Serena Barely Beats Dementieva
- Ossining Herald-Times-Onion
In a tough, tense, two-setter, Serena Williams returned to the WTA tour with a win in the prestigious Tier I event of them all. Elena Dementieva fought gamely, giving the champion more trouble that a recurrent hangnail, but in the end, Williams was the better player.
"On the important points, she was just a little better", said a dejected and despondent Dementieva. "On points where she served AND on points where I served. Other than that, we were pretty even."
Naturally, Williams saw it differently. "She was a very difficult opponent. The toughest of the tournament easily. I was sweating so much the spray paint I'm using for shorts started to run."
The absence of so many of the top five players could have detracted from the luster of the event, but the triumphal return of Williams should save it from being covered with the column space reserved for a weak Tier II.
Dementieva was brilliant, her ground game dominating Williams. Eleven (11) winners off the ground more than offset nine (9) double faults. Elena's superior court coverage limited Williams to a paltry 12 winners, and a humiliating 12 winner-to-error ratio. Yet somehow, Williams would get lucky, or a bad call would ensue, and Williams would wind up with the point. At times, the aggressive ground game of Dementieva recalled Monica Seles, and she stepped up into the midcourt and cracked not-quite-short angle winners. And despite her failure to hold serve during the match at all, Dementieva's serve clearly troubled Williams, throwing off Serena's service game. Dementieva's return game was on fire, limiting Williams to three (3) aces. The vaunted Williams serve had nothing to do with the outcome of this match. In fact, Dementieva broke Williams' serve twice, and threatened it many other times. A completely arbitrary rule forcing Elena to serve was the thing the dictated the outcome of the match. She was by far the superior player, easily dominating Serena's unsophisticated all-power game.
And, to make a point, they say bad line calls even out, but if game after game, Elena got AWFUL calls, politely never a word about it, and got ripped off. It was like Cold War era judging in Olympic ice-skating. They wanted an American champion, and by God that's what they got. Never mind fair play!
And certainly there was nothing in this performance to trouble Justine Henin-Hardenne. (Well, discounting Williams actually winning
the tournament.) However, this final proved that the tour is no longer dominated by three or four players, when we say 'six or seven players have a real chance', we mean 'of Justine or Serena allowing them to look good losing.'
Thank God maybe the tour gets a rivalry out of this. A reason for a TV exec to invest in showing a match before the finals was what I wanted, but ....