Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Melbourne: The Next Best 'Match of the Year'

Henin d. Dementieva 7-5 7-6 (6)

With every match Henin plays against a top player now a likely contender for the the ‘match of the year’, it’s only going to get more difficult to keep up.

When she plays as good as this I find myself wondering why she’s so set on fiddling with that serve of hers.

I’m still unsure of quite what she’s attempting with it, despite being assured by several reliable sources that that toss really is that little bit higher and that she’s going for a little more on that first serve.

There was some of that last night – there were also first serves being bunted over at little more than 80mph and second serve faults that nearly landed on Dementieva’s shoelaces.

I’d like to see Henin serve her way to a Wimbledon title, I really would – but I’m not in favour of anything that might dissuade her from pulling off wonders like this.

Despite the collective swooning over that Brisbane final – which really was a contrast to the last couple of years of mediocrity – I always thought the second half of it was a somewhat scrappy affair.

Henin’s serve was (and continues to be) a work in progress and both players were making shed loads of UFEs – something Clijsters herself would later admit to.

With last night’s match, Henin has surely put paid to any remaining doubts about her groundstrokes.

Playing the best returner and likely the best athlete in the women’s game, she was always going to be forced to play longer rallies than she might otherwise have got away with.

A call she answered by exhibiting a range not seen in the game since she played Sharapova in the finals of the SEC back in 2007.

Do we really need a souped-up serve to further complement the most complete game of the decade?

I can think of only three other players in tennis capable of pulling that shot off: two of them have won Slams, and the other is named Nikolay Davydenko.

It’s difficult to fault Elena very much.

Was it really the best match of the year-to-date?

It’s certainly her second best loss incurred in the last seven months.

Despite what I said earlier, it seems that it’s the field that’s set to be more adversely affected by Henin’s being unseeded – Elena can surely not remember a more demanding second round in her entire career.

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