Elena – Serena – Two Champions – One Winner

03 Jul 2009 by Hiland in Wimbledon 2009
Elena Dementieva action during Wimbledon 2009

Elena Dementieva action during Wimbledon 2009

In a semifinal match that cannot be surpassed, two of the world’s three best women grass court players went head to head for nearly three tense, exciting hours. When two athletes like Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva rise to the moment, rise to the setting and perform at the highest level, everybody wins.

Serena Williams showed why she is the fiercest competitor on the tour and why she should be the game’s top ranked player. Elena Dementieva showed her full potential and clearly established herself on a par with the Williams sisters, something that no other professional tennis player has accomplished in many years.

Serena’s 6-7 (4), 7-5, 8-6 victory was a win for the ages, a credit to Elena Dementieva and an emotional ride for more than 15,000 Centre Court spectators. What Elena Dementieva has accomplished is a vastly improved serve, a superb forehand and the foot speed and grace it takes to win big matches. Elena Dementieva has not only developed the athleticism to play with the Williams sisters but the mindset to play on the big stage.

There is no bigger stage than Centre Court, Wimbledon. Steeped in glorious tradition, these wonderfully graceful and powerful athletes gave tennis fans a match to remember, a match to tell children about and a match that may create change in women’s tennis.

Elena Dementieva came from the locker room with purpose. She carried the play, challenging every Serena serve, every Serena outburst, every Serena drive. There was a feeling that it would not last. It has happened so many times before. When the key point, the key game was on the line, other players have succumbed to Serena Williams.

Serena Williams action during Wimbledon 2009

Serena Williams action during Wimbledon 2009

At 6-6 in the first set, that feeling of doubt was thick in the air. Suddenly Elena Dementieva blasted two returns and was pressuring Serena, who was committing uncommon strategic and errors and errors in execution. This just does not happen.

With two breaks of serve in the tiebreaker, Elena sat at set point at 6-3. She double faulted. Okay, she did not believe she could win. It was understandable. Elena dug deep inside herself, deep inside that new serve and fired a wide serve to Serena’s forehand. Surprised, Serena lunged and tried to go down the line. Wide! Game, set to Elena Dementieva. The match was on! We are going three today on Centre Court. You just knew it.

It was match on! What a set!

Serena Williams had a little conversation with herself. It was time. This is to be her tournament. She may not be the world’s top ranked player, but she is clearly the world’s best player. Serena Williams has not won 10 Grand Slam Championships by not rising to the occasion. Sometimes, she even needs to bring her game along for the ride. Serena Williams is that most dangerous combination of prizefighter and figure skater, very fluid with a real knockout punch.

If you drop your guard or look the other way, forget it. Serena will be in your face.

Elena Dementieva took one minute to savor her first set victory. Elena had blinked. Serena broke at game one second set. It took about as long as a Muhammad Ali knockout punch.

The crowd knew what would happen next. All the other players have done it. They sulk, get angry, express frustration. They know you cannot give Serena Williams breathing room. She is human, you know.

But, Elena Dementieva has won three of their last four meetings. Elena Dementieva is healthy, she puts her long legs to work and gets to balls other players simply stand and watch. After losing that first game of the second set, Serena held twice and Elena held twice.

With Serena serving at 2-3, Elena Dementieva unleashed a series of shots that had Serena shaking her head and looking to her corner for help. Like the champion she is, Serena came right back at the Russian pretty girl. At 30-40, Elena went down the line for an astonishing winner. This lady came to play. At deuce, she pitched an ace, her third of the match. Then another resounding serve to hold and go 4-3.

The crowd was into this match. It just does not get any better. You could sense that Elena was going to go for it. Elena was going to lay it out on the line and play for the break. It was in the air. At 5 foot 11 inches, Elena tends to look frail, but she is sturdy, composed and filled with game.

So, is Serena Williams. She might bend, but she does not break. And, Elena would not break her twice in a row. But, at 30-30, she doubled. Is it possible? You knew the match was on the line. Right now. Serena hit a shot that was called out, but which replay declared a winner. 40-40. That one hurt. Elena thought she had the game. She had spent the set, right? Wrong!

Elena now hits a backhand crosscourt, outright winner. Advantage Dementieva. Serena catches her breath and fires a huge wide serve. Deuce. Now, a long rally, and Elena comes up short. A big serve follows and Serena holds.

Now, Elena will fold like a tent. She put it all out there and came up short. Too bad. Wrong! She battles for a win, overcomes another double (they are starting to mount) and holds.

At 4-5, Serena does not play with this game. She serves out in love. 5-5. At game 11, Serena scorches four winners to break. She survives four ad out points before getting back to deuce and pitching two more aces to go up 7-5.

Does this ever have to end?

The ladies may have been tired. It was hard to tell. The women may have been nervous. It was hard to tell. This was about none of the above. This was simple. This match was now about who was the better player, who had the stronger will on this court at this moment. This was a beautiful heavyweight prizefight, with all the choreography of a Broadway show.

With Serena serving at 4-5 and ad out, it was match point. Inexplicably Serena found herself charging the net. Elena had an open court backhand. She elected to go crosscourt; the only place Serena could reach the ball. It was Elena’s biggest strategical error. Serena volleyed the ball. It clipped the net and staggered over to save the match, win the point.

Another big rally, Serena wins with a sterling crosscourt drive. Elena nets a return to go to 5-5. Both women hold to go 6-6. With the ad, Serena goes behind Elena for a winner.

Serving at 7-6, there was a feel of desperation. Even at 30-30, there was weight in the air. When Elena missed a down-the-line attempt, it all ended too quickly. Serena Williams won this elegant display. She deserved it. So did Elena Dementieva. What a contest!

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