Originally Posted by Chrissie-fan
I think that Serena's level at the Olympics was the most impressive I've ever seen by anyone. Perhaps that Graf, Evert, Navratilova, Court or one of the other oldies have ever done anything comparable in the days of old, but I can't remember anyone in recent history ever being so much better than the competition as Serena was at the Olympics.
I just don't see it
I rewatched the Olympics final the other day, and I really tried to watch it as unbiasedly as I could, and although Serena served extremely well (though, her first-serve % and service speeds were pretty close today to the OG, they just got less reward on slower surface...the only big difference in her serving today was a few more doublefaults), but off the ground I just didn't see the calibre of shotmaking that there was from Serena today. There just weren't that many "WOW!" shots from her in that Olympics match imo (and again, I'm not saying she didn't "deserve" it, she can only beat who's in front of her and it's not her fault that Maria was terrible that day and didn't make Serena play well), whereas there were 3 WOW shots from Serena in just the last game of today's match alone
Originally Posted by tejmeglekvár
Of course its not the serve. It wasnt an issue all year, no matter how many times people bring up the number of DFs and such. And even if she would have better, Serena would punish it the same way.
Her serve is improving every year since 2009. there wont be drastic changes next year, but it will be better again. And thats enough.
there was two really apparent issue with her game this week and all year.
- Return of serve. This final was a joke, she looked like soem junior scrub guessing and jumping in one direction even before Serena's balltoss. She is #2 or something, what the fuck is this? ... And even when she doesnt play against a big server, she plays a full set with Radwanska without even reaching Deuce in any receiving games. Its a joke.
- Netplay. How many times she forced her opponents out wide and they hit a floating slice she could've finish at the net but she did nothign just backpedaling behind baseline and hit another useless groundstroke? Infuriating. She is enough fast to get to the net with 3-4 steps from good position, and even if she'll dump a few volley/drive-volley into the net, it would help much more to build authority on the court. She has to bring back some netplay into her game to shorten points and games, she cant keep up baseline grinding constantly.
Agree completely, I mean how many defeats in big matches this year can we attribute to Maria's serve falling apart? The Olympics final she threw in a lot of DFs at crucial times, but in her beatdowns against Vika and Madrid against Serena, it was more her groundgame malfunctioning than her serve.
I agree with you that her return and netplay (or atleast, mid-court game) should be her big focus this offseason. Her footwork on the return is just so much worse this year than it was in 2011 -- so many times when she's receiving mediocre/slow serves, she just sort of stands there and waits for the serves to come to her (and it's really not a case of her just being too ambitious on the return, because most of her misses on 2nd-serve returns are just total mis-hits without much pace on them anyway) whereas her trademark in 2011 was that, when she got a serve in her strike zone, she'd really eat it up and run into the return and have forward momentum. And as you say, she really needs to work on her swing volleys -- this area of her game was atleast better this year than it was in 2011, but she really needs to bring them back up to her 2006 standard - she's NEVER been the type of ballbasher who wins her points with just 1 massive shot, even in her prime she won her points in slightly longer rallies than the average ballbasher, so for that type of game you absolutely NEED to be clinical with putaways.
Also, I'm gonna have to come back to this, but I still think maybe a few chats with a sports psychologist would do her good. Even today, even though she was VERY mentally tough in some ways -- fighting almost as hard as she's ever done and being too stubborn to let the match descend into a beatdown -- I still felt like she wasn't hitting as freely from the back of the court as she was on Saturday. Her crosscourt backhand was scoring huge points when she was really going for it, but she did miss a few crucial opportunities where there she got a shortball from Serena where she could've smoked a shot off that wing (including that crucial deuce point in the penultimate game with Serena serving). I dunno, to me the fact she still wasn't completely relaxed and free says to me she still felt pressured, when there was really no reason to be so when she was a huge underdog.
Anyway, I guess the most positive thing is that, even after holding an on-fire Serena to a respectable scoreline, we can see there were a fair few things she was capable of doing better.
Atleast she's FINALLY moving in the right direction in this match-up... be thankful for small mercies I guess