Despite the close scoreline, there could be only one winner in the Justine Henin – Serena Williams blockbuster quarterfinal. Henin dominated Serena for the entire match, even though a couple of loose games from the Belgian in the second set gave her opponent a glimmer of hope.
Henin forced the early break in the final set however, and ran away to a 5-1 lead. Naturally, Serena wouldn’t give up until the last ball was hit, and it saw the Australian Open champion come back to 5-3, putting real pressure on Henin to serve for the match for a second time. The No.1 seed was looking shaky, but Serena couldn’t pounce once more, and after a brilliant drop shot from Henin and a couple of unforced errors from her opponent, she closed out the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
It was interesting to see how both players held up mentally. Halfway through the second set, it seemed Henin started to realise this was her golden opportunity to beat Serena on her least favorite court, and all of a sudden, her forehand started to break down, like it had done so frequently in the past. Still, over the past year or so, Henin really improved her weaker wing and we have hardly seen her falter on the shot any longer.
What struck me most though, was that Serena never really appeared to notice the fact that her opponent was starting to lack confidence on her forehand. Throughout the match, Williams hit the majority of her shots to Justine’s favored backhand, getting into backhand rallies, even though Serena was having problems on that wing herself. Has anyone ever seen so many slices come off her racket?
Serena said in her press conference she was having problems with her left thumb, when trying to hit a two-hander. She had fallen on her hand in the third set of her match against Hantuchova, and in the past two days the thumb had really swollen. Whatever it was, it was obvious Serena could not execute her backhand the way she would have wanted. And not being able to hit freely surely ain’t going to cut it against the hottest player on tour of the moment.
So, yes, I was wrong in my predictions, even though I still believe that had Serena been fully fit (read: no calf strain and thumb injury), she would have taken out Justine. Henin is now the absolute favorite for the title at SW19, although an unexpected surge from Venus Williams could mean trouble if the two meet in the final.
Venus dominated Maria Sharapova in their fourth round match on Centre Court, before Henin clinched her semifinal spot. The No.23 seed was playing several levels better than she had done so far in the tournament, and it’s been a while since she had shown such good form. Sharapova’s thoughts must have gone back to earlier this year, when that other Williams completely dominated her in Melbourne.
Venus might have taken her inspiration from two years ago, when she edged Sharapova in the semifinals here at Wimbledon en route to a surprise run to the title. Seeded 14th at the time, she become the lowest seed ever to win at SW19.
The 27-year-old owns a stunning 7-1 record over Henin, having lost their first meeting, but the pair haven’t met in the past four years.
Still, Venus has a long way to go to get to the final, whilst Marion Bartoli is the last hurdle for Henin to take. The Frenchwoman has played some good tennis getting to the semis, but there is no way she will upset the No.1.
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