Serena missing her sister as she seeks fourth crown

Serena Williams heads into her sixth Wimbledon final today as one of the hottest favourites on record but insists she would much rather be facing the imposing figure of her sister Venus on the other side of the net.

Williams will start at almost unbackable odds to defeat world No 21 Vera Zvonareva, whose gutsy fight through the draw to reach her first grand slam final cannot disguise the fact that she is considered a bit-part player in another Williams coronation.

Venus, defeated by Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova in the quarter-finals, might have been expected to provide Serena with a much sterner test, but Serena is adamant she would have preferred a fifth Wimbledon final against her sister.

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She said: "Honestly, I feel like I would rather play her because at least I know for certain one of us is going to take something home. But now it's a 50-50 chance. I didn't realise how good a feeling that was."

However, Williams is keen to guard against over-confidence when she faces a player of whose talents she is painfully aware, with Zvonareva and her partner Elena Vesnina having ended the sisters' dominance of the doubles competition this week.

"I never, ever get over-confident," added Williams. "I did once maybe a long time ago. I think everyone goes through that when they're over-confident. Then you end up losing the match, so you never do it again."

Williams's progress to this final has been almost entirely problem-free, hammering a record-breaking 80 aces and not even looking in danger of losing a set, although she was pushed hard by Czech Petra Kvitova in her last-four encounter.

But at the age of 28 and as she approaches what she has described this week as the "eve" of her career, for Williams the thrill of seeing her name up on the winners' board along with so many other great champions has not lost its lustre.

"To see my name up there and have this opportunity is really unbelievable," said Williams. "It's like once you have something, you always want it and want to keep it. So it's always something that I desire.

"It's been a great decade and I feel honoured to be a part of it. Just to have my name mentioned at Wimbledon is amazing. I'm always just happy to be healthy and to be competing here."

Williams harked back to her remarkable journey at her pre-final press conference as she recalled the early days in Compton when she and Venus worked on the serve that has become such a potent weapon today.

"I remember my dad taught us how to serve," said Williams. "Always at the end of practice, we would just serve. Venus would serve on one side and I would serve on the other.

"We always talked a lot. I don't remember serving, I just remember talking. Lord knows what we were talking about, but we never stopped talking, unless my dad was looking at us. Then we would just serve."

Zvonareva knows she faces a mighty task to prevent Williams winning a fourth Wimbledon title but insists Williams is far from invincible.

"I got a chance to play her in doubles so I got a feeling of how she plays," said Zvonareva. "She is a very talented player who can serve hard and with precision. She can really put the balls on the line.

"She serves well but there are many players who serve well. She is not the only one. She's No 1 in the world and has an all-court game that is very good. But she lost a few matches in the past so it is always possible to beat her."

Zvonareva's place in the final is a rich reward for her persistence in an All England Club career which began in a second-round exit in 2002 and saw her reach the fourth round twice prior to this year's great run.

She overcame a career-threatening ankle injury to climb back up the world rankings but insists she has done nothing special to facilitate reaching her first grand slam final at the relatively late age of 25.

Zvonareva added: "Sometimes I think it's down to hard work, sometimes experience, sometimes maturity, everything together. Maybe if you bring all those things together that's what will bring the results.

"It's very difficult to say why now and why not two years ago, why not in five years' time. I don't know what's going to happen in the future. I'm just trying to live in this moment."