There is no denying that Serena Williamshas the best serve in the women’s game. Hell she can even give the men a run for their money – but do not discount Venus Williams‘ serve either.
The younger Williams admitted after her quarter-final against Johanna Konta that her first serve had been a tad troublesome but her second serve had been getting a lot of attention, and the same is true for Venus. In her match against Coco Vandeweghe she said:
“In the first set I served more conservatively. In the second, I just decided I was going to go for more. It was just really a mentality at that point. I know she’s looking for a second serve.
“It’s important to try not to give your opponent what they want. As the match went longer, the bigger I went on the second. Thankfully I was comfortable doing that and executing it and just going in. It worked.”
Both Williams’ are text-book aggressive baseliners, but they have admitted in the past that their doubles pairings have helped them in their singles game. And with that amazing wingspan at the net, an opponent has to really work the angles to get past Venus at the net.
As Venus has adapted her game since the injuries and illness that has plagued her career over the past few years, her defensive skills and ability to then switch to offence have really shown her versatility this tournament.
She said after her quarter-final: “Why shouldn’t I [win the tournament]? I try to believe. Should I look across the net and believe the person across the net deserves it more? This mentality is not how champions are made. I’d like to be a champion, in particular this year. The mentality I walk on court with is: I deserve this.”
She knows what it takes to beat Serena in a Slam Final
Ok so she has only done it twice, but she has done it -their first encounter in the 2001 US Open final, and most recently in the 2008 Wimbledon final, only for Serena to have the last word the following year. Their last Australian Open encounter (2003) might have gone Serena’s way but it was a tight three-setter and there is nothing to suggest that this will not be, with the way they have played throughout the tournament.
“I don’t think there’s necessarily anything to exploit. It’s just about building a point that works for you, that’s going to work for me. If I can build a point, you know, to win it. Every point’s going to be a little different. She doesn’t have too many weaknesses.”
We know that for both of them their season opener in Auckland did not go quite as planned with venus pulling out with an elbow injury the day after Serena was knocked out. Of course last year she was an unwitting extra in the star turn of Konta’s semi-final run, clearly hampered with a leg injury while the Brit quipped she had just wanted to stay on court for longer than an hour.
Even with the injuries and the illness, Venus is seen as a tough draw, and up until her semi-final with Vandeweghe she had not dropped a set all tournament – neither had Serena for that matter. She was also not happy that she had to come from a set behind to make the final, telling reporters:
“Honestly, I probably just need to continue playing like I’m playing. I haven’t played badly. I lost a set today. I was not happy about it. But my opponent deserved that set. So what else could I do? Try to get the next two. I will try to do the same.”
Serena might be playing it down but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that #23 is looming large for Williams the younger. We have seen in the past what the pressure has done to Serena – she has wobbled before steadying the ship, and with the prospect of surpassing Steffi Graf for sole ownership of the Open Era wins, the weight of expectation will be on her shoulders.
Above all whichever way it goes, Venus Williams’ journey has been one of many inspiring narratives this fortnight, so it only seems fitting we leave the last inspiring words to her.
“What I will say about sport, I think why people love sport so much, is because you see everything in a line. In that moment there is no do-over, there’s no retake, there is no voice-over. It’s triumph and disaster witnessed in real-time.
“This is why people live and die for sport, because you can’t fake it. You can’t. It’s either you do it or you don’t. People relate to the champion. They also relate to the person also who didn’t win because we all have those moments in our life.
“Is it an athlete’s job to inspire? Inherently what I think athletes do at a top level inspires people, but each person takes that responsibility differently.”
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