Serena Hasn't Learned to Take Losses Lightly
Williams Not Pleased With Year; Bartoli Weeps for Federer
By Matthew Cronin,
FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC - A blue collar-type Serena Williams showed up at Stanford and this time, she'll actually play.
The last time that Williams appeared near the courts of Taube Stadium was for the 1999 Fed Cup final against Russia, when just coming off her maiden Slam title run at the US Open, she chose to sit and watch her older sister Venus and Lindsay Davenport do the heavy lifting in singles and then played a dead rubber doubles contest with Venus.
She had entered Stanford three other times before this year and pulled out all three times, either from injury or just being flat out tired or disinterested after a long Wimbledon campaign.
But this year appears to be different all around for eight-time Grand Slam champion. She's played as many tournaments through the first seven and half months of the season than she ever has since 2002 and is planning on putting herself through a meat grinder the rest of the summer: including the four matches she played last week for the World TeamTennis Washington capitals, if she makes it to the second week of the US Open, she will have played 9 out of 11 weeks.
Her upcoming schedule reads like this: Stanford, Los Angeles and Montreal, a week off before the Olympics, and then another week after Beijing before the US Open. For a player whom some consider to be interested in her sport, she spending an enormous amount time on court.
"I'm feeling good," the fifth ranked Williams told ********************. "I have goals and have almost no points coming off this summer, because last summer I injured my thumb. I can only move ahead. I have to take my chances and opportunities."
The expressive Serena is still smarting a little due to her Wimbledon defeat at the hands of her older sister, Venus. Her face is hall of mirrors, where you can see her full range of emotions reflecting back and forth. She doesn't understand why she's been unable to come up with her best stuff at the Slams in '08.
"I still look like that?" she asked when told that her downtrodden face was betraying what was piping out of her vocal cords, which said that she quickly got over her high-level defeat to Venus in the Wimbledon final.
Serena takes her losses very hard and although she agrees that her level has been consistently high this year (except at the "terrible" French), she missing that little extra something. Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Venus have won Slams this year. Serena owns three WTA title in 2008, but none of them were majors and not only does she believe that she belongs in the same conversation of the aforementioned threesome, she thinks she should be the one leading it.
Williams is very hard on herself, perhaps not getting as much satisfaction as she should out of winning Bangalore, Miami and Charleston, and slashing herself too deeply for losing Jelena Jankovic in Australia, Katarina Srebotnik at Roland Garros and then Venus at Wimbledon.
"I can't say I'm pleased with my year because I haven't won any Grand Slams this year," Williams said. "That's always been the goal for me, but my main goal is to stay healthy. If I can do that, than I'm fine. I didn't play well in Australia, the French I shot myself in the foot and Wimbledon I couldn't get it together in the final. So I have to win something eventually. I feel like I should be able to win for the most part and sometimes I get disgusted because I didn't make the right shots, or made a lot of errors, or did silly stuff. I don't like to lose. I'm a perfectionist and feel like I should be the best at what I do."
She has been the best many times, but hasn't been this season. Ivanovic and Sharapova played better at two of three Slams, and Venus was just as good as she was (which wasn't great) in Australia and showed her little sister that on grass, she simply has more weapons. Plus, Venus trusts her game at Wimbledon much more than she does anywhere else - hence her nearly six-year losing streak at the other Slams. Serena is more solid all around and likes a bit more time to set up for the ball.
"The conditions were unbelievable and she was able to keep it together," Serena said of Wimbledon. "It was cool for her. Venus played better than I did, but I didn't play my best. She plays really good on grass and I play really good on hardcourts."
If Serena doesn't win a Slam title or an Olympic gold medal this season, she'll consider it a lost year. The first seven months of the season have been productive to her biomechanics as she's put in the time, but she hasn't come away with the big prizes that she believes should be hers. She's figuring that if she puts in the work that eventually, it will play off. She knows that deep down that she'll never be an out and out dominator again because the competition is too stiff, but if she finds a style that suits and pleases her -and she's been struggling with that this year - a dozen Slam crowns are possible by the time she hangs up her rackets.
"The Olympics and US Open are hovering," she said. " I think I'll be ready for them."
The Olympics is a huge goal, because she's never played singles there, and if she wins the singles crown, she'll have her own, non-calendar year Golden Slam. Steffi Graf had a real one back in 1988, but of her generation, even Justine Henin and Venus, the last two gold medalists, were unable to pull that off.
"That would mean a lot to me," she said.
Maybe Serena should take a little pressure of herself, because it sure seemed like in Paris and London that she was tense in her losses. She played very well against Venus, expect at closing time, when Venus smelled blood and Serena spilled it. Up until the last year and half, Serena has been a consummate closer, but Henin got into her head last year and she has been unable to shake the feeling that there may be players out there who are just as tough. When her play doesn't match her bravado, she twists her own psyche into a pretzel.
"You can only try your best and sometimes you take losses, and maybe some people can accept that, but that's not my attitude," she said. "I'm not the type of person who can say I'm happy after a loss. Nothing can make me that way."
Bartoli shed tears for Fed..Bartoli Weeps for Federer.
After losing in the third round of Wimbledon to Bethanie Mattek, Marion Bartoli took some time off and hung out at the pool. But the tennis-aholic couldn't resist turning on the TV and watching both finals. She was devastated after her hero, Roger Federer, went down to Rafael Nadal in five sets.
"It was really a heartbreaker for me," she said. "I cried after it. I was so disappointed. I'm a Roger fan and when you are fan you want him to win. I thought he had the match in his hands and he let it slip. It was hard. Maybe it was harder for him, but it was hard for me as well. I was so stressed. Sometimes I couldn't watch it, it was so much pressure."
Was she happy at all for Nadal?
"No, not even a little bit."
Bartoli keeps close tabs on Federer and said that she heard that he was really depressed after the match, but the next day, he was laughing and on vacation.
"I think he recovered better than me because I was down for three days afterward," she said. "I think he's going to win the Olympics and US Open."
The sixth seed at Stanford, Bartoli overcame Akgul Amanmuradova 6-1 6-3 in the first round, only her 13th win this year in 29 tries. Amanmuradova has a fair amount of variety for a super tall powerballer, but she's very erratic. She's also extremely vulnerable on the run.
Now Bartoli is looking at the rest of the year as a new season, one where she won't be called the former Wimbledon finalist. She hasn't played like one and her ranking has dropped to No. 15.
She said that the pressure of being the AELTC runner-up crushed her mentally.
"It's a big relief," said Bartoli, who is entering her favorite part on the season on hardcourts. "I've had this on my shoulders for one year and it wasn't easy to handle it. Everyone reminded me of my Wimbledon final and how hard it was going to be for me to defend it. Now I can look at it as maybe a new year for me."
Lindsay Davenport pulled out of the tournament with a re-occurrence of right knee injury that she sustained just prior to Wimbledon and is doubtful for next week's event in LA, too. She played doubles and mixed in World Team Tennis last weekend for the Newport Breakers, but when she tried to run at Stanford during practice, she felt pain again. It's going to be a very long road to the Olympics.
Portuguese phenom Michelle Larcher de Brito, 15, qualified for her first main draw and will face Argentine Gisela Dulko. She beat Marta Domachowska 6-0, 6-1. Japan's Ai Sugiyama took down American Alexa Glatch 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 and will face fourth seed Daniela Hantuchova. On Tuesday, '07 Stanford finalist Sania Mirza of India will play British qualifier Anne Keothavong.