the legend

joyful rogger fedder

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Preview: S. Williams v Dementieva

Photo Titled Serena smiles
Serena Williams smiles after her quarter-final victory over Victoria Azarenka.

However much the Williams sisters try to distance themselves from the theory, popular wisdom has it that Venus and Serena have been the locked-on favourites to reach the final from the moment the draw was made in SW19. Both are former world number ones, both are former champions and both, when they are fit and focused, are fearsome competitors.

Now both sisters stand one match away from the family reunion. To make her date with her big sis, Serena must beat Elena Dementieva, a feat she has achieved five times in eight meetings over the years. And given her current form – improving round by round and yet to drop a set – all indications are that she is ready to do it again.

Only Neuza Silva has managed to come close to stretching Williams and, even then, she could only do it for one set. But that was in the first round when Williams was not at her best – and nor did she expect to be; she was planning to hit her peak in the middle of the second week.

Williams has the great advantage of knowing just how the business of winning major titles feels. Yes, there are nerves, but there is also the knowledge that she has done this 10 times before – and twice at Wimbledon. That can settle even the most jittery butterfly in the old tum.

“I've played her a lot the past 12 months, so I definitely know Elena's game,” Williams said. “She gets a lot of balls back, and she's a power player. It will be a really good match-up to me. She's playing really well on the grass. She hasn't been stretched too much in any of her matches either, so she's kind of like going undercover, you know, and bam.”

Dementieva is hoping that she finds the “bam” in her game to give her old rival the run around. Of her three career wins over Williams, two came last year on hard courts as she moved towards the greatest moment of her sporting life so far – Dementieva won Olympic gold for Russia. Since they hung the medal around her neck, she has never been the same.

“I think last season winning the Olympic gold medal was a really big moment for me,” she said, “and gave me a lot of confidence. So I'm just trying to keep this confidence for my career.”

She has also developed a new tactic when facing the biggest and the best on the show courts: concentrate on what you can do and leave your opponent to worry about her own game. So far, the strategy has worked like a dream and Dementieva, too, has barely broken a bead of perspiration on her way to the semi-finals.

“I just trying to play very aggressive and trying not to think a lot about what I have to do against this player or that player, just trying to focus on my game,” she said. “I know it surprised a lot of people that I'm still working hard and trying to improve my game. But this is what is so interesting for me about tennis, that I'm still trying to learn a lot about my game. And I feel very open to change something in my game.”

The two women know each other’s games so well that there is little need to do much by way of homework before the match. In fact, the only tactical preparation Williams was planning was to look up her first ever match with Dementieva on YouTube. That match was played here back in 2003 and she can barely remember a thing about it. All she does know is that she has improved with age.

“I think I'm a better player now,” she said. “I was young, and I feel like I knew I could improve. I definitely think I'm a better player now.”

That will not help Dementieva sleep easy on the eve of the semi-final. She lost that match 6-2, 6-2. And that was before Williams improved.

No comments:

Post a Comment