MONTREAL – The Williams sisters, who have avoided Montreal like a bad blind date during their long careers, might be wishing they'd shown up sooner. The city has been very good to them so far.
For just the second time since 2009, Serena and Venus will play each other, in the semifinals of the Rogers Cup in an afternoon match that promises plenty of intrigue.
Here's what the sisters had to say Friday about playing each other, about their impact on the game, about still playing tennis at their (relatively) advanced ages, and about whether they would hang out in anticipation of the match.
The last time the two took the court together was for a doubles match at Wimbledon last month, which ended in bizarre fashion when a woozy Serena had to stop.
The last time they met on a singles court was in Charleston in the spring of 2013, when Serena shellacked her big sister 6-1, 6-2 in one of their more awkward on-court contests.
Williams said Friday that she "wasn't prepared" to play that match.
Time (and a Twitter attention span) have a way of making us forget the past but in truth, the vast majority of their matches have been a little awkward, and typically it's been difficult for the fans to get into it as well.
It's almost like having a hidden camera into a bedroom two sisters, very close, share and hearing them get into a fight. You don't know who to root for, you don't really WANT them to fight, and you almost hope it will be over. And tennis fans who love Serena typically love her sister, too. And vice-versa. So there's a conflict about whom to cheer for.
The other issue is purely tennis-related. Their basic games are so similar, it can sometimes be like watching a player compete against herself in a mirror. They know each other so well, it's almost as though they can't even throw any new wrinkles into the mix. The best tennis matches nearly always feature a contrast in styles.
As well, there's typically very little interaction between the sisters during the match. They will cross the net to go sit in their seats on changeovers as though the other was a complete stranger. When one of the other hits a great shot, most often they don't react.
But they are 32 and 34 now; perhaps the recent rarity of such meetings, and a better perspective on it all, might change the dynamic this time. Plus, unlike their last meeting, Venus is in good form.
One thing is for sure. The sisters have conquered the Montreal crowd, each in their own way. It will be interesting to see how 11,000 people – all but probably a few hundred of whom have never seen either sister play live before this week – react to one of the most extraordinary stories in tennis history laying out a new chapter in front of their eyes.