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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Match analysis: Ladies' semi-finals

Photo Titled Serena serve summary
Serena serve summary

In the rounds leading up to the semi-finals, Serena Williams hit an incredible 40 aces and only nine double faults. In contrast, Elena Dementieva hit 14 aces and 33 double faults. These statistics alone give us good insight into how each player has battled through each round of the tournament.

The American relies heavily on her serve and looks to be aggressive when she returns, whereas the Russian is happy to get the rallies going to make the most of her strong ground strokes.

Williams had to come from a set down against the powerful baseliner, and survive one match point, using up every last drop of energy she had on a hot and humid day to overcome the Russian in the longest semi-final match in Wimbledon history.

Williams is always prepared for the big occasion and despite losing three of her previous four encounters against Dementieva, she maintained her unbeaten record in Grand Slams against the Russian.
Dementieva has been playing the best tennis of her career and had the opportunity to end Serena’s seven match unbeaten run in Grand Slam semi-finals.

The Russian won the first set in a tiebreak, relying on her powerful groundstrokes from behind the baseline, and looking to move up the court once she had Serena on the back foot. The fourth seed won one more point on her first serve than Serena, and hit three fewer unforced errors.

The second set went to Williams, who won three more points than Dementieva to force a deciding set.
But the match should have been over in the second set if you look at the Russian's stats. She returned unbelievably well, earning seven break points, of which she could convert just one. Of Serena’s four break point opportunities, she took two to take the set 7-5.

The final set was the longest and most exciting of the match and lasted 62 minutes. Dementieva got 71% of her first serves in play, mixed up her game by coming to the net more. She was the first to break serve and also earned herself a match point.

But what the statistics do not show is how she started to lose her grip on the match by getting overexcited and losing her focus towards the end of the match.
Serena started to swing the pendulum back in her favour by becoming more aggressive on her first serves, accepting the fact that she would miss more, but if successful would avoid the long rallies that favoured Dementieva.

The aggressive gameplan enabled the number two seed to play to her strengths as she was able to hit eight aces (the same number she hit in the second set), and win 22 out of 25 first service points, far more then in the previous set.

The American also came to the net more in the third set then in the first two combined, putting her doubles experience with sister Venus to good use. Of the 10 times she ventured in, she won seven times.
Overall Williams hit far more winners then Dementieva. The Russian hit nine in each sets, while Serena hit nine in the first set, 17 in the second and 19 in the third.

Keeping the points short with big first serves and returns followed by an early strike into the open spaces or back behind her opponent was Serena’s plan. Dementieva came within one point of the final by keeping the ball in play and driving Serena behind the baseline to stop her getting any power into her shots.

Venus Williams went into the other semi-final having never lost in the final four at Wimbledon. In contrast, her opponent, Dinara Safina, who won their last encounter on clay in Rome, had never been past the third round here before.

The eagerly awaited match turned out to be a one-sided contest lasting only 51 minutes, five minutes shorter then the average length of one of the sets in Serena’s semi-final victory. The 6-1, 6-0 scoreline against the current world number one demonstrated just how good the five-time champion is at the All England Club.

Safina won 12 points in the first set and only eight in the second set, winning barely 30% of her first service points and 38% of her second serve points. Venus amazingly only hit one unforced error throughout the match, winning 80% of the points on her first serve and 77% on her second. The match consisted of 74 points, 163 fewer than Serena had to play in her semi-final.

This match was by far Venus’s best Wimbledon performance as she used her height, reach, speed and power against the No.1 seed to edge closer to the possibility of three consecutive Wimbledon titles.

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