A Williams Williams Final in Doha
October 31, 2009 -- Although the Williams' sisters landed in the Maroon Group as the Sony Ericsson Champions began on Tuesday, they nonetheless will face each other in the final tomorrow at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex in Doha, Qatar. This upcoming match will be their twenty-third encounter. Serena leads the head-to-head 12-10.
Both of today's semifinal matches had to have disappointed fans around the world. None of the four players could muster their best tennis, at least not at the same time as their opponents. Pulled hamstrings and strained stomach muscles, plus a dulled capacity to maintain keen mental awareness, caused Caroline Wozniacki to retire in her semi against Serena Williams early in the second set. Serena was ahead 6/4 1/0.
Neither champion was happy with the outcome. However for Wozniacki her decision was the best when considering her long-term health. Serena Williams was not done with her day, and the shortened match against the Dane gave the world #1 player some extra rest before she went back on court with big sis Venus for their doubles semifinal.
Venus Williams defeated Jelena Jankovic 5/7 6/3 6/4.
Jankovic dominated the first set. Williams' timing was off, as was her normally sharp footwork and, most important, she committed 23 unforced errors. Jankovic only hit 2 winners in the set, but obviously didn't need more. Williams donated points.
Jankovic's softer balls, aggressive foot speed, and ball placement have also challenged Venus throughout their careers, which up until today totaled nine matches: Venus with a 5-4 edge. Jankovic's slower shots make it difficult for Venus, let's say any player, to accelerate the ball. The tendency is to crush a slow moving ball. It seems easy enough. However, if the technique is off a touch, balls sail long or dive for the net. Williams proved just how difficult in this match.
In the second set, Venus Williams gained the needed confidence to win this match at 2-games all. Down love-forty, the American saved all three break points to maintain her serve. That mental edge carried over to the next game, as she broke to lead 4/2. Riding her wave of success, she held again and served a love game to win the set, punctuating her accomplishment with an ace. The match was tied one set all.
But like many of the roller-coaster matches this week, Venus dipped into a low spot early in the third. Jankovic took the lead. Williams' serve eluded her. She committed two double faults in her opening game and lost other points from unforced errors. Ironically, Jankovic mimicked Williams' performance next. The set continued on this up-down trajectory until Venus held for real.
At 5/4 she served for a berth in the final. The game wasn't a pretty one. Williams double faulted twice. Jankovic produced three unforced errors. But Venus nevertheless arrived at match point, after serving a bomber to Jankovic's forehand. Jelena couldn't get enough of her racquet on the ball and her return shot never made it back over the net. Williams won the match as a ball in the next point hit the net cord and dribbled over for a soggy winner.
Caroline Wozniacki and Serena Williams
Wrapped up, tapped up, and probably mentally shaky as well, Caroline Wozniacki and Serena Williams seemed to start out well. They held their serves early on. They persevered when down. Williams used her ace. Wozniacki used her groundstroke defenses. However, once Williams saw a couple of the Dane's second serves and teed off on them mightily, the writing was on the wall. Wozniacki couldn't use her legs to push off enough to get up on the ball, when serving.
Hobbled from hamstring and stomach injuries Wozniacki didn't have the fuel to finish the semifinal. Her stomach muscle pulls proved to be the injury that broke the camel's back. Sadly for fans she retired, jetting Williams to the finals against big sis Venus.
Venus and Serena still don't like to play each other, which is understandable. Earlier this week they put on a great match, which ended in a tiebreak third set that Serena clinched. That one could've gone either way. Serena got lucky, hitting a running down-the-line backhand winner that inspired her to win the match.
Venus will have added incentive to defend her title tomorrow. Serena will have added incentive to prove her worth, as the already world's #1 women's player. No doubt most fans and tennis pundits give the nod to Serena. She has the edge when matches get tight. She uses her serve to steady her ship. She goes for risky shots. If Venus continues to serve poorly, she won't attain enough momentum to surpass Serena in any ground game.
In the walking wounded category, Venus was the only one not wrapped up today. She had the trainer to her bench a couple times, tending a sore left knee. She has confirmed tendonitis in her right knee.
To emphasize the dire necessity of this up-coming break, at the end of the WTA season, the USTA announced today that Serena Williams has pulled out of the Fed Cup final scheduled for November 7-8. The United States Fed Cup teams have never lost to Italy. However, having a star like Serena at the tie would have added an indefinable dimension to their team, which could have proven essential to victory. Serena Williams has never lost a match in Fed Cup singles.