For my part, I thought the way Li Na played the final was a mirror of the way she played her semi final versus Caro….but just like the mirror everything appeared inverted.
She started off rip-roaring well and seemed to be up a set before my eyes had adjusted to the morning light (8am on a Sat morning…a little understanding, please) – not that different to the way she closed out Caro.
Kim, all the while, seemed thrown off, jittery, confused.
And then midway through the second set – just two or three games away from the biggest win of her life and actually making history – Li started to give way. Not all at once, but with subtlety, piece by piece, layer by layer, it all unravelled leaving a completely different flavour of match.
Most of the dysfunction began with her volleying – or to be clear her drive-volleying.
To be fair, I actually think Li volleys, not completely adeptly, but well enough. And she’s at her best when she doesn’t think. She said so herself. That probably flies in the face of convention – but it seems to work for her.
Which makes it all the more surprising, that she seemed almost to be overthinking some of those drive-volleys: it got to the point where you’d find yourself pleading for her to put away a conventional volley badly, rather than her preferred drive-volley right back in the path of Kim who didn’t need a second invite.
No secret it’s not the result I was looking for (certainly not the bigger story), but is on some level at least, the right result.
Kim came into the event being touted the favourite (rightly). And once it all began, was, like Djokovic, the best player in the draw.
Within minutes of her win, there was talk of her already being halfway to a Rafa-Slam (far be it for them to be dissuaded by inconvenient facts like that not actually having happened yet) – talk which I’m finding all rather difficult.
Leaving aside the fact that neither of the Williamses are done just yet, for all her gifts, Kim is still prone to inexplicable episodes of jitteriness – it was there in a lesser form this fortnight with seemingly spontaneous mini-streaks of double faults and UFEs. Not all that sure that translates to winning 7 out of 7 matches on either grass or clay – not her most effective surfaces as the best of times.
Earlier in the week, she signalled this might be her last full year on tour: that doesn’t give her many more chances.
For now however, she’s rightfully (Serena’s injury not withstanding) considered the best player on the planet and will, in all likelihood, capture the #1 ranking at some point this year.
Something tells me that might be enough for her.