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pov
Sep 8th, 2012, 12:06 PM
http://www.tennis.com/news/2012/09/game-her-dreams/39336/

Game of Her Dreams
Steve Tignor Sept 08, 2012


NEW YORK—The consensus after Serena Williams’s 6-1, 6-2 win over Sara Errani in their U.S. Open semifinal on Friday afternoon wasn’t that the Italian had been routinely thrashed, or that she had played poorly, or that her tactics hadn’t worked, or that she hadn’t belonged on the same court with Serena in the first place. No, the talk among much of the sport’s cognoscenti was about how well Errani had done. Many informed observers were surprised that she had been able to wrest three games away from Williams and keep herself alive for more than an hour (Errani lasted for 64 minutes, to be exact).

This is where we are with Serena Williams at the moment. She wins a Grand Slam semifinal 1 and 2 and people are praising her opponent for making it that tough on her. What’s next? Giving the women she faces a two-game head start in each set?

I had thought that her decimation of the field at the Olympics might have been a special case, the product of a once-every-four-years focus. So far, though, Williams has been just as sharp and untouchable here. She lost 17 games in six matches in London; she’s given up 19 in six matches in New York. If anything, this has been an even more impressive performance, because she’s done it without the specific, extra-fierce intensity that she carried with her at the Olympics. At the Open, she’s just been better than everyone else.

Why? Why is she playing her best, cleanest, most consistent tennis now, 14 years into her career, at age 30? After doing it her way and her way only for so long, Williams has gone a little more mainstream in 2012. She’s working with a veteran coach, Patrice Mouratoglou, and has switched to a trendy set of hybrid strings. Serena and Venus were famous when they were younger for playing with racquets that were considered far too powerful for any pro to use. A decade ago, they told Wilson, their racquet-makers, to give them the most powerful frames they could make, and that they’d find a way to control the ball with them. Maybe a more conventional approach has helped her control the ball a little bit better.

I can remember a press conference at the Open years ago when Serena asked the media, “Can you imagine if I didn’t make so many errors, you guys?” She smiled at the thought of how good she could be, but it sounded like a dream—it seemed that her game would always be to hit big and accept the mistakes that came with that style. Now, though, the mistakes aren’t coming. At the Olympics and so far the Open, she’s turned herself into the player she imagined that she could be.

It’s no surprise that steadiness has been her watchword of late. In general, she has been patient. “I definitely played better today,” Williams said of her semifinal. “I played better than my other matches.

Asked what was better, she said, “I was more consistent. I did make some errors, but I was more consistent than I was in the past.”

Of course, consistency was not the biggest difference between Williams and Errani: shotmaking and power were. Serena hit a mind-boggling 32 more winners than the Italian (38 to six), against just 21 unforced errors. She also hit nine aces and didn’t allow Errani a break point. The match was won largely in the first two shots of the rally. The 5-foot-5 Errani couldn’t handle Serena’s serve, either the flat one or the slider; she didn’t have the reach to catch up to the latter. At the same time, Errani’s own serve sat up slow and short in Williams’s strike zone. A recipe for a blowout all around. Errani’s explanation of her tactics pointed up the comic futility of this match for her:

“I just try,” she said. “I just try everything I could. I just try first set to be a bit more on the defense, to receive the ball a bit more far away, and play her high balls and try to make that game. Then was not so good, so I changed and try to be a bit more aggressive.

“In any case," she concluded, "it was very difficult.”

Difficult indeed. Maybe the pundits were right to praise Errani—looking at what I just wrote above, it does seem amazing that she carved out three games. As for Serena, she moves on with rightful confidence. She called her opponent in the final, Victoria Azarenka, the most consistent player this year. But Serena made sure to mention that, “I always believe I’m the best obviously.” Williams has beaten Vika in straight sets three times in 2012, and is 9-1 in their career head to head. Though a few of their recent matches, including one at the Open last year, have featured very competitive tennis and tiebreak sets.

Serena claims she feels “more experienced” after losing to Sam Stosur in last year’s final. She said that after her late semifinal win in 2011 that she didn’t get to bed until 4:00 A.M. Unfortunately for Vika, Serena finished much earlier this time around. But Williams isn’t counting out any final-round craziness on Saturday. A reporter told her today, “For once nothing weird or distracting has happened here.”

“Hey, it’s not done yet,” Serena said with a smile. If she plays with the measured aggressiveness that she’s been using the last two weeks, it probably is.

pov
Sep 8th, 2012, 12:20 PM
Serena and Venus were famous when they were younger for playing with racquets that were considered far too powerful for any pro to use. A decade ago, they told Wilson, their racquet-makers, to give them the most powerful frames they could make, and that they’d find a way to control the ball with them.

:eek: That was something I hadn't heard before. Given the WS success I wonder if any other players have taken that approach. And it gives a new facet to why Venus Williams now, after a few rounds, starts having huge amounts of UEs. Given the muscle fatigue that comes with her health issue, controlling that extra power in the racket must be very difficult.

smarties
Sep 8th, 2012, 12:26 PM
http://i0.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/000/346/969638-cool_story__bro_super.jpg

Vespertine69
Sep 8th, 2012, 12:33 PM
Nice article - I did not know about the strings thing either. Very interesting!

pov
Sep 8th, 2012, 03:26 PM
^ Yeah, it doesn't seem to be mentioned much.

Ntosake
Sep 8th, 2012, 04:52 PM
Good read, thanks! Interesting stuff re the Wilson racquets.

tennisbum79
Sep 9th, 2012, 05:56 PM
this really shows the gulf between Serena and the rest of the WTA women.

Interesting...
Someone gets thrashed 1 & 2, and she is praised for not having been double bagled


This reminds of Ana I quote after losing to Serena in 2 sets. '"It is not like I was blown off the court by Serena..." when pressed by the press to explain where she thinks her game compared to Serena

Raiden
Sep 9th, 2012, 06:31 PM
And it gives a new facet to why Venus Williams now...I'm not convinced that Venus should follow this new Moratoglou-Serena recipe.

V's game is relatively more all court than her sister's... she needs not less but more accurate racquet that's better suited to her volleys and what-not.

RVD
Sep 9th, 2012, 06:54 PM
Definitely an informative article.
Good find pov.

It's telling that as far back as a decade ago (at the height of when people were saying Venus and Serena didn't care about Tennis...) they were already pursuing the equipment suited to their game: A decade ago, they told Wilson, their racquet-makers, to give them the most powerful frames they could make, and that they’d find a way to control the ball with them.
I would give anything to have seen Venus's growth at this point, had she not been stricken with her illness.
That would have been magnificent to see---two sisters battling at peak historic tennis level. :cool:

pov
Sep 9th, 2012, 07:04 PM
D
I would give anything to have seen Venus's growth at this point, had she not been stricken with her illness.
That would have been cool to see. Of course we'd be taking it for granted.