Marion Bartoli had James Bond to turn to in her semifinal against Henin on Saturday, but she was on her own in Sunday’s final against Venus Williams, and consequently succumbed to the three time former champion in straight sets, 6-4 6-1.
Bartoli did not play a bad match by any means, but she was simply outplayed by her more athletic opponent on the other side of the net, who happened to bring not just a little bit of extra experience to the table.
Bartoli was hitting the ball cleanly and with authority, as she did in her matches against Jelena Jankovic and Justine Henin, but Williams moved better around the court and punished the Frenchwoman’s weaker serve.
Idolising Monica Seles, Bartoli hits with two hands from both sides, but the double-handed shots have their effect on the reach she has when on the run. Venus dictated play and managed to create some good angles on her shots to wear the 18th seed out. The crowd was taking to Bartoli, who was seemingly enjoying the experience of playing a Wimbledon final on Centre Court. The 22-year-old fought bravely until the last ball was hit, but playing her best tennis in a long, long time, there was no stopping Venus Williams on her favored grass courts.
Before the women’s final was played, the two men’s semifinals took to the two stadium courts simultanuously, with Federer – Gasquet being scheduled on Centre Court, and Rafael Nadal – Novak Djokovic taking place on Court No.1.
Unfortunately, neither of the two matches brought any of the drama from the day before, when Novak Djokovic bested Marcos Baghdatis after five hours of play, and Richard Gasquet came back from a two set deficit and a break of serve down in the third, to upset Andy Roddick 8-6 in the fifth.
Clearly, the tough matches Djokovic and Gasquet had played on Friday took their toll in their semifinal encounters. The Serb had to retire after two and a half sets to Nadal due to a nasty blister on his foot, and Gasquet felt the pain of an ankle injury in his straight set loss to the four-time defending champion. Still, the two youngsters can look back on an excellent performance at SW19, both debuting in a semifinal at the Championships. Djokovic will move up to a new high ranking of No.3 on Monday, while Gasquet cracks the Top 10 for the first time in his career.
Leaves us with the two finalists. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have already met three times this year, but the rivalry just keeps getting better. Interestingly enough, whether Nadal wins or loses on Sunday, he’ll stay No.1 in the Race, the year-ranking for 2007.
There’s no doubt that Federer will head into Sunday’s final as the big favorite. The Swiss has the chance to tie Bjorn Borg’s record five consecutive wins at Wimbledon, but there is more pressure on Federer’s shoulders. The ten-time Grand Slam champion knows that the No.1 position will be on the line tomorrow, because even though Federer might still own that top ranking statistically if he loses to Nadal, there’s no doubt that Rafa will be considered the true top dog should he win Wimbledon, after the dominant year the Spaniard has been having thusfar.
Federer and Nadal have both won one Grand Slam title in 2007, but whereas Federer has claimed just a single Masters Series crown, Nadal already owns three.
Both players have played some excellent tennis to get to the final, but what could be worrying for Federer, is how much Nadal has improved on the grass compared to last year. Not only is the Spaniard serving better, he is taking the ball early on the return and plays a lot more aggressive than before.
Of course Federer still remains the best player on the surface. Throughout the tournament, he has been serving at a very high level, and his forehand is lethal. However, if the No.1 fails to perform at his best, Nadal has become a genuine threat to do the unthinkable: beating Roger Federer at Wimbledon and taking over as the No.1 player.
I believe Nadal will take at least one set from the Swiss, who has always looked a little off-balance when facing his main rival, but as anyone else did, I picked Federer for the title, and I’m sticking with it. We could be in for a classic though.
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