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tennisIlove09
Apr 10th, 2003, 09:57 PM
Dechy's consistency outlasts Mikaelian's early power game
By JAMES BECK
April 10 2003
The Post and Courier

The test of time is the true test of tennis, or of just about anything.

A player can look like a world-beater for a few shots, or even a few games. But it's all relative to the situation and opposition. The key is whether the player is playing at a sustainable level, regardless of the opposition.

Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian started off her match Wednesday against Nathalie Dechy pounding the ball as if she were Serena Williams, only a more consistent version. But Dechy was ready. She was able to get in front of most of the bombs, harnessing the power and regenerating it into her own shots.

Mikaelian kept hammering away with awesome precision and power. She lost that first game, but it appeared that it would only be a matter of time before the 19-year-old home run hitter would blow the veteran Dechy away. But Dechy is a fighter. The French woman wasn't about to let some little-known teenager humiliate her.

The second game was much like the first. Dechy got in front of bullet after bullet as Mikaelian continued swinging away until she would hit a winner or commit an error. Dechy won the second game, too. And then the third.

Things started getting much easier for Dechy after that. She no longer had to make a half-dozen incredible returns to win a point as Mikaelian steadily lost her steam and the match, 6-1, 6-4.

So much for Mikaelian's dream of dominance and of moving among the elite of women's tennis. It still may happen, but to this young Swiss player, that goal must be far more in the distance today. Yet, there's still next week, and with it, will come renewed hope.

MOMENTUM SHIFT

It's called a shift in momentum in team sports. It's taking a walk in tennis.

Iva Majoli took that walk Wednesday -- right out of the Family Circle Cup.

Majoli was playing so well that I was ready to proclaim her as a genuine contender to repeat as the Family Circle champion. She had won six straight games to finish off the first set and take a 2-0 lead in the second set against Elena Dementieva, who also was playing excellent tennis. Majoli was simply playing better, well enough to beat anyone.

But Majoli's biggest weakness has been that she hasn't always handled prosperity well. If she wins a few games in a row, you can count on a loose game or set lurking in the shadows. That's been the story of her career. Other than last year's Family Circle Cup and winning the 1997 French Open, Majoli generally hasn't lived up to her potential. She won only four of the last 17 games against Dementieva.

TODAY'S OUTLOOK

Dechy goes against Justine Henin-Hardenne. A masterful clay-court player, Dechy is fully capable of making it a long day for Henin-Hardenne, who wasn't overly impressive in a three-set opening victory over Tina Pisnik.

Dementieva is in a tough section of the draw. If she happens to upset Jelena Dokic today, Serena Williams probably will be waiting for her in the quarterfinals, with Lindsay Davenport awaiting the winner.

But, like Dokic, Dementieva appears to be in excellent physical condition. She moves well and plays the entire court superbly. She's hitting great ground strokes from both sides.

Her serve appears to be the only suspect part of her game. If her serve is working, Dementieva is capable of making a serious run at the title.

Davenport, with a day's rest, is moving and hitting too well to have much trouble with Clarisa Fernandez, although Fernandez is a solid clay-court player.

And no matter who Serena Williams plays, Conchita Martinez or Tathiana Garbin, the year's only unbeaten streak should remain intact rather easily. Serena's real tournament won't start until the quarterfinals.

jmp
Apr 10th, 2003, 10:35 PM
Thanks for the informative article.