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US Open Lookahead: Serena vs. Venus with Slam bid on line

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NEW YORK (AP) So there’s at least one person with zero interest in watching the Williams sisters play each other in the U.S. Open quarterfinals Tuesday night, with Serena’s bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam on the line.

Their mother, Oracene Price.

“It’s just hard to see them both going out there,” Price said, “and you know they both want it.”

Unique and extraordinary dynamics are always involved when 21-time major champion Serena Williams faces older sibling and seven-time major champion Venus Williams in a professional tennis match. This will be their fifth meeting at Flushing Meadows (each has won twice), the 14th at a major tournament (Serena leads 8-5), and 27th overall (Serena leads 15-11).

They met two months ago in the fourth round at Wimbledon, and Serena won in straight sets (Price also stayed away from Centre Court that day).

Throughout the U.S. Open, various players have been asked what it would be like to beat No. 1-seeded Serena in New York and end her attempt to become the first player in 27 years to win all four major titles in a single season.

But what must it be like for the 23rd-seeded Venus to try to thwart such an effort by her little sister?

“I don’t know. You have to ask Venus that question,” Price said. “I know it’s going to be hard, because I know (Venus) wants (Serena) to get it. But what can you say? You know they’re competitors.”

And Venus’ take?

“I don’t think anyone wants to be a spoiler. I think people love to see history being made,” she said. “No one is out to be a spoiler, but at the same time, you’re focused on winning your match, even though the circumstances are really much different.”

As for how she goes about preparing for this matchup, Venus said: “Even though you’re playing your sister, you have to be prepared and focus. The preparation doesn’t change.”

Venus, born 15 months before Serena, has been in a similar spot before. She was the opponent in every final when Serena won four major titles in a row from the 2002 French Open to 2003 Australian Open.

The top-ranked man, Novak Djokovic, couldn’t imagine being in the situation the Williams family finds itself in.

“The first thing that comes to my mind is how would I feel to play my brother, and I don’t think that would be possible, honestly,” said Djokovic, whose younger brother, Marko, has played at lower levels. “I, in a way, admire what they’re doing for so many years – to play against each other on such a big stage.”

Before they started traveling the world together, practicing together, occasionally playing doubles together, and collecting Grand Slam singles titles and the No. 1 ranking, Venus and Serena Williams were a couple of kids learning to play tennis from Dad on a hard court in Compton, California.

And they used to play each other back then, too, of course.

There wasn’t a big crowd, and no one was watching on TV, either.

While Serena has earned the victory in six of their past matches with money and ranking points at stake, it wasn’t always so.

“I used to always win,” Venus said, “in the early days.”

Here are other things to watch Tuesday at the U.S. Open:

VINCI VS. MLADENOVIC

Whichever Williams sister wins will move on to next face an unseeded woman who never before has been to the singles semifinals at a major tournament: Tuesday’s other women’s quarterfinal is 43rd-ranked Roberta Vinci of Italy vs. 40th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic of France. Vinci advanced when her fourth-round opponent – 25th-seeded Eugenie Bouchard, the Canadian who was the runner-up at Wimbledon last year – withdrew because of a concussion.

MEN’S QUARTERFINALS

Djokovic meets No. 18 Feliciano Lopez of Spain at night after Williams vs. Williams, and defending champion Marin Cilic takes on No. 19 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the afternoon.

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Tennis star Bouchard testifies about slip, fall at US Open

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NEW YORK (AP) Tennis star Eugenie Bouchard has taken the witness stand at a New York City trial to accuse the United States Tennis Association of negligence that led to her slipping on a locker room floor and hurting her head.

Bouchard testified Wednesday a wet floor caused her to slip and fall inside a locker room at the 2015 U.S. Open.

Her lawsuit contends the USTA should have done more to warn her the area had just been cleaned. The defense says she shouldn’t have entered without being accompanied by tournament personnel.

The lawsuit says the fall left Bouchard with a concussion and “serious head injury.”

Bouchard says she was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Open and tournaments in China and Japan. She’s seeking unspecified damages.

The 23-year-old Canadian player is ranked 116th in the world.

Serena Williams champions issues on, off court

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Moments after Serena Williams won her seventh Wimbledon title, she proudly raised her fist in a black power salute.

It caused a bit of frenzy at the All-England Club in 2016, but Williams’ action shouldn’t have surprised anyone: She’d already been one of the most vocal supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. She was one of the first major athletes to decry the failure to indict a white officer in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – while also condemning violence against police.

“What caused me to speak out? Just life,” Williams said. “That’s just who I am. I always believe in the greater good and doing what’s right.”

Williams isn’t alone in her activism. Female athletes – especially black women – have long been out there pushing for social change. Wilma Rudolph’s victory parade celebrating her three gold medals from the 1960 Olympics in Rome was the first integrated event in Clarksville, Tennessee.

But despite their efforts on the field and off, women athletes have to struggle to get the same attention as men despite having as much to say, said Harry Edwards, a scholar of race and sports who has worked as a consultant for several U.S. pro teams.

“We have this twisted, almost-demented obsession with women’s second-class status with their physical inferiority,” he said. “It prevents us from appreciating the great athletes that they are … but it also means that it shuts down a potential forum that these great athletes would have where they’re valued for their athletic prowess in the same way that Muhammad Ali was, that Bill Russell was, that Tommy Smith and John Carlos were, that Arthur Ashe was, that Curt Flood was, so that when they speak, people listen.”

While Williams has long been an advocate of Black Lives Matter, it was only after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the 2016 season that the country really began to pay attention to black athlete activism. Kaepernick added his voice to a growing national movement, enveloping the entire league and starting an ongoing conversation that ventured outside football arenas.

Similarly, few people acknowledge that after the 2016 deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and the killing of Dallas police officers, dozens of WNBA players wore shirts with the men’s names and kneeled for the national anthem.

It was a black woman, Knox College basketball player Ariyana Smith, who started the wave of athletic protest about the deaths of black men at the hands of police.

On Nov. 29, 2014, Smith made the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture during the national anthem before a game at Fontbonne University in Clayton, Missouri, before walking toward the American flag and laying prone on the floor for 4 1/2 minutes to symbolize the 4 + hours Brown lay in the streets of nearby Ferguson.

“We as black women are often invisible, so we don’t get that credit,” said Akilah Francique, a former athlete who cofounded the Sista to Sista program to foster a sense of connectedness among black female collegiate athletes.

Williams has been a presence on and off the tennis court, not shying away from opponents en route to winning 23 Grand Slam titles or social and political issues.

She spoke up in 2015, encouraging Black Lives Matter activists not to get discouraged: “To those of you involved in equality movements like Black Lives Matter, I say this: Keep it up. Don’t let those trolls stop you. We’ve been through so much for so many centuries, and we shall overcome this too,” she wrote in Wired magazine.

Since then, Williams has become the symbol for other causes affecting people of color, including medical issues. In February, she told Vogue that she dealt with a medical scare after the birth of her daughter. She had to insist on getting extra medical tests, overruling her nurse, before her doctors discovered several small blood clots in her lungs.

Women around the country related to her story, talking about similar difficulties in getting proper medical attention.

Female-led activism can also look different than men’s, Francique said, because of the unique positions and pressures women face in sports and in life. She pointed to the criticism black women athletes have to overcome about their body shapes, training regimens, skin color, clothing and even hair when they compete in sports – criticism that Williams has endured.

“For many of them just by merely being there and having a presence is activism,” Francique said.

Williams’ older sister, Venus, who has advocated for equal pay for professional tennis while winning seven Grand Slam titles, believes it is important to have a voice on these issues.

“I think more than anything, we see ourselves as Americans, and that’s what we want to be able to see ourselves as, regardless of color,” said Venus Williams. “I think that’s what everyone is fighting for, that one day we don’t have to see that anymore.”