IMO - Justine did have the slicing shots working for her and it frustrated Serena - but........... Serena was not all there. She was not there mentally - and appeared to take Justine for granted some IMO.
Recipe = next time Serena should be prepared for what Justine will try to do. She also needs to get her first serves in, score some aces and bring the heat. Lastly but not least - don't overrun and under run Justine's shots.
Serena claimed herself last year and this year - that one of the main things to have when playing on clay - is patience. And Serena came up short on it. Not only mentally - but in her physical game.
Justine on the other hand was ready to hang in the rallies more than Serena was. Remember - Pam said early on that Serena was going for winners much too soon after she lost her 3-0 lead. In the second set she slowed it down some and performed better - but over all - she was not able to pin point any winners.
And let's not forget that Serena and Justine went to three sets the other two times they've played on clay - so Serena can hang in there w/Justine. Yesterday - she just came up short because of Justine's determination - will and belief. I've always loved to watch Justine play - because one can tell - she believes she can win. I love that about her. W/o belief - one needs to keep their hind pots at home.
And as far as Justine owning Serena on clay - only time will tell. I wouldn't be the first to say - well - Serena owns Justine on hard courts. How shortsighted would that be? If Serena had two wins to zero ova someone that she has played on clay – who would be quick to say - well Serena owns so in so on clay? How absurd! The diagnosis is that a player has a winning or losing record against another player on which/what/why/whenever surface.
Lastly and IMO - when someone asks a person during an interview - "What happened to you or your game out there today?" Aren't they asking them why they won or lost? Isn't Serena supposed to try and analyze why she lost a match period - regardless of the player? She should be scratching her own head - wondering why she lost, and not scratching her head wondering why someone else won. Her job is not to super analyze why someone beat her. She acknowledged that Justine was just toooo good and played a great match. What else is she supposed to say? If she were smart - she would quickly try to understand where her game broke down. So I don't see what is wrong w/her reasoning in describing how she felt her level was a notch down below the level she thinks she could have played. Duh!
Example… when I talk to my father who lives in another state – my mother will say – what was he talking about? (they’re divorced) I will tell her that he said this or that – and she says – see – all he does is talk about him! What?????? If I ask him about himself or ask him how & what he’s been doing – shouldn’t he talk about himself in describing what I asked about?
Yet – if some think Serena is arrogant – then please let’s not forget the way Martina used to answer some of the questions she constantly got. For a while there it was every blue moon that Martina would lose. Remember? She had the right to state what may have broken down in her game – just as Serena has.
My thing is as long as a player gives the other player props – then the rest of that interview should be spent talking about how and why a loss occurred, and about what plans are in the works to correct the situation. If a player continues to lose to a player that dominates them – then that will surely all come out in the wash. So again – we’ll just have to wait and see if in the end Justine has a better record over all ova Serena. And that goes for all player’s head-to-head records IMO.
Story last updated at 7:27 a.m. Monday, April 14, 2003
Justine slices through Williams
BY JAMES BECK
Of The Post and Courier Staff
The Family Circle Cup is a clay-court tournament that isn't likely to change surfaces, and Justine Henin-Hardenne can be thankful for that.
This 20-year-old Belgian may win a trophy case full of trophies here. She's probably the best clay-court player in women's tennis.
Serena Williams didn't beat herself in Sunday's final.
Henin-Hardenne beat her.
Williams may have played poorly in her 6-3, 6-4 loss, but it was because of Henin-Hardenne's clay-court skills. Henin-Hardenne's backhand slice to Serena's backhand and overall clay-court skills handcuffed one of the most powerful players ever to play the women's game.
Williams' strong backhand simply could not lift Henin-Hardenne's marvelously deep slices over the net. Williams hit the bottom of the net most of the time, successfully returning the slice only occasionally by taking all of the pace off of her return.
After the match, Serena appeared bewildered by the slice, saying she normally handles high balls well.
The backhand slice is that wicked stroke that seems to float forever in a reverse spin before settling gently, then skidding low off the surface, unlike the topspin that bounces high and begs to be crushed by a big hitter.
This near-perfect slice virtually requires a one-handed backhand, such as Henin-Hardenne's, Steffi Graf's and Martina Navratilova's. Navratilova used it as an approach shot for her unmatched net game. Henin-Hardenne is obviously in some pretty good company with the slice.
After her semifinal loss to Williams Saturday, Lindsay Davenport alluded to Henin-Hardenne's mixture of backhand strokes as weapons that could cause problems for Williams. Henin-Hardenne must have been listening.
Actually, Henin-Hardenne didn't start using the slice until she was down 3-0 in the first set. She then won six straight games to send shock waves through the crowd. She didn't deliver a backhand slice in the second set until she trailed 3-1.
The slice also served as a slowdown weapon for Henin-Hardenne. Williams lacked the patience to play the slice. Several times, she stepped up to hit the slice, then had to back up.Williams never really got her huge serve uncorked to the pinpoint locations to the backhand that make her serve so dangerous. Henin-Hardenne, playing far behind the baseline, gobbled up Williams' serves with a delicately soft racket that resembled the soft hands of a shortstop in baseball.
Neither did Williams hurt Henin-Hardenne with her thunderous service returns.
Henin-Hardenne outguessed Serena repeatedly, turning Williams' weapons into the same blanks that young Ashley Harkleroad shot at her in the semifinals.
The crowd was stunned. Most of the crowd had hoped that Henin-Hardenne would at least put up a good fight. It was just the opposite.
As an example of how overwhelming Serena was favored, I was the only person in the media contest to pick Henin-Hardenne as the winner.
It isn't that Serena Williams is any less of a player because of what happened at Family Circle Cup Stadium on Sunday.
She's still the best player in the game, but her No. 1 spot in the world rankings might not be such a sure thing a few months from now.