Wimbledon 2009: One, Two, Four?

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Wimbledon 2009: One, Two, Four?
(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

One.

The lofty No. 1 ranking, that is currently occupied by the Slam-less and eternally underachieving Dinara Safina. It also represents the number of wins Safina needs to secure a place in her third consecutive Slam final.

Two.

The number of Williams' offspring standing in ridiculously predictable fashion, right between Dinara and a maiden Slam victory. Two straight times has the coveted Wimbledon grail resided at the Williams' estate in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Now of course, basic mathematics would tell us that "three" would be next in order. But instead, the final flavor of the women's semifinal round is in fact, four.

Four.

That's Elena Dementieva, the 27-year-old from Moscow that nobody wants to talk about. 

Throughout the course of the 2009 edition of Wimbledon, men who shouldn't be in the quarterfinals of a main Slam draw, the punchless Jelena Jankovic, teen-agers who beat Jelena Jankovic, passionate grunters and some Spaniard sitting at home have all made more headlines than Elena.

But once more and for the fourth time in the past five, the soft-spoken Russian has found herself in the semifinals of a Slam. 

She has been quietly obliterating all challengers over the past week and a half. Often relegated to Court Two, she hasn't even got a sniff of that spiffy new Centre Court. How exactly did Gisela Dulko and Sorana Cirstea get the go-ahead nod into the amphitheater anyway?

And yet, she is still finding ways to improve her game. From Round Three on, Dementieva has been so ruthlessly effective that one has to be worried about all the time she's not spending on court.

Averaging a housefly's eyelash over an hour per match, maybe she should have given some more consideration to playing doubles, too?

6-1, 6-2. 6-1, 6-3. 6-2, 6-2. Regina Kulikova, Elena Vesnina and Francesca Schiavone

Nearing her 11th year on tour, Dementieva has never been known for power in a generation of women's tennis built around that very concept. But who says an old dog can't learn some new tricks?

Speed and fitness have never been her problem. So she has made a major effort to try and build strength, aiming to improve her vulnerable serve.

The results have been fairly rapid too. She fired an incredibly inflated seven aces in a first round victory over countrywoman Alla Kudryavtseva.

While it may not seem like much, the number is in the mesosphere by Lena's standards. However, the recent power surge has also had a lion's share of testing errors.

She misfired nine double faults in her quarterfinal debacle with Schiavone.

Elena's next foe, will not be handing her an "Advance Token to 'Go', Please Collect $200" card. But it will not be the first time she has met up with Serena Williams when the stakes are sky high. 

They have met three previous times in major tournaments, twice in the past year. Elena got the best of Serena in a three-set victory in Beijing last summer en route to a Gold Medal, while Serena disposed of Elena in straight sets in Melbourne before winning the Australian Open.

Seems like a positive trend for the winner.

But on the eve of another Williams-Dementieva showdown, all the media attention is on Serena. Why not? Everyone from the Faroe Islands to Cape Town knew that Serena was going to be a semifinalist. At least.

She happily answered all of the media's inquiries about Serena, and did it with complete class. "Well, I think it's always very interesting to play against someone like Serena," started Dementieva. "She's a great champion, and it's going to be a good experience for me anyway."

Asked everything possible about how to deal with Serena while she is in dominating form to being pressed to compare her style to Serena's (if that isn't the world's most obvious answer), Dementieva has almost enjoyed the Wimbledon limelight.

But the best was this: Many people are expecting an all-Williams final. Do you think we can have an all-Russian final instead?

"Can we just play two finals instead?"

In her 43rd consecutive main draw of a Slam, Elena Dementieva is soaking in the competition and frivolities of Wimbledon just as much as she did her very first time.

She might not be a favorite to win the tournament. I don't even think many gamblers would have the audacity to bet on Dementieva to get to the finals.

But with an Atlas stone of pressure on Serena's back, a relaxed new-look Lena could indeed shock the tennis world tomorrow.   

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