When Serena Williams Escapes...
We all know that Serena Williams has a power that is too strong for the rest of her contemporaries. She often outplayed her opponents using her dangerous groundstrokes and she even won points not exerting too much effort using her serve. She rarely gave up matches and even she's on the verge of losing it, she ended up winning it.
Serena may not be like her rival Martina Hingis, which sometimes denied her power by constructing points so well like playing a chess. But above all, Hingis is very much not like Serena as she doesn't possess power, athleticism, and huge serve. Who could ever think that their head-to-head record is as close as 7-6 in favor of Serena?
It's just one of the classic example of contrast in playing styles displayed back when they burst in the scene as teenagers sending message to the rest of the field that they can dominate the game.
Over a decade has passed, Serena still dominating the game. There are some, if not more, players who can match Serena's power and hit the ball flat, still Serena has an extra gear aside from her serve and athleticism, which put her on atop from the rest of the field—her mental toughness.
In the current season, there have been many instances that Serena showed how tough mentally she is, unfortunately, only few of them pull a win. It shows in Serena's 2010 singles record. On 29 matches Serena played, she posted 25 wins and lost only four matches, that is a 0.862 winning rate.
On those four matches lost, only Elena Dementieva posted a straight-set win over Serena, that is, at Medibank International Sydney finals 6-3 6-2.
The remaining three players fought really hard to win, as their matches over Serena went to a distant as three sets.
After winning her 12th Grand Slam title at Australian Open, Serena is back at Rome to warm-up for the French Open, the Grand Slam that eluded her since capturing her sole title in 2002. In the semifinal, Serena faced the defending champion Jelena Jankovic, who defeated Venus Williams in a one-sided quarterfinal match. Each player won a set and the decider brought a very much intense play. With Jankovic leading the tiebreak, she almost slipped it through her hands as Serena was trying to came back to steal a spot in the final. But in the end it was Jankovic who stay focused as she close the match to face Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez for her title defense, 4-6 6-3 7-6(5).
Serena's result in Rome is more than she expected it. She doesn't saw herself to be in the semifinals in her least favorite surface. Maybe to have a feel of clay before she started her campaign at Roland Garros, she entered at Mutua Madrileña Madrid Open, her second tournament coming back from injury. She faced Nadia Petrova in the round of 16. But Serena can't sustain her performance she showed in Rome, as she was stunned 4-6 6-2 6-3, to give her more time to prepare for the French Open.
Gaining some matches Serena got in two Premier clay court events, she started her French Open campaign in a convincing manner. But the real test was just ahead of her. For a place in the final four, Serena encountered the in-form Samantha Stosur. After bagging the first set, Serena bounced back in the second set tiebreak. In the third set, Serena was leading 5-4 and was one point away from victory on Stosur's serve when she hit the forehand long. Stosur got a break to lead 7-6 with a series of cross-court winners and she served out the victory by hitting service winner on the final three points to advanced in the semifinals, 6-2 6-7(2) 8-6.
It is very rare to win over Serena in an easy way. There are players almost poised an upset but they even ended up losing. One opportunity missed might cost them the match as well as the run for the title.
It is given how good Serena at the grandest stage and it is also given how huge her serve is, but maybe others don't know that it is not just the physical aspect of the game that contributes to one player to win a match. Yes, there will be the 'never say die' attitude, but then again, it all comes down to mental toughness. This was witnessed in Serena's win over Victoria Azarenka.
Due to much heat, Azarenka surrendered as well as her match to Serena a year ago, while she was leading that gaveSerena an easy passage to the next round and eventually captured the title. For two consecutive years, Azarenka met Serena at the Australian Open but this time in the quarterfinals. By winning the first set 6-4, Azarenka was on the verge of scoring an upset as she lead Serena in the second set 4-0. But Azarenka let Serena came back from the match to win the second set in a tiebreak 7-6, as well as the match in formality 4-6 7-6(4) 6-2.
But the challenge doesn't end yet. Serena faced Li Na in her first Grand Slam semifinal. In a tight match that went to tiebreak in both sets, Serena was able to charge again to advanced 7-6(4) 7-6(1). And eventually won the title over the newly comeback Justine Henin in exciting final encounter 6-4 3-6 6-2.
As I've said earlier, there can be players that can match Serena's power, but Serena rarely gives much opportunity to her opponents. Given such window, only few succeeded. It was proven again by Serena in her record-breaking win at Wimbledon. Her fourth round to semifinal match seemed to be her real test as a defending champion. Serena's meeting against Maria Sharapova started very tight and seemed no one like to face a break. Yet a window of opportunity opened up for Sharapova as she leads in the tiebreak. But unable of grabbing such kind of opportunities cost her the match.
In the quarterfinal, Li Na tried to challenge Serena again for their second meeting at a Grand Slam since Australian Open semifinal. Li fought hard to win a point. She even made Serena run for clean winners. She may earned a break point against Serena, yet the effort still not enough as Serena got back to the match and ended up triumphant.
A newly gained experience is something to treasure while you are having it. That was the case for Petra Kvitova, a first time Grand Slam semifinalist. With 'nothing to lose' seemed can do damage, as she played out of her comfort zone. Given she is playing at Wimbledon Center Court, in the semifinal round against the world No.1, she give Serena a run for the title. But experience has it all and Kvitova was sent home carrying an experience that may never happen again.
Given these scenarios, Serena knows what to do when was down and even she was not playing 100%. Yes, we can see her felt pressured too. But then again, with her weapons added by experience and mental toughness, it makes hard for her opponents to wear her down. Even when she hardly won a point for a winner, she celebrated wildly whether it is a source of relief or even a smell of victory.
When Serena is down, she knows how to escape to emerge victorious in the end.
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