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tennisIlove09
Nov 15th, 2004, 07:11 AM
Serena To Face Sharapova in Los Angeles Final
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C.Lum/************** By Tennis Week
11/14/2004

Amelie Mauresmo could see the year-end top spot as clearly as the courtside scoreboard stating her second-set lead. Staring down another deficit to the most complete player in tennis without a major, Serena Williams saw only opportunity.


In a performance that recalled the commanding presence under pressure she sustained in seizing five of six majors in crafting the Serena Slam, Williams battled back from a break down in the second set and fiercely fought off all12 break points she faced in the final set to score a spirited 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 victory over Mauresmo to advance to the WTA Tour Championships finals at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.

The 2001 tournament champion will face Maria Sharapova in Monday night’s final that is a rematch of the Wimbledon final in which Sharapova completely overpowered and overwhelmed Williams to dethrone the two-time defending champion in a 6-1, 6-4 conquest. The sixth-seeded Sharapova scored a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 triumph over third-seeded compatriot Anastasia Myskina in tonight’s all-Russian second semifinal. It was Sharapova’s first victory over the Roland Garros champion in four meetings.

Stepping inside the service line, Williams turned match point into an exclamation point, pounding an emphatic overhead to close then jumping for joy with all the exuberance of an actress informed she’d been nominated for an Academy Award.

"I was so relaxed; I was really enjoying myself out there," Williams said. "I was trying some different things out there — even threw a serve-and-volley in there — some stuff I’ve been working on."

Three years ago, a knee injury forced Lindsay Davenport to default the WTA Tour Championships final in Munich to the seventh-seeded Williams, whose walkover win made her the lowest seed to take the title. Today, Williams returned the favor, securing a spot in the WTA Tour Championships final for the third time in the past four years, denying Mauresmo the top spot and delivering Davenport the year-end No. 1 ranking for the third time in her career.

"That’s excellent," said Williams when told her win sealed the top spot for the woman who beat her 24 hours earlier. "I was so happy she finished the year number one and now I’m in the final. So go America!"

As an appreciative crowd screamed in support throughout the final stages of a high-quality contest, both women produced some sensational shots. Reducing the unforced errors that plagued her in her first two round-robin matches, Williams was calm, clever and at times commanding on the pivotal points in the final set and a half of play.

Bidding for her 12th consecutive win, Mauresmo, who carried the confidence of consecutive tournaments titles at Linz and Philadelphia, broke to start the second set. If the second-ranked Mauresmo was looking ahead to reaching the final and finish the year No. 1, former No. 1 Williams was looking back to the Wimbledon semifinal when she fought back from a one-set, 1-3 deficit to will her way to a third consecutive Wimbledon final with a 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4 triumph over Mauresmo in a memorable match that was both high quality and high drama.

Breaking back to level the set, Williams stormed through the tiebreak to take the second set and level the match.

"I was thinking about that Wimbledon match," Williams said. "This match reminded me of that match."

The 18-minute, 13-deuce eighth game was a war of wills that spanned 32 points and saw both women come up with big shots. Mauresmo, who has a tendency to get tight in major matches, was tentative on two returns, but it was Williams’ willingness to raise the risk level and play attacking tennis that powered sustained her beneath break-point pressure. A daring Williams whacked winners on 10 of the 12 break points, taking the match to Mauresmo and defying her to elevate her game.

Hooking a forehand crosscourt passing shut and pumping her fist to earn game point, Williams blasting a backhand pass down the line that rattled Mauresmo’s racquet and fell harmlessly to the court to hold serve for a 5-3 lead.

Power has always been Williams’ most obvious asset, but she’s used her mind and her speed to work her way out of trouble throughout this tournament. Recognizing her recent lack of match play had dulled the sharp sting of her groundstrokes, Williams wisely attacked the net at critical moments in this match. Two forehand volleys were critical in her straight-sets win over Elena Dementieva in round-robin play and today, Williams made Mauresmo move on the strength of her strokes then raced forward to force the Frenchwoman to pass her on the run. Mauresmo was often up to the task — particularly with her brilliant one-handed running backhand — but Williams continued to press forward.

Amusing — and annoying — some opponents with her habit of grading her performances on percentages (you can assume with about 98 percent certainty that more than 75 percent of her opponents aren’t 100 percent thrilled when Serena says she played "around 35 percent" after a loss), Williams is now playing the percentages rather than just spouting them out in press conferences and it’s all adding up to victory.

Restoring a key component to her game that has been missing for stretches of this season — the genuine joy of competing — Williams’ wide smile and reaction showed how meaningful this match was to her. While she’s gone to great lengths to write this year off and look ahead to 2005, Williams is well aware she can still make a statement on the strength of her status in the top 10.

She won't regain the No. 1 rank this year, but if Williams can remain healthy, focused and committed to this all-court attack next year, it's merely a matter of time before she's back on top.

franny
Nov 15th, 2004, 09:44 AM
That's a really nice article.

Back_hand_78
Nov 15th, 2004, 10:09 AM
Nice article. An acknowledgement of the completeness of her(Serena's) game. Not just about the power.

Daniel
Nov 15th, 2004, 10:31 AM
Go Maria :D