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tennisIlove09
Apr 14th, 2003, 09:01 PM
She can be beaten
By RICK NELSON
April 14 2003
The Post and Courier

The toughest job in women's tennis has been coming up with a strategy to beat Serena Williams, but Justine Henin-Hardenne might have found the blueprint.

Instead of camping out on the baseline and slugging away with the powerful Williams, Henin-Hardenne threw a frustrating mix of slices and topspins at the world's No. 1 player Sunday in a surprising 6-3, 6-4 win to claim the 2003 Family Circle Cup title.

"This match doesn't change anything about the great champion she is," Henin-Hardenne said. "But it means that today we could see that we can do these kind of things against her and she can be frustrated, too. It's good for the other players that we can see that."

The second-seeded Henin-Hardenne, ranked fourth in the world, picked up $189,000 for her victory before 8,925 in sun-splashed Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

Williams, who received a check for $96,000, seemed to blame the loss more on her poor play than on Henin-Hardenne's stunning performance.

"I mean my whole game was like 9,000 notches down," she said. "I can't be on my top level every day, and today's just one of those days I didn't play well."

Henin-Hardenne, who probably is one of the few players good enough to make such a strategy work, had another take.

"It's hard to say, but why did she do all these mistakes?" the 20-year-old Belgian said. "Maybe (it was) because everything was coming back, and I was running all over the court, and she did not have any solutions to her problems. She did a lot of unforced errors, but I think that I put on her a lot of pressure."

The defeat also snapped Williams' 21-match winning streak and halted her goal of going undefeated this year. "I set my goals for the sky," she said. "That doesn't necessarily mean I get them. I think you guys (reporters) dwelled on it more than I did."

While Williams might have a point about her own play, the biggest factor was the masterful game plan put together by Henin-Hardenne and her coach Carlos Rodriguez.

Henin-Hardenne rarely hit the same shot twice in a row, following high topspin shots with slices from both sides, especially off her backhand, and varied her speeds. She also got Williams on the run and pulled her wide, which made it difficult for Williams to get a lot of pace on the ball or tee off on shots down the middle.

Watching Williams dismantle Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals convinced Henin-Hardenne that she needed variety to have a chance at winning.

"She was playing very well, very fast, but always the same speed," she said.

"Today she didn't like that I mixed it up a little bit more, and it worked. I had to do this to win the match."

Williams, frustrated with her inability to dial in her punishing ground strokes, finished with 30 unforced errors, twice as many as Henin-Hardenne. She also won only 59 percent of her first-serve points compared to Henin-Hardenne's 79 percent.

"I made way too many errors every time I tried to hit a ball," Williams said.

"My forehand, which is my stronger side, I missed. It was a little discouraging, but it's all right."

Williams had no such problems early, using a service break to run out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first set.

"I wasn't aggressive enough, and I was playing too short," Henin-Hardenne said.

"I did not have any intention with my ball, so I think that at this point I turned the match."

After giving herself a pep talk at the changeover, Henin-Hardenne won 12 of the next 13 points with her mix-it-up strategy.

The increasingly impatient Williams started hitting balls long, and on set point, Henin-Hardenne smacked a backhand winner off of a sluggish 76-mph second serve.

Williams seemed to recover as the second set began, winning 11 consecutive points that put her ahead 2-0 and gave her three break points for a 3-0 lead. However, Henin-Hardenne again frustrated Williams by fighting back with five points in a row to save the game.

"It was the key of the second set because if I lose this game, (and go down) two breaks, it's going to be hard against Serena Williams," she said.

Williams won the next game to take a 3-1 lead, but Henin-Hardenne escaped another break point in the next game that featured a terrific rally at the net, one of several staged by the duo during the match.

After breaking Williams in the next game, she held serve to go up 4-3, chasing down two deep shots in the corner in the process. Williams, running out of answers, dropped her racket after sending a forehand into the net.

Williams won the next game with four points in a row, but Henin-Hardenne closed out the match by taking the final two games. It ended with Williams firing a forehand into the net, causing the subdued Henin-Hardenne finally to break into a smile and raise her hands above her head.

Both players now head to the green clay of Amelia Island, the last tuneup before the WTA Tour heads to Europe for red-clay tournament leading up to the French Open.

It's a hectic schedule, but that's life on the tour.

Henin-Hardenne said the victory would give her more confidence going into the clay-court season, but while the win was important for her and the rest of the tour's players, she won't have a lot of time to enjoy it.

"I have to think that I can beat this kind of player, the strong players, especially on the clay courts," she said. "To beat the No. 1 player in the world is great, but you never know what can happen. Tomorrow it's going to be another week."

Volcana
Apr 14th, 2003, 10:10 PM
If the writer watched Charleston last year, he saw Patty Schnyder beat Serena the same way.

Cybelle Darkholme
Apr 14th, 2003, 10:22 PM
why didn't serena adjust like she did last year? She played a great match in rome and in germany on the clay. She was way more patient than she was in that match with justine on sunday.

GogoGirl
Apr 14th, 2003, 10:24 PM
For the ones that didn't read the below quote from Serena - she did give Justine props. And IMO - it is all she needed to do. She would look demented if she kept on gushing about how great Justine played - now wouldn't she. The lead article in this thread didn't have the below quote. I'm not sure if the interviews came out yet - but evidently - Serena was quoted saying the below.

Now - I like Justine a lot - but what about the quote by her in the lead article where she commented on how fast she was hitting the balls back to Serena - and maybe Serena didn't think they'd be coming back so fast, or something to that effect?

Now - I truly don't mind her comment - but some could put it under a microscope just as some want to put Serena's quotes under one. Have any of us ever heard Serena make a comment about an opponent similar to the one Justine made? For instance - "I guess she didn't think I'd be drilling them aces down her throat." Or something to that effect.

Now when the Justine/Lindsay controversy came about - I again was not bothered by Justine's comments and accusation against Lindsay - because I felt she was just hurt - suspicious and a little toooo put off by the fact that Lindsay had an injury timeout - at what Justine felt was an inopportune time. But some crucified Justine for her comments.

My point is - we all have the right to our opinions about a player's comments - but we should try to be more understanding of all the facts.


http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/sports/5628682.htm

"She played really excellent today," Williams said. "She had a good plan going out there and you know, she was prepared and she was ready and it all worked. She was on today and she was really fighting and, you know, she did a great job."




Posted on Mon, Apr. 14, 2003

Henin-Hardenne's plan comes together
By GERALD DAVIS
Staff Writer

CHARLESTON - With Sunday's win over Serena Williams, Justine Henin-Hardenne might have provided the blueprint for beating the world's top player.

Henin-Hardenne, who also beat Williams last year in Berlin, said the key is to mix up shots and keep Williams moving.

That plan worked in the Family Circle Cup championship.

"She played really excellent today," Williams said. "She had a good plan going out there and you know, she was prepared and she was ready and it all worked. She was on today and she was really fighting and, you know, she did a great job."

Missing from Williams' game was her thundering serve and aggressive spirit that often backs her opponents away.

Lindsay Davenport, who lost to Williams in Saturday's semifinals, said Henin-Hardenne had the perfect game against Williams.

Now, though, comes the hard part: Can anyone else on the WTA Tour follow Henin-Hardenne's lead?

"I think that the most important part is mentally," the Belgian said, "that I have to think that I can beat this kind of players, strong players. Maybe other players can look at this and see something that they can do.

"She's the No. 1 player in the world. I think she's a great player and it's not because she is losing today that she's a little bit worse. She's still a great champion."

Another key to beating Williams is to face her after a three-day run in which she played against three top-10 players.

Williams did that to reach the Family Circle Cup final.

"Today, my whole game was like 9,000 notches down, so I can't be on my top level every day and today's just one of those days I didn't play well," Williams said.

• Coming-out party. Ashley Harkleroad came into this week's tournament ranked 101st in the world. But after wins over No. 16 Elena Bovina, No. 19 Meghann Shaughnessy and No. 9 Daniela Hantuchova, Harkleroad, a Georgia native, will be ranked in the 50s.

"I think it's great," Williams said of Harkleroad. "I'm glad to see another American doing so well. We have a lot of Russians out there, so we need to get some more Americans out playing better tennis."

Harkleroad became the lowest player in the rankings to reach the Family Circle Cup semifinal round. In 1990, Jennifer Capriati, who was a wild card, reached the semifinals and went on to reach the final before losing to Martina Navratilova. Capriati was unranked at the time and debuted in the rankings the following week at No. 25.

Harkleroad won't be that high when the new rankings are released today, but she doesn't mind.

"I mean, I've kind of just broke in," she said. "So I think people will start noticing me a little bit more, which is nice."

• Doubled up. In Sunday's doubles final, the top-ranked team of Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez defeated third-seeded Janette Husarova and Conchita Martinez 6-0, 6-3.

Asmus
Apr 14th, 2003, 10:46 PM
Serena can be beaten....on clay anyway! Maybe not on grass, hardcourt or indoors, but on clay she can definitely be beaten. ;)