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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Venus in a different orbit

Photo Titled Venus Williams
Venus Williams
After the supreme excitement of Serena Williams's three-set victory over Elena Dementieva in the opening semi-final on Centre Court, the match that followed was always likely to be an anti-climax. But what occurred was the equivalent of descending from the top floor of a skyscraper to the basement as the older Williams, defending champion Venus, destroyed Dinara Safina of Russia 6-1, 6-0 in 51 minutes.
Safina, it should be remembered is the world number one and even after this deep embarrassment she will remain number one - for the time being at any rate. That she was totally outclassed is evident from the scoreline, but the reason is less easy to arrive at.
Was the 23-year-old Russian, already financially secure enough to base herself in Monte Carlo, the victim of nerves? The more obvious explanation is that she was never permitted a look-in by perhaps the most experienced and battle-hardened grasscourt exponent in the game.
The match was also devoid of atmosphere, since half the Centre Court's 14,000 spectators had opted to stretch their legs or head for the refreshment areas after the best part of three hours watching the first semi-final. The first set was over in just 27 minutes, barely enough time for the resting spectators to have sipped their tea or Pimms. The slow drinkers and eaters would have missed most of the second set.
The first set offered little in terms of excitement. Instead it was a show of authority from Venus, which propelled Safina along the slippery slope to expulsion. When, at 0-5, the Russian finally managed to cling on to her serve, there was the sort of sympathetic applause normally directed at a British qualifier going out tamely. Yet they were offering sympathy to the world's top-ranked woman.
It should have been the perfect occasion. The defending champion playing the world number one, Russia v the US, in a perfect setting on a perfect day. But nobody except Venus seemed very concerned.
As in all her matches this fortnight, Venus wore strapping on her left knee. She could have had both legs in plaster and still won. Everything was wrong about Safina, from the micro skirt and shirt that looked as if they had shrunk in the wash - exposing her midriff - to her badly-executed and overhit shots.
The applause, even for a popular champion, was merely polite and Venus' response was similarly muted. It had all been embarrassingly easy.

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