Caroline Wozniacki and Sabine Lisicki Advance to Final at Family Circle Cup
April 18, 2009 -- Elena Dementieva's aggressive strategy, the one she wanted to refine after yesterday's match, was on. But it took a set and a half to rev up; and, unfortunately for the #1 seed it was too late. She didn't have enough in her tank to pull off the win. Her opponent Caroline Wozniacki got the "w" 64 57 75 in a three-hour thriller on stadium court here on Daniel Island.
Caroline Wozniacki marched through the first set as if on a holiday. She worked hard for her points but Dementieva assisted, making error after error. The first set was over in less than forty-five minutes. 6/4 to Wozniacki.
"I was trying to go for the winner, but unfortunately I just saw too many mistakes in the beginning of the match," Dementieva said, obviously disappointed and annoyed at her loss. "I wish I had a better start, and so it would be a different game."
The second started swimmingly for Caroline. The end seemed near for Dementieva. People stirred in their seats. But at 5/2 with the match on Caroline's racquet Dementieva found fifth gear. The big guns came out and she mowed down the Dane at love. Wozniacki looked stunned, as she stood at the baseline, hip cocked, her eyes following her fingers as she straightened the strings.
In the next game, Dementieva took another nosedive and got down three match points. This surely had to be it... the end was near.
The crowd cried out: "Elena... " "You can do it, Elena..." "Come on Elena... "
So the Russian switched gears again, hitting the ball even harder. She screamed -- no screeched -- louder and, quite literally, forced Caroline to her knees on a couple backhand returns. Dementieva set the crowd afire as she saved all three match points. Her confidence on high, she ran off the next five games to win the second set 7/5.
Caroline waved for her coach, and her father, as she stormed to the sideline couch for the two-minute break.
"At 5/2 I didn't really have a chance to do anything there," Caroline said, after the match. "And then at 5-3, you know, 40-0 for me and I thought now I have the match. But it didn't turn out that way. She played aggressive. At 5-4 I knew I had to close it out. I was a little bit nervous. Then she just started to play some really good tennis."
Caroline's father told her to stay positive, step it up, and stop putting the ball back in play. She needed to do something other than defend. Caroline needed to stop playing Dementieva's game.
The third set was a neck-in-neck clash. These two very fit women stood their ground on the baseline and slugged deep, and deeper, forehands and backhands until one stepped out of position or in the wrong direction. When the narrowest of openings appeared, one would capitalize. It wasn't until the seventh game that Wozniacki broke. But Dementieva gritted her teeth, again, and took the lead away.
On her fifth match point, Caroline Wozniacki smacked a down-the-line forehand winner. The match was hers, finally.
"That felt so good," Caroline said, laughing. "I only had that shot, you know, to win the point because she was covering the whole net. I had only this much space. When I saw it go through, I just knew that it was going to go in. It felt great."
Elena Dementieva was the fiercest competitor when down. Her unleashed aggression left fans dumbfounded. Her returns of serves smacked the green clay before Wozniacki had a chance to reach the balls. But on her service games and at the end of the third set, Dementieva brought down the tempo to her own demise.
"It is disappointing," Elena said. "I wish I could do better here, and that was my first clay court tournament. I was looking for some good matches, some good fight. I like the way I was fighting through the match today, but I'm not satisfied the way I was playing."
Elena Dementieva was so disappointed with herself that she cut one reporter short, stood up, and left the media interview area without warning.
In almost direct contrast to that three-hour battle, Sabine Lisicki defeated Marion Bartoli in just over an hour 63 61, advancing to her first premier-level final on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. She has played Wozniacki once before at the 2008 Australian Open. Caroline won that match in three sets.
"I think it will be an interesting match," Sabine said. "It was more than a year ago that we played, and I think we both have gotten much better, and it will be a good final, I think, and we both deserve to be there."
Lisicki once again set up points with her strong serves against Bartoli. She hit well over 105 mph consistently on first serves, which left Bartoli scrambling to get her racquet on the ball. When she connected on returns they were short in the court or high with no pace. Lisicki put those away with a single swat. Lisicki's top service speed today was an unofficial 125 mph.
Sabine Lisicki said she has always had a fast serve. She didn't know how or when she learned it, though.
"When I was young, I always kind of served fast," she said. "I always had the fastest serve in Germany, and I kind of kept it, and it was better. It was improving all the time, so it's a good weapon."
Indeed it is a good weapon. She will need it tomorrow in the final, which should be a good one for the ardent fans of Charleston and Daniel Island.
Tennis Server Sweeps Family Circle Cup Media Tournament
Early this morning, before WTA pro players opened the curtains on their hotel rooms Jane Voigt, writer for The Tennis Server, and Pablo Sanfrancisco, photographer for The Tennis Server, arrived at the tennis center on Daniel Island ready to go for the gold in the annual FCC Media Tournament. Although the two heavy weights played in different categories -- Ms. Voigt in the 3.5 division and Mr. Sanfrancisco in the 4.0 division -- both won in fine style for the home team: The Tennis Server.
"I'm really excited about the win," Jane said, gasping for breathe at the press conference. "Peter Finger was the perfect partner. When I was paired with him I knew we'd win."
Peter is six foot six and Jane is five foot eleven. They were immediately nicknamed "The Tall Team," in quick-witted journalistic fashion.
"I feel really good, too," Pablo said, smiling. "I got up early and I was ready to hit some hard shots." Playing alongside Pablo was Chris Smith, the FCC tournament photographer.
Peter Finger is a Charleston photographer with an impressive portfolio that ranges from higher education, corporate, and fine art.