Williams's Conquer Center Court, Again
July 2, 2009 -- It's been talked about since the draw came out -- an all Williams' final. And, it's a dream come true for American tennis, again.
"The more we play, the better it gets," Serena said, after her match today. "When we play our match on Saturday, you know, it's for everything. This is what we dreamed of when we were growing up in Compton twenty-something years ago."
And how does elder sister Venus feel?
"Just playing Serena Williams, the immense respect," Venus began. "Even if she's not playing her best, just that fight she has, you're facing that. So there's so much to face when you play her."
And boy did Serena Williams fight today. For close to three hours, she battled to conquer her opponent: the #4 seed Elena Dementieva. Scrambling to keep herself in the match, Serena's serve came to the rescue often.
"I lost serve a couple times. But, when it was key and it was time for me to hold serve, I was able to hold serve," Serena said. "I always had a nice couple aces that was really able to clinch on very key points. I definitely owe this win to my serve."
Serena served 20 aces in the three set victory -- 67 (4) 75 86 -- the fastest one at 122 mph.
Elena Dementieva, on the other hand, hasn't been known for serving well. In fact, people have said, 'oh she's the one who can't serve.'
A year ago Dementieva would spin first and second serves in just to start a point. Once underway, though, her powerful groundstrokes and brilliant foot-speed lassoed opponents and brought them down. Today, her winning percentage on second serves, which many think is one of the key statistics to improved tennis, was 62% to Serena's 47%. In absolute terms, Dementieva's average second serve speed was only one tick of the clock away from Serena's: 92 mph compared to 93 mph.
In the first set tiebreak, Serena lost because of a serve. In the second set, Dementieva couldn't hold her break of serve. And the third set was an up-and-down affair, with Serena's forehand finally coming together and Dementieva's finding the net.
"I think that was the best match on grass court, and the best match we ever played against each other," Dementieva began. "It was a real fight from the beginning till the end. She was serving very well today. I wasn't sure if it's Serena or Andy Roddick on the other side. Even with that I was able to break her a couple of times."
Match point wasn't played ideally, according to Dementieva. She had wanted to go down the line, but didn't. Serena was in close to the net and volleyed away the cross-court ball to win the match, a spectacular ending to this semifinal at Wimbledon.
"For sure I feel disappointing because it was a very close match," Dementieva said. "But I think the way I was playing is more important than result."
Serena said, "I've never seen her serve so well in my life. To keep that up consistently for three sets is not very easy. She definitely played her best, personal best tennis today."
One player who didn't play her best tennis today was Dinara Safina. The world's #1 women's player lost to Venus Williams 61 60 in fifty-one minutes. However, Venus Williams is playing exceptionally good tennis.
She was five for five in break point conversions and five for five on net approaches. She won 77% of points on her second serve and committed one unforced error the entire match.
Venus Williams owns Centre Court at Wimbledon, the way Roger Federer owns it on the men's side. She is at home there. Safina looked tense, sweat pouring from her face. Venus looked the way she might on a day off, on a walk with no cares in the world. She didn't appear to perspire. In contrast, she appeared nonplussed about the whole affair, but not in a pompous way. Instead, her love for Wimbledon affected her and took over, lifting her spirits and skills to heights Safina could not contain, let alone manage with her tennis.
"The way she plays, she has the ball and she goes straight for the winner," Safina said. "She puts you from the first point under pressure. Me, I need a little bit on time to create the point. Here I have not time for this."
Who will win the final? That's the question. It will be debated until the last ball is struck on Saturday, even if it rains.
Venus and Serena are 10 and 10 in their match record. Between 2000 and 2003, they each hoisted the Venus Rosewater Platter two times each. The two titles Serena won left sister Venus as the finalist. If Venus wins it will be her sixth crown, which will coincide with a sixth for Roger Federer, if he wins.
Right now the winds of victory are crying 'Venus.' Her continence is na•ve, almost silly when she marches out there onto Centre Court. For her, it's a playground where she can swing freely, move with speed and accuracy, and be happy forever and ever. Yes, a fairytale made for Venus. When we watch her play, though, we are struck by her power, her ability to launch a groundstroke on the rise, and the uncanny court sense she displays on grass. When she grew up in Compton, California, grass was a scarce commodity. Maybe at Wimbledon she makes up for lost time on a surface she has longed for from childhood.
Earlier Columns from this Event:
July 1, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Roddick to Play Murray in Semifinals; Federer to Play Haas
June 30, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Oh Those Bad Bounces
June 29, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: The Wise and Experienced - Roof or No Roof
June 28, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Sunday... A Day of Rest
June 27, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Qualifier Oudin Ousts J. J., Lisicki Downs Kuznetsova
June 26, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: As The Draw Turns
June 25, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Hewitt Takes Charge as Murray Rolls
June 24, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Young and Old Compete at Wimbledon
June 23, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Sunny Wimbledon
June 22, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Wimbledon... The Perfect Grand Slam