Serena Hits Double Digits
January 31, 2009 -- In less than an hour the #2 seed Serena Williams captured her tenth major title by defeating, actually thumping, #3 seed Dinara Safina 60 63. Serena dominated the match from the first point to the last, winning 95% of her first service points and 63% of her second service points. On the other side of the net, Dinara Safina held her serve twice and broke Williams the first game of the second set, giving her the only three games of the championship final.
"Serena played too good today," Dinara Safina said on court immediately following the match.
Serena Williams now joins Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Margaret Court, and Evonne Goolagong as the only women in the modern era (post 1968) to have won the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup. On Monday, when the rankings come out, Serena Williams will take over the number one spot.
Safina won only 30% of her second service points and 19% of receiving points. Giving Serena a look at a second serve was like giving a hungry tiger a nice sirloin steak on a platter... here, take it! Serena stepped inside the baseline to receive and sent ball after ball back at speeds approaching 100 mph. Williams was on a mission. In twenty-two minutes, she had the first set.
The second set started with a glimmer of hope for Safina. She broke Williams. However, the look on Serena's face coupled with her athletic tennis abilities erased Safina's break in the next game. The American snuffed out that one spark of light from Safina, accentuating her dominance.
Dinara held serve for the first time in the second set on the 12th game. The audience roared with delight, hoping she would do an about face and come from behind like she has done in many matches prior to today's. But she could not withstand Serena's serve and ground game. Williams moved with more ease, too. Once she had the point under control, Safina could not reverse the momentum.
This was Dinara's Safina's second trip to the final of a major. She lost to Ana Ivanovic at The French Open last year. This was Serena Williams 13th trip to a major final. She lost twice to her sister Venus at Wimbledon and once to Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon.
Before the start of today's match, Dinara Safina had accumulated forty double faults. She must examine her serve, before believing she can maintain a top-three ranking. Her fitness has improved astronomically, nothing wrong there. Her ground game is fine. She was 67% for net approaches today, which is good, too. However, her service motion is technically unsound. And, it caused way too many errors throughout the tournament.
Safina's ball toss is too high, which caused errors in timing. From the moment she releases the ball to the moment her racquet contacts the ball she could drop her head after which her shoulders would drop, and the contact point would be off. The wind could have moved the ball, but that wasn't a problem today. Winds were calm. With a high toss, judging when the ball is at its highest point becomes tricky, too.
On the other hand, Serena's service is one smooth motion. She contacts the ball at its optimal height and sends it to her opponent's box along the best trajectory while accelerating the speed of her arm and rotating her shoulders and hips. Serena has one of the best serves in the women's game. She is a good model to use for improvement.
The question remains: Will Serena concentrate on her tennis, or will she revert to part-time status? If Serena Williams can be #1 in the world while playing a scanty schedule, then how good -- really -- are the others? Or, is Serena that much better?
Over the coming year, we will have to keep our eyes on Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, and Dinara Safina. Of the three, Ivanovic has the better serve. We will also have to track the results of Jelena Dokic, Victoria Azarenka, and Carla Navarro. They may be out of the top ten, but they are not forgotten given their performance over the last two weeks of the 2009 Australian Open.