Elena Dementieva: Would She Finally Be Able To Break The Slam Deadlock?

Sudeshna BanerjeeAnalyst IAugust 29, 2009

That year she was so close, so very close to capping a stellar year with a Grand Slam title.

Defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne had been ousted, the Williams sisters had been shown the exit door and so was Lindsay Davenport and she herself had produced a remarkable performance in downing Jennifer Capriati.

Still, she succumbed to a relatively inexperienced, talented youngster called Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final of the 2004 U. S. Open.

Five years later, Elena Dementieva returns to New York having established herself as the eternal bridesmaid. That single win in a Slam final which she came close to twice, still continues to elude her.

One of the most soft-spoken and affable girls on the Tour with a gentle sense of humor, the svelte Russian possesses a pleasing personality and that niceness simply translates into her on-court performance when she has time and again easily gifted a match to her opponent.

Her game structure is perhaps enviable to many players on the Tour. She is one of the cleanest hitters, who can mix offense and defense with equal élan and her athleticism on court and anticipation power evoke a lot of admiration.

Still, she evinces a mental frailty and a lack of confidence at the key moments that actually turn out to betray her when it matters the most—the result being the astronomic number of double faults in crunch situations and the failure to close out a match.

And so she has continued from being a consistent name in the latter stages of every tournament to being able to engrave her name on the winner’s trophy only a few times. This is testified by the fact that her career final win/loss record stands at 14-14.

In spite of all this, the diligent worker in Elena has never stopped striving and perhaps it is finally time that her perseverance should bear fruit.

And perhaps also this is the reason, why at 27 years she is playing some of the most inspiring tennis and showing signs of remaining true to her potential.

She began 2009 with a magnificent record in Australia before heading to the year’s first Slam where she ultimately bowed out to the eventual champion, Serena.

A shot up the rankings followed which saw her attaining her career best ranking of No. 3 in the world in April.

And after a minor slump she made the world sit up and take notice of her at Wimbledon when she played one of the best matches of her life against Serena, pounding stroke for stroke and throwing in deceptive dropshots at times.

Yet the mental frailty did prevail in the end despite her desperate efforts.

Unfazed by that paper-thin defeat she turned the tables upon Serena this time at the Rogers Cup when she produced a scintillating performance in downing her and followed it up with a victory over comeback queen Maria Sharapova to capture her first title at Canada.

Thus with this huge triumph, Dementieva enters the year’s last Slam as one of the front-runners for the title.

Being placed in one of the intruiging quarters of the draw, Elena should have her task cut out with big names such as Sharapova, Kuznetsova, and talented youngsters like Wozniacki, Cirstea and Oudin lurking in her part.

Still her experience and her now-boosted confidence would help her sail through to the semis if she can overcome her first dangerous hurdle called Sharapova.

For all these years Elena Dementieva has remained in the shadow of her compatriots in spite of boasting of a beautiful game and has been tagged as "the best player on the Tour not to have won a Grand Slam."

But she has never been short of motivation, and has kept on working hard to make the minor improvements in her game. The results have been visible and it’s no secret why she has tasted success and is one of the most talked about female players on the Tour this year.

The graceful Russian is strong, fit, and healthy enough.

She looks absolutely poised for success at a Major and if she can keep her vulnerable mental strength from falling apart, justice would finally be done to a player who deserves it a lot.

Would she finally be able to break the Slam deadlock?