Williams vs. Williams: Little Sis Takes All

Serena

After a bit of a hedonistic Friday night (interesting, I’ll leave it at that), I stayed in Saturday night. It may be more accurate to say I went into hibernation mode, as I slept from 6:30 pm right through 10:00 am on Sunday, not counting the few minutes I was awake around midnight, when I fumbled with the remote just long enough to see that the Wimbledon ladies’ final was already over before going back to sleep. I guess I needed it.

After I woke up, I was bummed that I missed the Williams vs. Williams Wimbledon showdown, but behold, there IS a God, as MBC/ESPN showed the match again this morning. I just finished watching it a few minutes ago.

From the get-go, I had picked Venus to win. My prediction grew even stronger before the final as I thought Serena would be too tired (more mentally than physically) after her war againt Elena Dementieva in the semis. Well, so much for my tennis predictions yet again (I’m still not giving up; Federer over Roddick in straight sets in the men’s final).

You’ve got to hand it to Serena. She’s an absolute tigress. She may be flailing, she may be making error after error, but when the stakes are down, she brings out her best. Win or lose, she wants to end the match on her own terms, not her opponent’s, meaning there’s none of the ‘Let’s hope my opponent makes an error’ attitude with Serena on big points.

In the first set of the final, I thought Venus was actually hitting the ball cleaner and more effectively than Serena (just like Elena did throughout the match). But it didn’t really matter, because Serena’s serve kept her hanging in time and time again (again, just like the semi). It was a set played on ATP terms, with everything decided on just a few points here and there, because both players were holding serve so well. By the way, I have to rant a little bit about the sexist ‘Oh, the women don’t deserve equal prize money because their matches are so more one-sided than the men’s’ argument. There’s a reason for that, and it has nothing to do with depth or women’s (lack of) mental strength. It’s all about the serve. Men serve harder and better (due to greater natural strength), and as such, breaks of serve become more rare, which makes the men’s scores naturally closer. Women are much less reliant on the serve, which means that the great majority of points gets decided by who’s hitting the ball better from the baseline. So if Player A is hitting better than Player B, then Player A is going to win the big majority of points, because Player B isn’t likely to have a big serve to keep things close. Look at the Federer-Karlovic match. Federer was on a completely different plane when it came to everything but the serve (strokes, speed, variety, whatever). Yet Federer was stretched to two tiebreakers to win (6-4,7-6,7-6). If Karlovic didn’t have his serve, then the match would have been every bit as one-sided as the whole Venus-Safina 6-1,6-0 debacle. Okay. Rant over.

It all came down to the tiebreaker, and you could see Serena set her flames to Extra-High, while Venus played on at the same level. That ability to fire herself up for important points is really what divided the two sisters in the match. Serena finished off the tiebreak with a gorgeous backhand topspin lob, and after that, she raced through the second set, never in doubt of anything, showing both her innate power and also her underrated variety. People see her huge putaway shots, but seem to overlook the angled shots she uses to set those up; Serena is also awfully smart at knowing when to hit behind her opponents. Her techinique is also not talked about nearly enough. Her shoulder turn on her backhand and her low knee bend are both textbook and big parts of why she can execute those huge shots under so much pressure. Serena’s one main weakness is her footwook, which can be awkward at times, but no one seemed to be able to withstand her power long enough to take advantage of it.

All in all, it wasn’t a great match (Serena was still patchy at times; Venus was just flat in the 2nd set), but even that was a testament to Serena. Like the champions before her (especially Steffi Graf), Serena gets the job done even when she’s not playing at her very best. She may be a self-described ‘brat,’ but she’s a lot more. She’s a champion brat, the most dangerous kind there is.

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