Thursday, 2 July 2009


In my unhappy place again :(

Just like I was when Venus went out at RG.

The Russian headline, in case you're wondering, is the celebratory scream you usually hear from Dementieva or Safina after reeling off a winner.

It means Excellent! or Splendid! Though I'm sure rather a lot of it's earthiness is lost in translation.

Initially chosen when Elena looked to be coming through, but rather how I feel about the match
both women gave us.

I'm normally a
big Serena fan (except when the sisters go at it against one another, when I support Venus).

But like Tommy Haas in the Mens draw, I don't think I've backed another player so wildly in recent years, as I did Dementieva today.

"Yeah. Me too Elena."
(Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Pool/Getty Images)

Don't accuse me of being fickle, I've
always been in love with Elena'a groundstrokes - I don't see how anyone could not be.

Is there
anyone else in the women's game that takes the ball as early, is so consistent off of both wings, or hits the ball as flatly as she does?

Not to mention her speed around the court and her Daveed-Ferrer like levels of fitness. Without wishing to get drawn into the whole 5 sets debate, Elena tops my list of female tennis players whom I believe could go five sets.

Azarenka may have something resembling her consistency and aggression, but it's still a long shot.

But then there was the serve....there was
always the serve.

The sight of her fearfully feeding a powder puff of a 2nd serve over the net (or in most cases
into the net) is one of the more painful images that has become part of my tennis landscape.

And once the serve went, the rest of her game usually broke down, fast.

But you don't make
3 quarters, 6 semis and 2 finals at the Slam level by accident. Davydenko like numbers. Not to mention the Olympic Gold Medal last year, and the Silver Medal in 2000. (Isn't it funny how people preface a comment with "not to mention", and then go on to rather pointedly mention whatever it was that they were supposedly trying not to mention?)

And that alone made me feel justified in thinking that the best was yet to come from Elena.

The other thing of course is she missed out on the All-Russian Grand Slam Tea Party of 2004. Actually it was probably more of a Vodka fest. Making two finals that year, but going out in each instance to one of her compatriots. The magnitude of her choke at RG in particular was only marginally surpassed by what transpired between Coria and Gaudio in the mens final.

So there's other more sentimental reasons that played into my decision to root for her, much as they did with Amelie.

But I wasn't about to let romanticism get the better of my ability to reason clearly here. Abilities that were already being taxed by what I was seeing from Tommy Haas.

I've already noted how I thought Serena was looking the stronger of the the two sisters this year, comprehensively putting paid to the Azarenka threat in the last round. Far and away the strongest contender for the title.

And Elena's serve, though much improved, was still not what I would describe as a weapon.

So I'm guessing that most people like me thought it would be about as competitive, if not more, as most their previous matches have been. 5-4 in Serena's favour is not after all what you'd describe as a dominating H2H. Especially when you consider that Dementieva has won four out of their last five matches. The bulk of Serena's wins date back to 2004.

But Elena served well today.
Very well in fact. And within the first few games, we were made aware that if Elena lost this match it wasn't going to be down to anything as trivial as the service yips.

But the story of her rehabbed serve is about so much more than simply not serving double faults.

It was about serving second serve aces. At which point I really did almost fall off my stool.

And at one point, in the second set I think, she took her un-Elena-like serving to another level by serving her way out of trouble from 0-40 down.
That's not meant to happen.

Q. Could you tell us a little bit about how you rehabilitated the serve.

ELENA DEMENTIEVA: It's a long process. I cannot tell in a few words right now (smiling).

No, I'd like to know. Seriously.

What is it that's changed, that's enabled her to get over what was seemingly beyond her grasp these many years?

What is it that's enabled her to post service numbers, that at one point in the second set had both her first and second serve percentages at above 70% (finishing up with 67 and 62 percent respectively ain't bad either)?

There seems to be more people in her camp, more than just her mum thankfully, and that must in part be responsible. At least one of them is a hitting partner I understand.

But a problem like the service yips is at least as much mental as it is physical. And usually more so. So I wouldn't be surprised if a sports psychologist has been consulted.

Whatever it was, it allowed her to play what she thinks is the match of her life on grass, and her best performance against Serena. Right on both counts I think.

Q. Do you think this is the best match ever you have played on grass?

ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Yeah, definitely, I think that was the best match on grass court. And that was the best match we ever played against each other. It was a real fight from the beginning till the end. You know, I just feel like, you know, finally I played some good tennis here.

I was frankly, quite devastated when she got broken in the second set, as I thought she was so much more likely of winning it in two while she had Serena on the ropes, rather than allowing it to go to three, where the Grand Slam Demon that is Serena Williams would be unleashed and be flowing more freely. But there's little doubt that the match deserved a third set.

And yes she
did have Serena on the back foot for at least two-thirds of the match.

The most revealing point of the match for me, which showed how much she's added to her game since last year was her return of serve.

She'd been reading Serena's serve rather well since the very beginning of the match. It's how she was able to entangle her into so many of those rallies.

But when Serena saw a serve she'd belted down the T at around 120mph come hurtling back at her and land on the baseline right at her feet, she must, for maybe only a few moments, have thought it might just be Elena's day today.

I don't want to spoil the experience by over analysing what was the best Wimbledon Womens
Semi Final I ever remember watching.

Perhaps befittingly it also turned out to be the
longest Wimbledon Womens Semi Final of the Open Era, clocking up 2 hours and 49 minutes.

Everything could have been so different had Elena elected to go down the line.

Q. I don't know if you discussed the match point, but were you thinking about going down the line on the passing shot?

ELENA DEMENTIEVA: You know, I'm disappointed with the shot because I'm very surprised I didn't go down the line. Because, I mean, passing shot, this is my favorite shot to make. And, I mean, maybe it was too quick, so I didn't see she was moving to cover cross‑court, you know.

She was very close to the net. I mean, down the line or even lob would work. But, I mean, it's a game, you know. It was too quick.


Q. If there was one thing you could go back and change in today's semi, what would that one thing be?

ELENA DEMENTIEVA: I don't like to go back, you know. But, just like I said, I should go down the line on the match point.

And yet she lost :(

I'm not foolish. I know that even had she won this match, she'd
still have to get past the other sister, who made rather short work of poor ol' Dinara Safina today. Also the sister she has a rather more poor 2-8 H2H against, her last win against Venus coming back in 2004.

But the reason I feel for her is there simply aren't that many years left. Were she to ever even make the semis again, there's no guarantee she'd be playing as well she was this year.

That uncertainty probably means she isn't the player that either of the Williamses are.

I don't care.

I'm not about to change my opinion that she's deserving of at least one Slam in her career.

With that in mind, and I know I said I'd reserve it for Tommy Haas, but I think Elena's performance today warrants my exhibiting Little Miss Weepy-Face once again. Tommy's outdone himself at this event, whatever tomorrow's result.

Bravo Elena, on one of the best performances of your career.

Good Show! Excellent!

There she is. For one more day. Standing room only.


This incidentally, is what happened in the other semi final.

Whatever. I think the media's already done an excellent job of beating up on Dinara.

She'd do well to reflect on the fact that getting to the semis on her worst surface, after last year's poor showing here wins her shed loads of ranking points.

that really is the only positive.
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