Venus: Welcome back to the top
Welcome back to the top
BY JAMES BECK
Of The Post and Courier Staff
Yes, make no mistake about it. Venus Williams is back, and ready to rule this game of women's tennis.
The early prognosis was that Venus wasn't ready. She played awfully in her opening three-set match against journeyman Samantha Reeves, some observers said. Yes, she did play dreadfully at times. But it was difficult not to recognize the greatness and depth of her game, one that few, if any, players in the history of the women's game could emulate.
It was that first match for Venus in this Family Circle Cup that set the stage for her to win the tournament in her first try. She showed things in the first match that only a great champion could. She played a horrible first set late Tuesday afternoon, but she was vintage Venus in the last two sets.
It wasn't that Venus beat a great player. It was just the way she beat Reeves; the greatness was so obvious in Venus' game. She showed the type of strokes, serves and court coverage that only she among WTA Tour players has. Yes, she was a better tennis player than her younger sister, Serena, even at Serena's peak. That was obvious early in this tournament.
In Sunday afternoon's final, Venus took her game back to her first set of the tournament. She was almost that bad in the first set of her 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Conchita Martinez. Martinez played well, but did nothing special in the first set. Venus just hadn't arrived yet.
Once again, the last two sets were vintage Venus. She completely overwhelmed a great clay-court player.
She waited for her shots. She crushed backhands. She was devastating at the net. Her big serve started to come in consistently at 110 and above.
Venus demonstrated that she is more than just a great player. She is a great clay-court champion, a great grass-court champion, a great hard-court champion. She is the ultimate tennis player.
By midway through the second set, she was ripping unbelievably accurate and powerful backhands down the line that Martinez could only stab at, off both Conchita's groundstrokes and serves. When Martinez did get one of them back, Venus was all over the net ready to smash a volley. She hit classic clay-court topspins so hard and so well when drop shots came her way that Martinez was left flat-footed in the middle of the baseline.
The last two sets were a tennis clinic. ESPN could market the tapes from the match for instructional purposes.
A GOLDEN MOMENT
This was a tournament that had so many things go wrong. Rain, wind and cold made the first three days miserable. And the top three seeds all withdrew. But the ending was a true golden moment for the Family Circle Cup.
Venus Williams' success should take this tournament to new heights, with new respect in Charleston, and not just in the tennis community.
A poster of Venus in Family Circle Magazine Stadium should become a Charleston landmark.
One of the tournament's real treats was the play of the world's No. 1 doubles team, Paola Suarez and Virginia Ruano Pascual. These two journeymen players were a delight to watch, with their teamwork, strategy, court brilliance and quickness, and broad smiles as they chatted after every point.
They had several thousand fans smiling with them late Thursday night. Those who stayed to watch got an extra bargain for the price of their tickets.
Suarez and Ruano Pascual offered the same bargain Sunday afternoon, and even more fans watched their 6-4, 6-1 conquest of Martina Navratilova and Lisa Raymond in the fina