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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dementieva relishes Serena rematch

Photo Titled Elena Dementieva
Elena Dementieva
There are times when Grand Slam tournaments feel a bit like groundhog day. Didn’t we just do this semi-final thing? Didn’t Elena Dementieva just play Serena Williams in the last four of a major tournament?

The answer is, yes, we did. Dementieva and Williams have been chasing each other around the world for the past six years and, these days, they have a habit of bumping into each other at the sharp end of the tournaments that matter.

In Melbourne in January, it was Williams who won the semi-final battle. At the Beijing Olympics the previous year, it was Dementieva who won the quarter-final. On Thursday they will be at it again after Dementieva beat Francesca Schiavone 6-2, 6-2 to set up the appointment.

“I think it's always very interesting to play against someone like Serena,” Dementieva said. “She's a great champion, and it's going to be a good experience for me anyway. I just want to see how tough I can be out there against her. I’m just looking for a good fight.”

In the past, fighting on grass was not the Russian’s forte. Almost any other surface was preferable to the green stuff and when she first played Williams here in 2003, she was clobbered in straight sets. This time around, she thinks it will be a different match.

“It was a long time ago,” Dementieva said. “That was my first experience playing against her on grass on Centre Court. I feel like I had a good experience playing here in Wimbledon for so many years, and finally I can say that I like to play on grass. It's a big difference. And I think I improved as a player.”

Certainly she had improved enough to take care of anything Schiavone had to throw at her. The playing surface was irrelevant – it was simply a matter of a serial semi-finalist doing what was necessary to book her ticket to the penultimate round of the competition.

Last year, the Russian got to the semi-finals and was beaten by Venus Williams. This time, she will be hoping that while the situation is similar, the change in personnel will produce a better outcome.

“It was a great experience being in the semis last year,” she said. “But this time I'm going to play a different player and it's going to be all new. The most important thing for the next round will be to stay focused and to stay playing aggressive.”

For Schiavone, her first Wimbledon quarter-final had been a case of experience over age. She may be two years older than Dementieva but reaching the last eight here was new to her. So when she stepped out on to the huge No.1 Court, it must have been a lonely experience.

“You are small over there [on the court],” she said with a wry smile. “But I think it is experience. If you do this all the time you feel better, you know everything that's going on. So today was tough in this kind of thing, so I take this experience for me.

“I think is not easy to play always on the outside [courts]. It's not like Centre Court or Court No.1. I think I should play some more important matches on Centre Court or Court No.1. Today I couldn't play my best, but I can't say that was not good tournament, and I want to take these experiences for the next one.”

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