Clijsters out- Thought by Venus
Clijsters Out-Thought by Venus
Thursday, July 3, 2003
There is a myth in professional sport, the myth of the intelligent player. The thinking man's player is supposed to be a good thing, a great thing, a marvellous thing. But it is not true. The last thing any player needs to do is think. Give a sportsman enough time to think and he - or she - has enough time to worry. To consider the options. To panic. Which brings us neatly to Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters.
Their semi-final match was decided on a rain delay, 54 minutes in which Clijsters had the time ponder her chances of a place in the final and Williams had just enough time to stop thinking of her injured stomach muscle.
For a set Clijsters had been in control and Williams had been at a loss. The injury hurt, she could not serve and she panicked. As Williams dug herself into a deeper and deeper hole, her Belgian rival was thumping the ball, hitting the lines and proving just why she is within striking distance of the No1 ranking spot. And then it rained.
When they came back to work Clijsters unravelled and Williams went from strength to strength. It was that simple.
"After that rain break she came back stronger," Clijsters said. "Even with that stomach strain, she was still serving pretty hard, she was hitting her shots very hard. I don't even know when it [the injury] happened. I asked her and she said it was in the beginning of the first set. She wasn't serving as fast in that set but I don't know what happened in the rain break because she was serving really hard after that.
"In the rallies she hardly missed anything. We had some amazing backhand rallies out there. She was just dictating. She wasn't missing the returns like she was in the beginning. Against any other player, even Serena, a lot of my shots would not have come back."
And there you have it. Being the sort of lass that she is, Clijsters took the defeat well and was, all things considered, remarkably cheerful. "I felt like I played a great match and the rallies were unbelievable," she
said. "It was great just to be apart of it. Even though the third set was 6-1, it could have been a lot closer."
Had it not been for the rain, it would not have been close at all. As soon as Williams felt the injury flare up, her mind started racing. Unable to think about anything other than the pain in her side, she was incapable of dealing with the match in front of her. The break, though, gave her a chance to talk to her nearest and dearest. Her sister, Serena, popped into the locker room for a brief chat, Venus sought out her mother and her older sisters for advice.
"I couldn't calm myself down," she said. "The rain saved me. I talked to my mom and she just told me to pray. After about half an hour I could calm down and then I gritted my teeth and here I am."
Relieved of the burden of thought, Williams was free to play. Gripped by the thought of victory, Clijsters was tied up in knots.
So the moral of the story, gentle reader, is work hard, practise well and whatever you do, never think about what you are trying to do. Not if you want to win Wimbledon, at any rate.
Written by Alix Ramsay
© Getty Images
© Getty Images
© Getty Images
Venus Clips Clijsters' Wings