When Venus and Serena reached the semifinals of the Dubai Championships last week, an all-Williams final appeared inevitable. Conventional wisdom was that the biggest challenge would be Venus getting past former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.
Surely, world-beater Serena would have no problem dispatching of No. 26 Alize Cornet? Wrong. Cornet upset Serena. Venus blew past Wozniacki in straight sets and went on to win the title, the 45th of her career.
Yes, big sister is back and so far she has outperformed her higher-ranked kid sis. Venus leads Serena in prize money earned this year. Venus has reached the finals of two tournaments. Serena has only reached the finals once.
Venus didn't even drop a set en route to the title in Dubai. She looks more like vintage Venus.
Meanwhile, Serena suddenly seems more vulnerable than invincible this year. She lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open. Even in her wins in Dubai, Serena didn't look as dominant as she did last year.
It's still early in the season. However, there's been a stunning reversal of fortunes between the sisters. Serena remains No. 1 by a large margin. Yet, she has lost more than 400 points. Venus, on the other hand, moved from No. 36 to No. 11 in the points leaderboard for the WTA Championships.
Venus spoke about her new-found energy, via Sandra Harwitt of ESPN.com:
"I feel like I've just gotten so much better since my first round, just feeling comfortable on the court; feeling comfortable when I'm behind, feeling comfortable when I'm in the lead...So it reminds me a lot when I first came on the tour. I feel like I'm learning lessons all over again."
When the sisters first arrived on the tour, Venus dominated and Serena played second fiddle. Then they took turns at No. 1 and hoisting Grand Slam trophies. Through it all, Venus remained the more humble of the sisters. Even as her baby sister eclipsed her in Grand Slam wins, prize money and stardom, Venus remained stedfast and supportive.
The sisters will skip Indian Wells. Their next tournament will be the Sony Open in Miami, where Serena is defending champion. It will be interesting to see how Venus' vault back into the spotlight impacts Serena's quest for history.