-miss affairs for the sport. During one stretch in 2002 and 2003, Serena won five grand slam championships and beat Venus in the finals of each.
Venus has had her wins over Serena, too, coming out on top over her younger sister in the 2001 U.S. Open and the 2006 Wimbledon championships. These days, the two seem content with their games and places in the sport.
They tried to stoke up some fire for the potential semifinal meeting, but none of it got very far. Serena was more pointed than Venus about going after the French Open title — only one of Serena’s major championships came at Roland Garros — and how the Family Circle win was a great starting point.
“I’m just focused on the moment,” she said.