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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dementieva destroys Schiavone

Photo Titled Francesca Schiavone
Francesca Schiavone during her quarter-final defeat by Elena Dementieva.

Another year, another semi-final – Elena Dementieva is beginning to make a habit of appearing in the last four at Wimbledon. Given that she used to regard grass courts with suspicion, this is not a bad effort.

The Russian eased into her appointed place – she is the fourth seed, after all – with a 66-minute rout of Francesca Schiavone 6-2, 6-2.

It puts Dementieva through to her sixth Grand Slam semi-final and also flags up a rather frustrating statistic for her. This is her 43rd appearance at a major tournament and, despite reaching two finals – the US and French Opens in 2004 – she has never come home with the trophy. Now she is in danger of breaking Jana Novotna’s unwanted record – the Czech won Wimbledon at her 45th challenge at a Grand Slam tournament. No one Grand Slam champion has ever had to wait as long for their first title.

Certainly getting to the last four seemed simple enough. Dementieva has yet to drop a set as she has tripped lightly through the draw. No one has managed to stretch her, much less threaten her so far. Schiavone, then, never really had much of a chance.

At the age of 29, Schiavone is what you might call a veteran campaigner. She has been living out of a suitcase for the past 12 years, travelling the world in pursuit of titles and ranking points. So far it has brought her nearly $4million in prize money but only the one, solitary title won back in 2007.

Where Schiavone shines is in a team environment and as the linchpin of the Italian Fed Cup team. Her fighting spirit and simple refusal to give up on any cause, however forlorn, has helped her lead her country to three finals in four years. This year, she is gearing her season to be ready for the final in November – and that makes losing a Grand Slam quarter-final a little easier to bear.

Schiavone has been coming to Wimbledon for nine years but, until now, had never got beyond the third round – and even then, she only got that far once. This year, though, she finally seems to have got the hang of this grass court mularky and reached the semi-finals in ‘S-Hertogenbosch. It was enough to give her confidence but not enough to trouble Dementieva.

As the Russian moved swiftly to a 5-0 lead, the wheels fell off Schiavone’s game plan. Dementieva simply hit the ball harder, cleaner and more consistently than Schiavone.

It took the Italian 24 minutes to win her first game – an achievement that brought a ripple of relieved applause from the crowd. But from that starting point, she could never really work up any head of steam. If an opportunity presented itself, she failed to take it and on the rare occasion that she did capitalise, she could not hang on to her advantage.

Dementieva finally put her foot on the gas as she broke for a 3-1 lead in the second set. Until that point, Schiavone had tried gamely to stay with Dementieva on the Russian’s service games in that set, and she had held her own serve with relative ease. But that was as far as she got

Even Dementieva’s nine double faults did not give the Italian enough of a toehold from which to launch a serious assault on her rival. She did hold eight break points on the Russian’s serve but, converting only one of them, she could never catch Dementieva on her march through to the semi-final.

Court 1 - Ladies' Singles - Quarterfinals
Francesca Schiavone ITA
Elena Dementieva RUS (4)Winner66

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