There is a recent Anna article also in the Nov issue.
Serena (top) placed her serve well and mixed up her spins to keep Venus off balance. By Tommy Hindley/Professional Sport
By Tracy Austin
From the November 2002 issue of TENNIS Magazine
INSTRUCTION: How Serena Beat Venus at U.S. Open 2002
11/1/02 4:37 AM
At the U.S. Open, Serena Williams beat her sister Venus for the third straight time in a major final. Here's what you can learn from their match.
It's sometimes said that things happen in threes. In the 2002 U.S. Open women's final, Serena Williams was seeking her third consecutive Grand Slam title while her sister Venus was looking to win her third straight U.S. Open crown. To make matters even more interesting, this would be the third Slam in a row where the sisters would meet in the final (Serena had won the first two). There was family pride, a U.S. Open title, and the world No. 1 ranking on the line as the Williamses walked into Ashe Stadium in front of a prime-time TV audience. Here's what happened that evening and how you can apply it to your game.
Serena had confidence on her side as the match began--she hadn't lost a set in the tournament, while her sister had dropped two. Venus didn't help herself by double-faulting twice in the first game. Great competitor that she is, she salvaged a hold, but the tone was set: Venus would struggle with her serve, and Serena would punish her on the returns. The players exchanged holds until the seventh game; they were both hitting bombs from the baseline and scrambling well to defend, but Serena was holding much more easily. At 3-3, Venus double-faulted two more times. On the ninth break point against her, not wanting to double again, she hit a short second serve that Serena angled away for a winner and a 4-3 lead. But it didn't last long, as Venus mounted a return-of-serve counterattack to get back to 4-4. Venus went up 30-0 in the next game, but Serena hit two big backhand returns up the middle, forcing errors from Venus. Feeling pressured again, Venus double-faulted for the sixth time and missed a routine mid-court forehand to give Serena a 5-4 lead. Serena, her game at its highest level, held her serve at love, punctuating the set with an ace.
TAKE THIS TO THE COURT Venus Williams has the fastest serve on tour, but her second delivery can be a liability. She doesn't have the smooth motion of her sister, so when the pressure is on, Venus' serve can abandon her. At 4-4, 30-30, she double-faulted. Because her serving rhythm was off, the smart move would have been to spin her first one in. But Venus went for too much. When you're playing someone who's jumping on your second serve, don't give her the opportunity, especially on big points.
When your first option isn't working, you need an alternate plan of attack. Venus had success coming to net against Serena but didn't do it enough to win. By Robert Laberge/Getty Images.
Serena is great at tracking shots down, but in the past balls hit directly at her gave her trouble because she wouldn't take the little steps necessary to get in perfect position. That's why you'd see some bad mishits from her. When a player is jammed or has to lunge for a ball that's close to her, she's not using enough small steps to get in position. Now Serena is taking those little steps, and it really shows on her return of serve--she had 17 break-point chances against Venus.
The players exchanged service holds, but Serena was clearly more confident--she blasted a 117 m.p.h. serve down the middle and followed it up with a roundhouse swinging volley for 1-1. The next game, Venus double-faulted twice and appeared to be questioning herself. She didn't find the answer, though, doubling a third time to give a 2-1 lead to Serena. Here the sisters played some amazing tennis, trading rockets off the ground. But Serena always had the edge, ending one long rally with a huge forehand winner and using angles to open up the court and a 4-1 lead. Venus got back to 3-4 by changing things up and rushing the net, but that was as close as she came. Serena powered her way to 5-3, forcing a deflated Venus to try to hold to stay in the match. After saving two match points with a second serve ace and a great volley, Venus set up a third match point with another double fault (her 10th). The third time was a charm for Serena as Venus netted a forehand; Serena won the set 6-3 and her second U.S. Open title.
TAKE THIS TO THE COURT Venus' and Serena's games are practically carbon copies of each other. Unfortunately for Venus, Serena happens to be doing everything just a little better. The one thing Venus had success with during the match was approaching the net (she was 10 of 12), but she didn't do it enough. When you're losing to an opponent who plays a game similar to yours, you've got to mix things up. Although Venus generally doesn't need an alternative game plan, she should have realized that getting to net was working against Serena and tried that tactic more frequently.
In the second set Serena started to find the range on her ground strokes, and Venus started to press. You could see the difference in their forms. Serena stayed down on the ball and drove her racquet through the hitting zone. Venus started pulling up on her shots, and as a result she started spraying balls. When hitting any shot, maintaining proper technique throughout the stroke is the key to achieving any sort of effectiveness. On a ground stroke, you must keep your legs bent and your upper body steady. If you lift up during the stroke, you lose pace and control and generally get poor results.