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Volcana
Jul 8th, 2002, 06:40 PM
THE DOMINATION IS OVER

Venus slips a step as Serena takes the big W

By Matthew Cronin
********************

It's no fun going out to defend your Wimbledon title with a sore shoulder, especially when you know you are confronting the fastest, hottest, most ambitious player on the planet. But Venus Williams did so on Saturday, so at least in that manner, she showed her champion's mettle.

But other displaying her usual mix of guts and class, No. 2-ranked Venus took a big step backward on Saturday in 7-6 (4), 6-3 to No. 1 Serena.

Gone was the court general that was saw at Wimbledon 2000 and 2001, the woman who concocted a Churchillian game plan and has an answer for every straight ahead assault on sneaky counterattack. Gone was the game's most feared server, preying mantis at the net, impenetrable wall at the baseline, the most dependable big shotmaker.

Here was the 22-year-old Venus, playing defense much of the day, venturing to net only a handful of times, not taking advantage of Serena's second serve, nor delivering her normal baker's dozen of outright winners down the line. It was a meeker Venus, one who didn't believe she could win and never stepped on the pedal once she was down. It was a Venus who played herself into the first set only to see Serena run away with the tiebreaker. It was a Venus who took a bow midway through the second set. It was a Venus who all but conceded that Serena is better than she is right now.

It is a Venus we have not seen since 1999, the one who couldn't figure out away to beat Martina Hingis and withdrew into a tearstained shell.

ADMITS SHE COULDN'T KEEP UP

"That's what I'm here for, to be on top," said Venus, who is now a very legitimate No. 2 to Serena's No. 1. "I'm not trying to linger around at No. 2. But I've done my personal best this year. I don't think I could do more. But then again, I think there's a lot of times that maybe she wouldn't have gotten it. She played very well. Really, I kept my balls most times deep and on the line, and she kept returning them deep and on the line. So what can you do with this?"

There is no question that Serena was the far more effective groundstroker on today, seemingly outrunning Venus by a step in most rallies. There was also no question who was doing the dictating; it was Serena, who banged Venus crosscourt until she got an opening down the line and then delivered. While every other player in the game fears Venus' backhand side, Serena certainly doesn't, as she went deep into the corner time and time again and dared Venus to deliver a ball that would kiss the chalk. For the most part, Venus couldn't produce.

Serena was also more inspired and fought harder. In the first set (easily the most exciting tennis the two have played against each other) Serena failed to serve it out at 5-4 when she buried a backhand into the net. Serena chucked her racket into the turf and loudly admonished herself. Serena was grunting with a determination of a freight train trying to reach it's destination on time, while Venus seemed content to sit in the club car sipping Shirley Temples.

In the tiebreaker, Serena kept whipping balls at Venus while her older sister never tried to press her. After Venus hit a lousy drop shot approach, Serena whacked passing shot down the line to go ahead 5-3. Serena then saw Venus plop a backhand crosscourt into the net. At 6-4, Serena teed it up, powering ace to take the set and you knew she was in the conductor's seat.

SECOND SET ... SAME STRATEGY

In the second set, Venus didn't change strategy, Serena continued to exhaust her in end-to-end rallies and with the pace and depth of her returns of serves. How's this for the proper manner in which to close out a match: smash a service winner, twirl, smile and blow kisses to a crowd that was still was nursing a Henmania Hangover.
It's a little hard to fathom that Venus only has one more Slam title than Serena does now and has yet to win a major this year. Serena is now tied with Lindsay Davenport with three Slams and is now a lock for the Hall of Fame, too.

Serena has improved almost immeasurably this year, becoming a mental rock, believing in her ability off both wings, while toeing the line to serve and of course, when standing five feet from the service line in preparation for a 140-mph service return.

Venus hasn't improved that much, if at all. She had a terrific run at Roland Garros between some heady play and fine defense, but was stopped in the final by a girl who isn't afraid to let it all hang out. Believe it or not, the once cocky Venus who defined power tennis the past two years has become a conservative player.
"She just had better shots, Venus said. " I think I played well, to be honest, and high-percentage tennis. She just was pressing and hitting a lot of forceful shots. Really, she was just tremendous today. I think that it wasn't like a lot between us. But just on some of those points, she was getting some that I couldn't get. I just have get down in there and fight. That's my best answer. For her, it's all or nothing. For me, it's not this."

Venus has a lot of work to do in the next six weeks and when she lands in Palo Alto in three weeks time, she'll need to start firming up the areas in her game that have gone array but most importantly (as she has always said), she needs to go for her shots. Courage is called for. Because if she doesn't, you can pencil Serena in for her second U./S Open trophy nine Saturdays from now.

Volcana
Jul 8th, 2002, 06:40 PM
I like this article, among other things, because it isn't written from the 'sister' angle, but rather from the 'tennis player' angle.

eshell
Jul 8th, 2002, 06:43 PM
Wow! Interesting post. Thanks. :)

VSFan1 aka Joshua L.
Jul 8th, 2002, 06:46 PM
Matthew Cronin is a good writer...he's one of the few we good ones we got.

TSequoia01
Jul 8th, 2002, 06:47 PM
I think the author exaggerates abit Venus' demise. She will be back with a vengance. :cool:

Brian Stewart
Jul 8th, 2002, 07:11 PM
I echo Volcana's sentiments about the angle. Instead of examining the psychology of the family dynamics, it treats them as 2 different tennis players who are playing against each other, and analyzes their games accordingly.