August 5, 2002 Talk about it E-mail story Print
No One Is Close to the Williamses' Planet
There's No Lull in Venus' World
August 5, 2002
No One Is Close to the Williamses' Planet
Aug 5, 2002
No Big Move? It's Really No Big Deal
Aug 1, 2002
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Jul 30, 2002
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CARLSBAD -- It was on the second point of the final game of the last set of Sunday's Acura Classic final.
Even though she had an upset stomach and an aching body, Jelena Dokic was driven to keep plotting winning shots on each point. So Dokic hit a nice forehand return of serve. She pushed her opponent farther and farther back on the court. She kept her opponent running, on the defensive.
When the opponent had to lunge forward to scoop a forehand back, Dokic played a beautiful lob. The ball climbed high, toward the sun, and dropped gently on the baseline. The opponent swung, all long arms and desperation and the ball came back. Dokic didn't give up. She hit a drop shot, a clever ploy against almost any player who had been pinned so deep by a lob.
"In two steps she was there," Dokic said later, in awe and wonderment. "What can you do?"
The opponent ended up winning the point. Dokic walked back to the service line. She was laughing.
What else could she do?
A desperate search for signs of life from the non-Williams portion of the women's tour has proven hopeless so far this summer.
Venus Williams, the opponent, won her third consecutive Acura Classic title. She beat Dokic, 6-2, 6-2, in 55 minutes. The title was Williams' 27th. Williams keeps track of the numbers even if history isn't in her sights yet. For example, Martina Navratilova has won 167 tournaments. Williams has four Grand Slam titles. Margaret Smith Court has 24.
Maybe, Williams said, if she had started taking tennis more seriously when she was younger, the record chase might seem more compelling.
"But then," Williams said, "I might be tired of tennis by now."
There is a sense of purpose to Williams. She is 22, a young woman who is aware of her responsibilities and her place in the game. And that place is on top everywhere and all the time except when her younger sister, Serena, is playing.
Her opponents speak of being able to beat Williams only if, as Dokic said, "she commits 50 or 60 unforced errors."
Looking ahead to Sunday's final, Lindsay Davenport had said: "It's hard to imagine Venus not winning. Is that mean to say?"
Not at all.
All the vanquished women here left as happy losers, which is a mark of Williams' domination.
Dokic beat Jennifer Capriati in three tough sets, then came back 12 hours later to beat Anna Kournikova in an emotional matchup in which the crowd impassionedly backed Kournikova.
This was a good week for the 19-year-old who has advanced her career in spite of her father-coach, Damir, who has a history of drunken and abusive behavior at tournaments.
Kournikova made it to the semifinals of a big tournament for the first time in forever and she couldn't stop smiling, even after losing to Dokic. Finally, it seems, Kournikova has decided to be serious about nurturing the fabulous athletic ability she has. Kournikova has the graceful speed of Steffi Graf and the creativity to hit solid volleys and exceptional drop shots.
If only Kournikova could conjure up Graf's mental fortitude and find, somewhere, the desire to work into top physical shape. Kournikova always seems to have a muscle pull or the need to have some body part wrapped tightly.
Davenport is not used to taking beatings like the one Williams gave her Saturday night, 6-2, 6-1. But this was Davenport's second tournament after a nine-month injury layoff. She still is searching for her serve and trying to regain her timing. Reaching the semifinals of her first two tournaments left Davenport relatively content.
The Williams' sisters, Venus and Serena, have an entirely different outlook. Everybody else is looking for nuggets of joy in the debris of their losses to the sisters. Venus and Serena march ahead counting the days until they get to the finals of another Grand Slam.
Dokic bravely said that she was "not so far away" from beating Venus or Serena. Some tightening up on her groundstrokes, a little more power on her serves and returns, "minimal changes," Dokic said, "would make a big difference."
After knee surgery in January, Davenport has returned to the tennis court in the best condition of her life. She is thinner than she has ever been, the better to run down those Williams' pounding groundstrokes, and she has been a champion, a three-time Grand Slam winner, a former No. 1.
But after losing to Venus Saturday night, Davenport said that what she had faced from Venus, in terms of power and variety and steadiness, "was on another level" higher than anybody she had played in the previous two weeks.
Monica Seles is injured, again. Jennifer Capriati has become heavier and slower and crankier in the last six months. Capriati had nothing much to offer in the third set against Dokic here in the quarterfinals. She is losing serious ground to Venus and Serena.
This week Serena returns to the WTA tour at the Manhattan Beach tournament.
From where will her challenge come? Kim Clijsters won a set from Venus here. Could she win two from Serena? Maybe Davenport's progress will go warp speed. In any case, the search for life continues.
Diane Pucin can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org