Sunday, July 6, 2008

Venus Owns the Venus Rosewater Dish Again

Venus beat Serena Williams Sunday to win her fifth Wimbledon title, breaking a tie with Billie Jean King and bringing her within two of Steffi Graf’s seven championships. Serena came out like gangbusters, winning ten of the first eleven points. Everyone was thinking ‘here we go again’ because it certainly looked like Serena would beat thrash Venus one more time. Venus went down an early break, 3-0, and then came roaring back to win, 7-5, 6-4, on an unusually cold and windy day. She also went down a break in the second before carrying off her eponymous dish.

Bud Collins on ESPN radio broke down the tactical reasons for the victory: Venus repeatedly served into the body, handcuffing Serena on the returns. Then she took charge of the points, pushing Serena back toward the baseline. Serena didn't approach the net, and she still isn't moving as well as she did when she was on top. 

This serving development should have made John McEnroe happy. For years he’s bemoaned the focus on serving aces or for speed, saying that the most effective way to stop these big returners was by hitting into the body. I felt Venus really surprised Serena to sticking with this throughout the match. 

It was a competitive, very good final Afterward, Venus was subdued in her victory, yet also visibly thrilled. She did her best to console Serena but she didn’t lay it on very thick. This is not a task to be accomplished in fifteen minutes after the match. Both retreated into separate corners to deal with the very different reactions. 

Remember that lecture I gave about personality differences? It was in full effect in the post-match, with Serena doing her same pouty, lack-of-credit to-the-opponent act that she does to all the other pros who aren’t related to her. She sort of gave credit to Venus, but as usual, Serena mostly blamed herself for not playing well. She said she was playing for herself only and she never thought about the fact that Venus was her sister. Venus said she never forgot that she was playing her sister, not for one moment, since being a big sister was her first job.

Serena was, in the words of Bud Collins, “morose” in defeat. I had a feeling this match was going to be less love-filled than previous efforts, for the reasons I said yesterday. This was less awkward and did feel like every sister for herself. Venus desperately wanted to prove she could beat Serena, especially at the W. In her presser she said to win five championships at any slam would be awesome, but here it is more special because this is THE ONE. We at the blog agree.

Venus won us over last year with her incredible pre-tournament essay on why women deserve equal prize money, then after that when she thanked Billie Jean King after her victory. Thanks to those two, there is equal prize money at SW 19 today, even if the suits over there had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the equality party. She thanked BJK again today, saying “Billie you know I love you.” She may only play serious for two or three tournaments a year, but we’re willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

So can Venus, at age 28 now, win two more, catching Graf?  I say Yes.

No comments: