As the WTA Tour turns to Amelia Island, all the buzz is about top seed Justine Henin-Hardenne. In 66mn of inspired play on Sunday in the Charleston final, the dimunitive Belgian proved to the world that with the right tactics, Serena Williams, the world number one, can be beaten, and the power game quelled.
Three titles for the year were supposed to become four, 21 singles wins were meant to stretch to an unbeaten 22, however, Henin-Hardenne had decided to rip up the script and show Williams that there are players on the tour capable of containing her dominance.
When 21-year-old Williams, claimed that she would attempt to go a whole year unbeaten, there were those who s******ed, but sceptics nonetheless paid heed.
To remain unbeaten through an entire calendar year is a near-impossible feat. The great Maureen Connolly never achieved it; Australian Margaret Court won 22 tournaments in 1970 on her way to the Grand Slam, but failed; Steffi Graf similarly. The closest in the open era was Martina Navratilova who finished 1983 with an 86-1 record.
American Alice Marble achieved the feat of remaining unbeaten in 1939 and 1940, winning 45 matches both year's, during a calendar year of only 15 tournaments.
Today there are 56 events.
So why did Serena think herself untouchable, when so many of tennis' finest failed?
Stated bluntly, she simply isn't used to losing. In her first six years on the main professional tour, the Michigan native has only lost 45 times.
For the record the American - who will spend her 40th week at the top this week - only lost 16 sets in 2002. Her power mesmerised opponents and spectators alike in her ongoing "Serena Slam" run.
But Sunday she proved fallible.
Henin-Hardenne in the final of last year's Germany Open and fellow countrywoman Kim Clijsters at the WTA Championships in November highlighted ways to derail her game.
While Clijsters can match power with power, Henin-Hardenne is likeable to the recently retired Martina Hingis, in their ability to place the ball with great accuracy and move a player around the court.
Before Sunday's final in Charleston, Eurosport analyst Sam Smith was asked, "all you can surely do is pray that Serena is off her game?" The former British top 100 player paused, then retorted: "That's a dangerous ploy. You have to be playing at the top of your game and just hope Serena is having a bad day."
In a match that could prove a catalyst for the 20-year old Henin-Hardenne, the world number four consistently returned deep strokes to Serena's backhand and positioned herself deep behind the baseline.
However this is a far call from the power game so familiar to men's tennis in the early 1990s, when the likes of Jim Courier would stand back and sponge the power of their opponent, patiently matching booming stroke for booming stroke.
By positioning herself three of four feet behind the baseline, far enough back to scramble for short balls and not leave the court open to the angled drive, Henin found her way.
But, be warned. It's a tactic that requires full concentration for the entire match.
Lindsay Davenport against Williams employed this ploy in the semi-final during her brief second set resurgence, but when her placement sagged, her hopes vanished.
In the final, it was a framed backhand shot by Williams in the fourth game that had the world number one yelling in disgust. A wave of unforced groundstroke errors followed. The tactic was working.
Six games later and the Belgian had the first set. A further 30 minutes passed and Henin-Hardenne raised her arms triumphantly, for a landmark victory, which, may herald the beginning of further glory.
Other players may, at last, be cottoning on to a Williams weakness, or be it a passing lapse.
Great article from eurosport.com