victory for venus
What is it that I love about the Williams sisters? Both Williams are never dull to watch. Even when their play starts off inconsistent, both women are fighters and are able to battle back to reverse what often look like dire and unwinnable matches. And they've changed the game of women's tennis, putting more power and excitement into the game since they came on the scene in the late '90s. Both athletes were waylaid by injury in the last couple of years, only to return this year seemingly fiercer than ever.
As I sat watching Serena on July 4th get beaten by the #1 ranked Justine Henin in Wimbledon's quarter-finals, I despaired, fearing the Belgian would win the whole deal (I've already mentioned my loathing for her in a previous post). But then Henin was unexpectedly upset in the semis by Marion Bartoli (a 23-year-old French player) who wiped the court with her competitor after being down a set!
Aside: I can't fathom how these players can summon the will to maintain a high level of play when they're down a set (or two, in the case of the men, who play best of five sets, as opposed to best of three for the women). To come from behind like that -- especially against the #1 player on the women's circuit is incroyable! Mais, oui!
Anyhow, Venus, fought her way through some tight matches during the tournament's fortnight (facing match point in the first round and a close match in the third round along with rain delays). By the time she reached the finals, she had a pretty easy time with Bartoli. Venus blasted her serve and got to everything that Bartoli sent back to her. That girl can cover a lot of court with her 6'1" self. The women's final wasn't chock-a-block full of suspense (for that, you just needed to tune in Sunday to watch the stunner between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer), but I was a bit anxious for Venus at the outset having watched her play in a final at the Bank of the West Open a couple of years ago, when Venus was mentally checked out in the finals against Kim Clijsters. The latter handily won.
But this was different. This was Wimbledon, the Slam that the Williams sisters started tracking back during the reign of Pete Sampras. They love the place, and are great on its grass surface. It seems to bring out the best in them.
Still, I don't know that anyone could have predicted V. would win Wimbledon this year. Sure, she won back in 2005 against Lindsay Davenport -- that one was a tight three-set battle -- but this year's victory was even more of a shocker. since she hadn't been playing that much in 2006 and came into the tournament ceded 23. (She is the lowest cede ever to win the women's title.)
So, how about this for confidence and resolve? Back in January, Venus text-messaged NBC commentator Mary Carillo and their mutual friend Renee Stubbs that she was going to win the big W. Sheer bravado? Apparently not.