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Friday, July 3, 2009

Venus is from another planet

The Championships - Wimbledon 2009 Day Ten On one side the power and the glory. On the other utter humiliation.

Rarely can a Wimbledon semi-final have illustrated those two contrasting emotions so starkly as Venus Williams' 6-1 6-0 demolition of Russia's Dinara Safina.

It lasted 51 minutes, the second shortest women's semi-final in the open era.

And when the horror show was over for the 23-year-old Russian and Venus was through to her eighth Wimbledon singles final, the fourth against sister Serena, there was one obvious, if bewildering, question hanging in the air over SW19.

How can the world number one be so devastatingly eclipsed in a grand slam semi-final by the number three seed?

Two reasons.

First, Venus has taken power and precision to a new level this Wimbledon, aided by the hot weather, the fast courts and a desire to lift the Venus Rosewater dish for the sixth time.

Second, the world rankings matter not a jot. They reward quantity over quality which allows Safina to trawl the world amassing a sackful of ranking points while the Williamses focus on grand slams.

At the last count they have 17 of those to their name with another to come on Sunday, while Safina has none, having lost in three finals.

Not that Venus was about to pile any more humiliation on the Russian.

"I respect Dinara Safina. I think women's tennis is fantastic," was all Venus would say to questions about the ranking system.

"The score showed my level of play. I was dictating on every point and there was a lot of pressure on her. I am really pleased with my form playing against the number one. My experience on grass helped me a lot.

"Dinara tried 100 per cent until the match was over. I didn't take anything for granted. She just tried for too much."

Safina, meanwhile, pointed out that she had been in the final of the other two grand slams this year, the French and Australian Opens, and admitted that she struggled on grass.

Safina said of her opponent: "She's too good on grass. It's not my favourite surface and it is her favourite.

"It was disappointing but I have to accept it. Reaching the semi this year means maybe I can change my mentality on grass and come back with more expectations. She gave me a pretty good lesson but it would be different on clay."

Perhaps, but Williams would never have gone down so abjectly on any surface. This semi-final was over almost as soon as it began, Venus winning the first nine points.

Safina knew her only chance was to trade fire with fire but her groundstrokes carried nowhere near the heat, nor accuracy, of her opponent while her serve was distinctly lukewarm by comparison.

One Williams ace in the third game clocked in at 124mph, the fastest serve so far in the women's tournament and one many of the men would have been delighted with.

The placement and spin were also superior which is why even Serena could struggle to live with her big sister if she takes her form this fortnight into Saturday's final.

Safina, by contrast, simply went into meltdown, not an unusual occurrence for members of the Safin family, and she won just eight points in the second set. Not so much a competitor as a spectator to Williams' superiority.

The final will be closer if only because as Venus pointed out: "We both play a similar game. We have the same teacher."

So how do they separate their relationship as sisters and as rivals?

"Well, it's real easy when you get a serve at about 127mph and it comes back as a winner," said Venus. "You soon realise you're playing against an awesome player and you really better get on your toes.

"I'm happy for her to be in the final and I don't necessarily want her to lose, but I want to win. I need to get my titles too and I'm the big sister."

Their head-to-head record is tied at 10-10 but in terms of Wimbledon, Venus is leading that particular tally by five titles to two.

The only thing for sure once more is that the power and the glory once more will be with the family Williams.

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