Peter Bodo On The Women's Final - TennisForum.com
Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 12:28 AM Thread Starter
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 2,458
                     
Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

Erasing the Asterisk




Hi, everyone. Like many of you, I'm still in suffering from Wimbledon hangover (for a look at one tangential aspect of this condition, click here). And I still have some unfinished Wimbledon business in my notebook. Some of it may be hopelessly dated, but one item is very relevant to the coming months - with the Olympic Games and U.S. Open not that far down the pike. And that's the subject of Venus Williams.

A few of the usual press suspects, including me, had a chance to sit down with Venus shortly before the men's final for a substantial conversation on topics including her win over her kid sister Serena in the women's final. When our interview was over and everyone filed out, I had one of those naturally occurring moments when I was face-to-face with Venus and she wasn't looking elsewhere or otherwise engaged. I congratulated her on the final, and told her that the match represented the highest level of women's I'd ever seen in some thirty-odd years covering the pro tour. She spontaneously lit up and said: Really?

"Really," I replied. "Nobody - not Steffi, not Martina, not Billie Jean King ever played at so high a level as well as I remember against an equally dangerous opponent."

Venus looked pleased, and here I have to paraphrase because the tape recorder was off by then:

The funny thing about that was that because it was Serena, we both had a kind of feel for what the other person would do. So it was - it was like, a little bit weird, because I knew where she was going to go with the ball, and she knew what I was going to try to do, so both of us had to do something else. . . it was kind of strange, and that's why some of the points developed in kind of a funny way, you know, like no rallies, or both of us more or less being in the same place at the same time.

This rang true, because it rephrased in somewhat more abstract form something she had said in the mass press conference right after her epic win (a triumph that secured Venus's fifth title, and her undisputed place among the greatest Wimbledon champions of all time). Let me lift the passage from the post I wrote right after that match:

You know, uhm, I think the level of play was really high. I think a lot of the times one of us was overpowering the other . So I hit a hard ball on the line, she can't get it back. Or, you know, I tried to go for too much because I'm anticipating that she's gonna run my shot down. Or I hit a huge serve, she hits one I can't return.

So in between us overpowering each other we had, I think, some really competitive rallies and intense points, you know, where one player would come back and take the point, when it looked like the other player was gonna win.So, you know, we're both very powerful, and I think it showed out there.

The key word here, folks, is "overpowering." And for those of you who took issue with my contention that this was the highest level of women's tennis I've ever witnessed (what, you wanted a proverbial "great match" too?), I can only say that "overpowering" is not a word generally associated with WTA tennis. Artful? Sure. Graceful? Sure. Impressive? Yeah, that too. Overpowering? Rarely - at least not in the strictest sense of that word. The word draws its meaning from the root word "power" (apologies to Mr. Webster if this somehow runs counter to his definition). I understand that many of you don't necessarily worship at that altar, and that's fine. But ignore it at your peril.

Right after the final, I almost wrote what I still think was my most noteworthy observation about the match. But I avoided it, partly out of concern the way it might be taken as a slight when it wasn't intended as one. Now, I'll come clean. When I watch a women's match, there's usually a small asterisk somewhere in the back of my mind, and no matter how enjoyable or riveting the match, that asterisk demands that I add the phrase, . . . for women's tennis. That is, I might think, "That's a great backhand. . . for women's tennis. Or, this is great stuff. . . for women's tennis. But watching as well as reflecting on the Wimbledon final later, the asterisk was conspicuous in absence. For once, I didn't have to shove it into a back corner of my mind.

Maybe I'm just confessing some deep-rooted and indefensible prejudice - I'm entirely open to that idea. But my policy, developed many years ago, was to see WTA and ATP tennis through a different set of eyes, embracing different standards of measurement. This was especially true in the service department, where you could just throw the First Commandment of Tennis (Thou Shalt Hold Serve) right out the window, and not read too much into the breakfests that often masqueraded as matches - that was the point, in fact: they weren't masquerading as anything. They were part of the women's tennis deal.

The women's game overwhelmingly tended to turn on how well the players handled the Second Commandment (Thou Shalt Play Consistently), and whether or not they managed to play with sufficient aggression - especially when they were back on their heels. It's hard, though, to draw up a specific set of criteria for all women's matches - it's always been more like looking at each match as a unique organism in which the Commandments did not always apply, or apply as forcefully and comparably.

For that reason, a serve statistic unearthed via my correspondence with Tribe member who challenged my analysis of the match might be telling: Serena Williams fastest serve was 121 mph, her average first serve clocked 109, and her average second serve was 87 mph. Venus's fastest serve was a 127 thunderbolt, she averaged 111 on her first serve, and hit her second at an average of 92.

Now let's dare compare that to the men. In the final, Roger Federer's fastest serve was 129, and he averaged 117 on his first deliveries. His average second-serve traveled at 100 mph. That was slightly better than Rafael Nadal (who, in case you hadn't heard, won that match), whose fastest first serve was 120, while his first-serve average was 112 and his average second clocked 93. The takeaway: Venus Williams topped Nadal by a whopping 7 mph in the "fastest" department, and she trailed him by a single mile per hour in the other two critical averages. Granted, Nadal is a spinmeister, which costs him mph numbers. Still, the statistics are a tribute to Venus - and they set a new benchmark for the women's game. To borrow a phrase from Barack Obama (who appears to have stolen it from that other great statesman, Bob the Builder): Yes, we can!

Regular readers of this blog know how much stock I put in the serve in the men's game; I've frequently bemoaned the slowing of the surfaces, with the attendant de-emphasis on the serve. As I've written before, the serve should be worth more (and still is worth more, which is something you'll discover if you peel the onion); after all, the entire scoring format is based on the assumption that it's a significant advantage to be serving - to start a point with the only shot entirely at your command, the only shot that doesn't require an adjustment to a previous shot, and the only shot that you unconditionally put where you want. So the serving prowess of the Williams sisters is a critical step in eliminating one of the key elements that encourages us to view women's tennis through a different lens. It sounds too highfalutin' to put it this way, perhaps, but the Sisters have introduced real gender-equality to tennis in terms of pure athletics.

This is no mean feat, and looking at some of the other Hall of Fame women players underscores the point. Chris Evert won despite her serve, rather than because of it. The only thing that separated her from the women ranked well below her (or, for that matter, Shahar Peer or Jelena Jankovic) was her extraordinary nerve. Evert may have struggled to break 100, but more to the point she found a way to put her 80 mph second serve into the corner, or along the sideline, to keep her window of vulnerability small. That she was able to do this at the most critical of times, against the best of opponents, demonstrated that you can serve well without having or making a lot of power; in fact, some of the best servers of Evert's era (Betty Stove and Hana Mandlikova come to mind) had outstanding serves - except, sometimes, when it really counted. But Evert wouldn't last out there today.

For Evonne Goolagong the serve was nothing less than an adventure, and it helps explain why she didn't collect more Grand Slam titles. For someone as loose-limbed, smooth, and artful, Goolagong's serve was almost painful to behold. She often got tight, but somehow avoided becoming the Elena Dementieva of her era through sheer guts - you could feel with every serve, especially second serve, the battle between fear and determination playing out in her mind, traveling through her arm, expending what power it carried at just about the time the strings touched the ball - leaving little force behind the shot.

Steffi Graf certainly got the job done, but she tossed the ball straight up and went after it, without ever getting enough forward (rather than upward) momentum to get maximum weight and spin behind the shot. Working almost exclusively with the arm, Steffi produced crisp, rifle-shot like serves when she was on, but they were the shots fired by a rimfire rifle, not a cannon.

And what of Martina Navartilova, the creative, lefty, aggressive player who took serve-and-volley tennis to new heights in the women's game? She made the most of a serve that, given her player profile, was not in the same league as her volley, backhand, or athleticism. She was rarely able to exploit her left-handedness in the way some many of her male counterparts did. John McEnroe, he of the wicked "can opener" lefty slice, is the outstanding example. But Goran Ivanisevic did enormous damage with his serve, and so did Roscoe Tanner. The bottom line is none of the standout women players of the Open era used her serve nearly as effectively as Venus and, to a lesser extent, Serena. The ones who did (at times, Brenda Schultz-McCarthy, Helena Sukova, Jana Novotna, Jennifer Capriati) often didn't have enough to back it up and failed to reach the highest level and stay there.

Venus and Serena broke new ground at Wimbledon (in our interview, she virtually crowed about the fact that she had lost serve just eight times in the tournament - twice in the final, and once in each of her previous matches). Of course, other factors contributed to the sense that they had erased the asterisk - among them the bold selection, the pace of the rallies, the general lack of hesitancy the women showed. This last quality is hard to pin down, but it comes down to this: it's a great day when choking or mysterious lapses in shot control don't figure into a match, even though those factors often make matches more compelling. Choking, for example, is understandable when it occurs at an excruciating moment, but it's a buzz kill when it happens repeatedly, at unexpected times, or when it permeates a series of points or games. At such times, it's just frustrating and inexplicable, rather than revealing.

For all those reasons, the women's Wimbledon final made me believe that either I was watching the future of tennis, or simply lucky enough to be see two young women armed with a surfeit of gifts erase the asterisk. My gut feeling is that it may be the former; when a bar is moved higher, all contestants tend to jump higher. And Venus and Serena have set the bar higher than it's ever been before.

P.S. - I got a little sidetracked here, but I'll have another full-length post on the interview with Venus at a later date - perhaps right before the Olympic Games begin.
Marcell is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 02:32 AM
Senior Member
 
supergrunt's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 10,587
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

supergrunt is offline  
post #3 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 02:35 AM
Senior Member
 
supergrunt's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 10,587
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

http://youtube.com/watch?v=j8QYi5nKzNQ
http://youtube.com/watch?v=1iq05VipZkU&feature=related

Last edited by supergrunt; Jul 16th, 2008 at 02:50 AM.
supergrunt is offline  
post #4 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 03:14 AM
Sabatini lover Forever
 
spencercarlos's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Venezuela
Posts: 15,130
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

Blah blah blah this pure worshipping is really sick, sure the final was high quality, but not as much as to say it's the highest ever, in fact the match itself is not even a classic.

And the fact that the match was decided mostly on Serena's stubborness and poor attitude on court it just made the whole final and especially the second set really hard to watch after 4-2 in the first set.

Still for me the highest level match played between these two belongs to the Australian Open 2003 or even the Usopen 2002 final.

Gabriela Sabatini 2006 HOF
18 Grand Slam SFs, Won 27 titles, 1 GS Sin, 1 GS in Dubs,2 Masters
Sabatini vs Martinez ?
Seasons in the top ten: Sabatini 10 Conchita 9
Straight Seasons in the top ten: Sabatini 10 Conchita 6
Seasons in the top 5: Sabatini 6 Conchita 5
Straight seasons in the top 5: Sabatini 6 Conchita 4
Tier II and above titles
Sabatini 24 Martinez 17
Record at the Masters
Sabatini has 2 titles 2 Runner up and 3 SF
Martinez has 0 titles, 0 RU, and 0 Sf
Record against the best players
Sabatini 40% Martinez 21%
Head to Head
Sabatini leads 9-6 over Martinez
FWTT Hard 111(111 + ny)Carpet 104(104 + ny)Clay 107(107 + 4) Grass 100(100 ny)
spencercarlos is offline  
post #5 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 03:24 AM
Senior Member
 
sasha&tennis's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 563
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

That is awesome.

GOD IS REAL
sasha&tennis is offline  
post #6 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 03:37 AM
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 112
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

Quote:
Originally Posted by spencercarlos View Post
Blah blah blah this pure worshipping is really sick, sure the final was high quality, but not as much as to say it's the highest ever, in fact the match itself is not even a classic.

And the fact that the match was decided mostly on Serena's stubborness and poor attitude on court it just made the whole final and especially the second set really hard to watch after 4-2 in the first set.

Still for me the highest level match played between these two belongs to the Australian Open 2003 or even the Usopen 2002 final.

Well the whole point of the article was not that this was a classic match but this was the highest quality match, with quality not being decided by "consistancy", but instead by the sheer power, and control of that power. I agree with Mr. Bodo, thier final felt more like a men's final than a womens final. It's the difference between watching the WNBA and the NBA, its the same game with the same rules, yet still it's not the same game.

This final brough a level of explosiveness and power that just was not seen before in a women's match, by both players. However I do not think the bar has been raised yet, simply because, the william's sisters are just way more talented than every other female tennis player, this no more an insult than saying kobe bryant and lebron james are more talented that almost every other basketball player on the planet. unfortunately and unlike kobe and lebron there is no else on either of sister's level whom they could have a match, like the one they put on at the finals at wimby. However I do agree that the match proves that a woman's match can look and feel like men's match.
ikarinokami is offline  
post #7 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 03:41 AM
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,823
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

I disagree with a lot he has to say in terms of history!
Martina most certainly took advantage of that lefty serve... go ask Chris she will tell ya!
Quite frankly the monster serves of the 90s belonged to Kathy Jordon, Barbara Potter, Helena Sukova etc!.. No one wanted to face those chicks on grass either!
He needs to get more perspective for a journalist with all that access.
Yonexforever is offline  
post #8 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 03:44 AM
Senior Member
 
supergrunt's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 10,587
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

Quote:
Originally Posted by ikarinokami View Post
Well the whole point of the article was not that this was a classic match but this was the highest quality match, with quality not being decided by "consistancy", but instead by the sheer power, and control of that power. I agree with Mr. Bodo, thier final felt more like a men's final than a womens final. It's the difference between watching the WNBA and the NBA, its the same game with the same rules, yet still it's not the same game.

This final brough a level of explosiveness and power that just was not seen before in a women's match, by both players. However I do not think the bar has been raised yet, simply because, the william's sisters are just way more talented than every other female tennis player, this no more an insult than saying kobe bryant and lebron james are more talented that almost every other basketball player on the planet. unfortunately and unlike kobe and lebron there is no else on either of sister's level whom they could have a match, like the one they put on at the finals at wimby. However I do agree that the match proves that a woman's match can look and feel like men's match.
I think Justine was on their level, which is why it is such a shame that she quit.
supergrunt is offline  
post #9 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 03:54 AM
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 112
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

Quote:
Originally Posted by supergrunt View Post
I think Justine was on their level, which is why it is such a shame that she quit.
Actually I think justine henin, would sort be the type of tennis player who have the *. She wins not because of power but consistancy. In other words every word you would use for justine henin is her backhand, or her serve is great for a female tennis player. As I said, Mr Bodo, is not merely taking about overall level of skill, but instead skill coupled with power and speed, in every facet of the game. Justine Henin has neither the power nor the speed. It's the difference between michael chang vs. pete sampras and andre agassi vs. pete sampras.
ikarinokami is offline  
post #10 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 04:08 AM
Senior Member
 
tennnisfannn's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 9,308
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

Quote:
Originally Posted by ikarinokami View Post
Actually I think justine henin, would sort be the type of tennis player who have the *. She wins not because of power but consistancy. In other words every word you would use for justine henin is her backhand, or her serve is great for a female tennis player. As I said, Mr Bodo, is not merely taking about overall level of skill, but instead skill coupled with power and speed, in every facet of the game. Justine Henin has neither the power nor the speed. It's the difference between michael chang vs. pete sampras and andre agassi vs. pete sampras.
Justine was very underated in term of power, her average serves last year and return games were faster than serena's.

Rena- a tennis great! 22 at striking distance.
tennnisfannn is offline  
post #11 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 04:09 AM
Senior Member
 
stevos's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 12,374
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

I adore this article.
I even love that he admits that he puts that asterisk there. It's frustrating such a prominent writer does do that, but we all knew he did, and he has gained my respect by putting that out there.
And he put a lot of effort into a Women's tennis article! I just love it.

Very good points.

gone
stevos is offline  
post #12 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 04:25 AM
Senior Member
 
V's a star's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 5,032
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

Quote:
Originally Posted by spencercarlos View Post
Blah blah blah this pure worshipping is really sick, sure the final was high quality, but not as much as to say it's the highest ever, in fact the match itself is not even a classic.

And the fact that the match was decided mostly on Serena's stubborness and poor attitude on court it just made the whole final and especially the second set really hard to watch after 4-2 in the first set.

Still for me the highest level match played between these two belongs to the Australian Open 2003 or even the Usopen 2002 final.
im sry Spencer but the USO 2002 final was anything but high quality. both girls had more errors then winners, where as the wimbledon final there was double the winners for both. the USO that year was jus bad for Vee she played 3 weeks in a row then a long 3 setter b4 playing Serena

but heres the stats from USO:
Serena-Venus stats
Aces: 3-3
Double faults: 1-10
Winners: 16-13
Unforced errors: 19-33
Break points: 5-17
Total point: 68-51

PS get back to me about Venus Amelie
V's a star is offline  
post #13 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 01:52 PM
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 1,050
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

Quote:
Originally Posted by ikarinokami View Post
Well the whole point of the article was not that this was a classic match but this was the highest quality match, with quality not being decided by "consistancy", but instead by the sheer power, and control of that power. I agree with Mr. Bodo, thier final felt more like a men's final than a womens final. It's the difference between watching the WNBA and the NBA, its the same game with the same rules, yet still it's not the same game.

This final brough a level of explosiveness and power that just was not seen before in a women's match, by both players. However I do not think the bar has been raised yet, simply because, the william's sisters are just way more talented than every other female tennis player, this no more an insult than saying kobe bryant and lebron james are more talented that almost every other basketball player on the planet. unfortunately and unlike kobe and lebron there is no else on either of sister's level whom they could have a match, like the one they put on at the finals at wimby. However I do agree that the match proves that a woman's match can look and feel like men's match.
Pleas tell me who else on the tour are more talented than they are?
court70 is offline  
post #14 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 01:56 PM
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 1,050
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

Quote:
Originally Posted by ikarinokami View Post
Actually I think justine henin, would sort be the type of tennis player who have the *. She wins not because of power but consistancy. In other words every word you would use for justine henin is her backhand, or her serve is great for a female tennis player. As I said, Mr Bodo, is not merely taking about overall level of skill, but instead skill coupled with power and speed, in every facet of the game. Justine Henin has neither the power nor the speed. It's the difference between michael chang vs. pete sampras and andre agassi vs. pete sampras.
You have got to be kidding with that statement. FYI, JH was a power player just like the big babes.
court70 is offline  
post #15 of 33 (permalink) Old Jul 16th, 2008, 01:59 PM
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 1,050
                     
Re: Peter Bodo On The Women's Final

Quote:
Originally Posted by V's a star View Post
im sry Spencer but the USO 2002 final was anything but high quality. both girls had more errors then winners, where as the wimbledon final there was double the winners for both. the USO that year was jus bad for Vee she played 3 weeks in a row then a long 3 setter b4 playing Serena

but heres the stats from USO:
Serena-Venus stats
Aces: 3-3
Double faults: 1-10
Winners: 16-13
Unforced errors: 19-33
Break points: 5-17
Total point: 68-51

PS get back to me about Venus Amelie
It's amazing to me because if they have played anyone else and the stats were the same we would not hear a word about it but because it's V&S here comes the negativity.
court70 is offline  
Reply

Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now



In order to be able to post messages on the TennisForum.com forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.

Password:


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:
OR

Log-in









Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.



Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page



Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

 
For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome