Elena Dementieva and The Single Point That Never Came

Sudeshna BanerjeeAnalyst IJuly 2, 2009

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND - JULY 02:  Elena Dementieva of Russia reacts during the women's singles semi final match against Serena Williams of USA on Day Ten of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 2, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Another Grand Slam semi-final and Elena Dementieva ends up remaining as the bridesmaid yet again.

In a seething battle seen on Centre Court which will remain etched in memories being the longest Womens’ semi-final at 2 hours and 49 minutes, Elena Dementieva came close, agonizingly close, to topple the impervious Serena Williams yet she fell short, losing 7-6, 5-7, 6-8.

And perhaps this will continue to hurt the tenacious Russian for a long time as today she was finally beginning to solve the Williams puzzle—the ever-faltering serve shining for most of the time, the forehands sending a chill down Serena’s spine, the mental frailty hardly visible.

Elena stood like a rock, yet destiny had its own cruel laugh.

The elegant Russian—who is accustomed to being reticent—was doing the big talk today with her racquet that left a surprised Serena scrambling for the lines, grimacing after being wrong-footed most of the times at the net and trying desperately to save the hallowed Williams empire from the imminent fall.

A scorching backhand down the line in the first game broke the American’s serve and on was the admirable slugfest.

Pound for pound, the women fought on, holding ground after an exchange of breaks in the first couple of games.

Dementieva showed resolve and guts to stave off two break points and hold on to 4-4 forcing Williams into making wild errors, never intimidated by the powergame of the 10-time Grand Slam champion.

Serves bombarded from one side and smacking returns from the other side and the match went on with the pertinacious Russian continuing with her tactics of making Serena run from corner to corner, panting and finally giving it up.

In incredible fashion, Serena saw the first set vanishing from her grasp in 50 minutes in a tie-break.

And to think this was achieved by a two-time Grand Slam finalist whose game remains understated most of the time and who played on the Centre Court for the first time in the 2009 Championships with the All-England Club preferring glamour over substance most of the times this year.

But the ever-ominous Serena—as expected—fought back like a wounded tigress admonishing herself and yelling to boost her spirits sending the decibel levels unbearably high.

The result?

The Russian's serve was broken in the very first game of the second set and Serena contined to lead until inexplicably she was broken back to love at 3-3.

The amphitheater was being treated to a test of determination and resilience between two women both of whom had come not to lose.

A couple of break points and Serena was very much staring into the wilderness of defeat, but all she needed was a slice of luck.

In a beautifully sunbathed Centre Court, Serena’s luck too started shining with a Hawkeye challenge ruling a ball catching perhaps a millimeter in favour of the American and perhaps that was all she needed to pocket the second set.

The best was perhaps saved for the last.

Gallant, rebellious, each digging deep into their own armour to bring out their best weapon to outdo the other and it was the Olympic Gold medallist who could propel herself to do that successfully first.

With Serena broken to be down 1-3, the match started tilting heavily towards the blond Russian and after some tremendous athleticism from both players, the never-say-die attitude and irresistible desire of the American sailed her through to be back at 3-3.

Elena Dementieva’s biggest moment of hope and glory finally came when Serena was serving at match point down at 4-5, but it was so ephemeral.

The nervous Williams approached the net in a moment of drama not sure of her move but landed a successful backhand volley that clipped the net.

Immediately, pretty much gone were the chances of the soft-spoken, affable Russian who had appeared in four Grand Slam semifinals since her 2004 U.S. Open final appearance.

And fate eventually got sealed, as, after being broken, she sent a backhand long with Serena serving at match point.

Elena Dementieva returns once again empty-handed.

A fighter who defied all predictions, proved all critics wrong, showed unbelievable valour and nearly shattered millions of hopes finally found her own heart breaking….

Elena and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to appear in the final of the most prestigious Slam got separated by a thin line—that single point.

And that point never came.