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Williams Sisters Advance To Gold Medal Game In London

It's been a big day for Serena Williams. First, she started the day by winning her first individual Olympic gold medal. Then she earned a chance for another gold in the women's doubles match, playing with her sister, Venus. The pair defeated the Russian team of Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko, 7-5, 6-4.

The Americans will next face the Czech team of Hlavackova and Kradecka in the Olympic final, Sunday at 7 a.m. ET.

On Saturday, it was Venus, who earlier sat in the stands to cheer on her little sister, who seemed to be playing the best tennis in the first set. She was canny in rushing the net, where she used her long reach to put away points. And when the ball threatened to go over her head, she stretched out to deliver overhead shots for winners.

Venus' early consistency presented a daunting task for Petrova and Kirilenko, who, whenever they managed to get a shot past her, were rewarded by crushing groundstrokes from Serena.

Early in the second set, Venus threaded a shot through the 10 feet that separated her opponents, both of whom merely turned to watch the ball fly past between them. Moments later, she put so much touch on a ball after sprinting to the net that it seemed to take two bounces before either Russian player could even start to run toward it.

But the Russians fought to hold their serve, and answered with firepower and tactics of their own. They never quit on points, turning what looked like Williams winners into hard-fought gains. They sometimes switched to an "I" formation, to take away the center of the court — and perhaps unsettle the Williams sisters.

Kirilenko and Petrova largely abandoned that tactic, instead changing the angles of their shots and adjusting their game to take away the Williams sisters' strengths. For much of the match, both Russians stood at the baseline while receiving serve, ceding at least temporary control of the net to the Williamses.

In the decisive second set, the Williams sisters blasted powerful groundstrokes from the baseline that the Russians couldn't handle. That gave the Americans several match points, which they failed to convert. With Kirilenko serving, the Russians withstood that challenge with resolve — until the sixth match point, when Kirilenko sent a crossing backhand into the net.

As a team, Venus and Serena have won 13 Grand Slam doubles titles.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.