Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Order Restored: Serena Slams Justine

It was a good old-fashioned mugging. Defending champion Serena Williams jumped world No. 1 and last year's runner-up Justine Henin and never let her get up. The champion surrendered a mere two games, ushered her nemesis out of the tournament with a hot steamy bagel, and held her arms aloft. It was the kind of performance that elicits applause from Serena's biggest fans and strongest critics alike.

I need to watch it again so I can see more clearly what happened. It was all a blur. More later after the day's play is complete.


So I watched the Serena/Justine quarterfinal again, but before I go there, can someone tell me how the hell tennis can regain any popularity in this country if the fifth Slam isn't televised? We've got Tennis Channel, but it has shown one live match so far. We've got Fox/Comcast sports, but it only shows a live match or two a day, if that. We've got ESPN, but it only shows tape delayed matches. If you can't afford to buy ATP Masters Series TV or don't have a bandwidth big enough to watch some of the matches on free Internet live feed, you don't get to see most of this event.

But anyway.

Serena won so comprehensively because her return of serve was lethal. In her previous three losses, for all sorts of reasons, she never got her return game going. But not yesterday. Justine's serve has always been overrated by my observation and most of her opponents refuse to camp out on the T and take Justine's favorite serve away from her. The thing is, Justine doesn't have anywhere else to go. When under pressure, she's simply too short to serve out wide with any consistency.

Serena must've watched a few tapes of her losses and realized that she had forgotten all of this. If Serena is in control of her return game, she's unbeatable. Quiet as it's kept, her game is more centered around her return than her serve. Sure her serve remains the best on the tour, but in her quarterfinal, she didn't go for aces unless she had to. She simply used her first serve to set up the point and beat Justine from all parts of the court. Anyone who continues to believe that Serena is all power and no variety didn't see her slices, angles, lobs, serve-and-volleys, opportunistic net rushes, and counterpunching.

Signature Serena. That's what we saw. And if she continues with this form, the rest of 2008 will be very good to her.


Karen said...

I am at work and therefore was unable to see the match but from those who were on the ground and watching the match, it was a straightforward beat down - this was not a mugging - it was a "how dare you think you can take away my crown" - oh yeah baby its all gravy from here on in

b said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Hickman said...

b, it seems as though we both deleted one of your repeat posts. Sorry that I was so quick. Please re-post your thoughts.

rabbit said...

Congrats Serena! Some much needed good news :)

BeefingFraeulein said...

I haven't seen this 'Rena show up in a long time. I almost didn't recognize her. It's really really nice to see her though. She was a topspin lobbin', volleyin' fool out there today.

b said...

what happenned to my post? was a long one right after karen's it was a double post so i removed one and now i don't see either? anyone know?


b said...

ok i read your post
i had an almost double post that had a typo.... problem is that my computer crashed in between and i don't know that i can find it

at least i know what happenned

basically it was a long post but one of the things i noted was that the first set was not a beatdown or mugging - seeemed to be an extended dogfight..... 40 min for the first 6 games!

i'll repost the rest of my thoughts when i can piece them together... hopefully in time to find out what you guys think

Karen said...

hey b I hope you find it. What I have been doing is basically typing my posts in word format and saving them and then copy and paste because sometimes when you are typing your fingers miss and you delete your whole posts. Cannot tell you how frustrating it is especially when you have some nice interesting things to contribute to a discussion. Andy Roddick is playing well, constructing points even

oddman said...

Crap, and he just got broken.

Just wanted to comment on the very nice colors Serena is wearing. That soft lilac looks fantastic on her.
How about my Rafa? Into the quarters, to face the dreaded James Blake, again. Oh, I hope he can go after him like he did in IW and get another win. Blake is a very tough customer. Vamos, RAFA!

b said...

Like your analysis craig

please also comment on the following

why is that when serena (or venus) says something complimentary about her opponnent it's never mentioned

consider this very generous remark about justine

"Q. Justine said she was lacking courage today against you. What do you think it says about you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know what it says about me. I think she's a really courageous individual, and, you know, just all that she is accomplished is very courageous."

oddman said...

Yep, fifth slam indeed. Haven't seen anything on my TV but reruns of boring matches, cut off in the middle when the time is up. Terrible coverage. I refuse to spend MORE money on it. How in the hell do you promote this sport when you get friggin' darts and fishing on the telly? Poooh.
Oh, yeah, European football too. Ugh.

Vamos Rafa, you can do it!

MMT said...

I'd like to venture a guess as to why Serena's compliment towards Henin were not reported.

First, that is what is expected of professionals, so it's not newsworthy. If they do not, a point is made to report it.

Second, if Serena had said this after losing to Henin, it most definitely would have been reported. Particularly given her comments at the US Open last year.

It's easy to be gracious in victory, but harder in defeat. Before you judge the press, you may want to take a look at how Serena responds to losing to Henin the next time, and then judge if she's treated unfairly.

Savannah said...

For once I didn't want to strangle Gimelstob. His observations about Henin's game, it's strengths but more importantly it's weaknesses, were spot on. He talked about her height and how the taller and bigger players should not have such a hard time with her. The match was over early in the second set when Justine in frustration, just threw her hands. Not up. It's like she was throwing something down on the ground.

I think a lot of coaches will be reviewing the tape of that match. I also wonder if some strange viral infection will erupt and she'll leave the game for awhile coming back when THE big babe of tennis is not waiting for her across the net.

The match I saw yesterday - twice - is what I expected to see at the US Open last year and would have seen if Serena had not been playing injured.

Karen said...

mmt, as a fan of Serena I have to agree with your observations about the things that Serena had to say about Justine's game. I think a lot of the times when Serena behaves in what is called an uncomplimentary fashion towards her opponent after a loss is not that she is a sore loser but moreso because she knows that if she had not been making a lot of errors she would have won the match. Love her or hate her, but 99% of the time the match is on Serena's racquet. The girl is that good. I watched the match yesterday and all I could say is why does she not play like this all the time. When Serena is at her best, there really is no one on tour who can beat her.

Savannah said...

Gimelstob said that when Serena is healthy the match is on her racquet. When Serena says that she's being an awful person.

Ben said...

I said it on TAT and I'll say it here too--this was by far my favorite result of 2008 in tennis. Serena's win just brightened up my whole day in a way no other result has in a long, long time.

Now if she could do it again in Paris, I might just die.


rabbit said...

Craig, any thoughts on the rematch between Roger and Andy? I'm slightly nervous that Andy's increased confidence from beating Nadal and Djokovic in Dubai will push him through here and that Roger will again have a low energy day. Also, Roger has been looking slow in his movement consistently during the early rounds. Hoping of course, that just like in the US Open and Shanghai, he picks his level up against Roddick but very unsure as to what's actually going on...

But I think there will be some nice hitting going on whatever happens :)

Craig Hickman said...

rabbit, no need to be nervous.

We all know what's going to happen.

b said...

mmt - serena has said plenty of complimentary things in her losses as well - i guess i'll have to pull them up.... usually the press digs and floats whatever they think will maake her sound arrogant - even if it's something that other players say routinely (i.e. it was my errors)

one thing players often do not do is offer a compliment like that which is more about the opponents character

b said...

also if justine (or any other player) is going to be making a comment about how she didn't have courage to stand up to an opponnent - that's not the type of self-condemning comment that comes after a win

how would it happen that serena lost and justine gave a press conference that she didn't have courage in playing against her in her win - that sounds a lot worse than saying your game at 50%

it is rare that the winner would ever give the loser such opportunity to pay such a compliment