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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Venus destroys Safina in 51 minutes

Photo Titled Venus victorious
Venus Williams enjoys her semi-final triumph over world No.1 Dinara Safina.

A brilliant performance by the five-times champion Venus Williams finally exposed the grasscourt weakness of Dinara Safina today. Such is Williams’ utter dominance on this surface that the world number one went into the match as the clear underdog, and Venus made it horribly clear why.

Statistically, this was her easiest match of the tournament so far, as she swept aside Safina 6-1, 6-0 in 51 minutes to set up an all-Williams final against her younger sister Serena.

Safina, who had never even reached the second week of Wimbledon before, much less the semi-final, had a miserable time of it in the opening set. For one thing, if she was hoping the crowd would get behind her, she was faced with a Centre Court that was perhaps one tenth full. Understandably, there had been something of an exodus after the marathon previous semi-final.

But a greater concern for 23-year-old Safina was that the very first serve she faced in the match was a statement of intent by Williams, timed at 122mph. The game followed much the same pattern, with Venus brushing her aside to love. But much worse, she repeated the love scoreline when Safina came to serve. The Russian made a contribution with her 32nd double fault of the tournament, and Venus finished the job with a forehand pass.

In fact, 29-year-old Williams won the opening nine points of the match without reply, the last being a serve of 124mph to match the fastest serve of the tournament so far – which naturally belonged to her in any case.

Quite unexpectedly, a couple of Williams errors and a powerful Safina forehand brought up an opportunity to break back. But Safina let the chance pass with a forehand that was far too deep – although really she had no option but to go for the lines with every shot, which obviously left her far more exposed to the likelihood of error.

It seemed possible she would get on the scoreboard with her next service game, but from 40-15 it slipped through her hands and she was 0-4. Four points later it was 0-5 when Venus delivered her third love game of the match. Safina was berating herself, hammering the soles of her shoes with her racket. She put together a reasonable sequence finally to make it 1-5, but another huge serve brought up two set points for Venus, and she wasted no time in converting one. The set had taken her 27 minutes, with 10 winners to just one unforced error. It was stunning stuff.

If the first set was torture for Safina, the second was actually worse. It must have been little comfort that the overwhelming onslaught cannot have come as any huge surprise, so greatly were the odds stacked in Williams’ favour on this surface. But all tournament Safina has looked unconvincing, and it never seemed likely that she would overturn her unwanted statistic of being the world number one without having won a Grand Slam title.

Worse, if anything Williams was taking the assault up a notch. She was not only serving marvellously but producing formidable returns, playing consistently as if the heavy strapping on her left knee was not hindering her in the slightest. At times the ball was hit so hard that Safina simply could not get out of the way in time to produce any useful reply.

Safina shouted at herself to improve, but no progress materialised. She was 0-4 down in no time, with Venus in total control. Safina had no answer, and served another double fault to make it 0-5. The crowd had now returned to the Centre Court, but there was little left to see, and what there was made uncomfortable viewing, such was Safina’s misery. Williams made just one unforced error throughout the match to the Russian’s 16.

Rarely can a world number one have been so embarrassed. It was the eighth Wimbledon semi-final of her career for Venus, and her eighth win. She has now won 34 successive sets at Wimbledon. It will be an all-American celebration in the women’s final on Independence Day.

Centre Court - Ladies' Singles - Semifinals
Dinara Safina RUS (1)10
Venus Williams USA (3)Winner66

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