Serverena back to Major-winning ways at Wimbledon

Serena Williams Wimbledon 2012

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The first set between Serena and Aggie in the 2012 Wimbledon final was what we had all feared.

No, tennis fans did not fear Serena winning, not at all. (Neutral)Tennis fans are generally pleased to see Serena win. She is, without doubt, one of the Greatest women’s players ever and is generally much appreciated. No, what we feared was the first set score. 6-1. Thank God it was not a bagel. We wanted a competitive first set, not a blow out. There have been too many blow outs in Major women’s finals and they are not only a dissapointment but a shameful showcase for the sport on the most hyped day of a tournament with the most potential viewers.

Blowouts are, of course, in some ways understandable. There is a lot of pressure to play well before a worldwide audience of tennis fanatics, casual fans and your home country, and that bothersome side show, the Media, with all their cursed questions and criticisms. Sometimes the match is a blowout because there is just a bad match up, such as in this case, and that bad match up occurs on the worst possible surface for the ill-matched player. Blowouts will happen. It’s just that in tennis, they happen all too often. The last time we had a match which was not a blowout or a player did not choke was the Australian Open 2010. In fact, since 2005, when we saw the last classic major final between Venus and Davenport at Wimbledon, only two major women’s finals have gone the distance.Before that, from the French Open 1998 to the French Open 2005, nine matches had gone to three sets. That was during what many classify as the Golden age of Women’s tennis. Now, the current age is labeled as generation suck.

One of the members of the afore-mentioned generation, who was reportedly ill before the match, could not get on the scoreboard until 0-5 down in the first set when she managed to avoid the dreaded bagel which, one imagines, tastes oh so much staler in a major final when you are force-fed it before such a big audience, your disgraceful defeat falling out the sides of your mouth.

The brief setback to Serena’s march to the title did not set her back for long. Serena fed her a breadstick instead, serving out the set in a hurry to seal the set in 36 minutes as the rain began to fall.

After the break, Radwanska came out and won her first service game, which came as some relief to her and the crowd, who were even applauding Serena’s errors so eager to get the match we all craved. After all tickets to the final don’t come cheap and the rowd want some value for money. Particularly as it was not even as if Serena was playing lights out and we were witnessing an all time great performance. Serena was somewhat tentative in longer rallies and when Aggie went to her forehand, she struggled. Had Serena been in the form that she showed in the Australian Open finals of 2007 and 2009, then the crowd would have known they were seeing something special and felt lucky to be there. But this was anything but special. True there were some moments when Aggies hands delivered exquisite moments at the net and Serena worked her way into a point to end it with a glorious winner, but most of the time Serena was freepointing on her serve and taking advantage of her opponents subpar play that was uncharacteristically producing errors.

Serena held serve and then broke Aggie in her next service game to lead 2-1 and move closer to the tepid and inevitable conclusion. Aggie’s play did at least improve as Serena’s dropped, missing easy balls and her at times wonky movement betraying her. At 0-30, 2-3 down, Radwanska had a chance and a murmur of hope buzzed around the Center court.

Serena popped in a weak second serve and then hit rally shots until Aggie fed her a moonball but Serena whipped it away on the backhand with a vicious angle to scupper Aggie’s chance. 15-30. Another second serve. Serena won the point on a volley. This was the Serena we had seen many times since her first-strike Major winning heyday. This was Serena the patient, the point constructor. This was not first strike major winning form. 30-30 and the serve was back on. Serverena was back and she served her way to 4-2 and the clock read an hour.

Aggie had to hope that Serverena went away again, as she seemed prone to do that day. If Serverena was replaced by Rallyrena, then Aggie had more of a chance. Aggie is quite the point constructor herself. In the fifth game she showcased her very best as she moved Serena round the court with spin, slice, soft balls, and then a winning volley. Hitting deeper and painting the lines, Aggie moved to 40-15, served and volleyed and watched as Serena’s forehand flew long. Aggie was keeping herself close to Serena and the murmurs were growing louder.

4-3 and things were certainly looking more respectful for both the player and the game. The rallies were long and decorative. Some of them looking pretty against the backdrop of the grass. Still, though, the inevitable looked ominous. However, Radwanska had a few more things to say on the matter and pushed Serena to deuce, finally finding her skills, to rally with Serena, push her around and hit a winner down the line. A Serena forehand out and it was breakpoint Aggie. We expected Serena to ace her way out of trouble. The ace did not come, apparantly, according to the line judge. The serve was called out. But it was deservedly challegned and was proved well in. First serve again and the rain was falling. Then in a classic example of offense against defense, with Serena hitting brutal gorundstrokes to come in and miss on the forehand at the net that she took out the air and sent flying past the baseline.
4-4. We had a set on our hands. A match? Still unlikely, but a set at least. Serena upped her level now and with gritted teeth struck the ball to go up 0-30. Aggie fought back with good serving and coming to the net to force the error from Serena and then came out on top of another long rally to force the backhand error into the net from Serena to lead 5-4. Now there was no shame at all. No shame for the audience, the players, the game. Now we had a showcase where tennis could be shown off with pride.

At 15-0, Serena lost another long rally as Aggie sent a backhand past her at the baseline. Serena made sure to come forward after that and roared as she hit a forehand at the net for a winner. She would have to first-strike it to get her fifth strike on the grass. She did jut that and drew level to 5-5.

Aggie served out to love, in an improved display of serving and now the pressure was on Serena who was on the verge of her worst case scenario: being drawn into a long third set of rallies that did not go her way and saw Aggie emerge the winner.

On the first point of serving to stay in the set, Serena came in and netted the volley. A double fault. Were we going to see a similar meltdown to what we saw in Paris? On the next point, she moved in got the winner. 15-30. Then a powderpuff second serve was sent back with an angle and Serena hit the backhand at the net long.

Set point Aggie! A Serena error into the net off a slice ball from Aggie and it was one set all.

Blowout indeed! We had a match now. An actual three set match in a major final. Tennis fans the world over were elated. Aggie’s box were on their feet. Finally we had a tennis occassion that would deliver what sport should do: the question of who would win being asked until the final ball was struck or the final second counted.

With the advantage of serving first, Aggie saved break points in the first game, as Serena errored more than she winnered and Aggie bent down low to get back the deep and hard balls. Aggie won her service and now was the time, the momentum swinging strongly her way, to break and move ahead in the decider.

Serena the patient fought though. She rallied and waited for the opening for the winner. She found her first serve, she painted the lines and smashed for winners, she injected pace and ran down lobs. In the third game, both women showed how good rallies can be when the world’s best offense meets the worlds’s best denfense.

But a missed forehand and a double fault, and Radwanska was two break points down. This time an off forehand found the line. and a backhand taken out the air drew her to deuce. Another mid court forehand winner and it was advantage Aggie. And a backhand down the line error from Serena and it was 2-1 Aggie.

Acearena appeared in the next game as Serena hit four aces in a row to ace her way through a game.

2-2. Aggie continued to get every ball back and force Serena into error. But at 30-30, Serena was not having it and came forward after a long rally to take the ball out of the air for the winner. Unfortunately for Aggie, she could not find her first service and her second service was duly punished as Returnerena, who had been absent most of the championships, broke.

All Serena had to do now was click into Serverena again and serve her way through to the trophy. She did that to lead 4-2.

Aggie continued to play her game to frustrate Serena, saving two break points, but could not save the third as Serena pulled off the drop shot to break, raising her fist to her box.

Serena served out for the match but the aces did not flow straight off the racket. Somewhat tentative she netted a smash at 15-0 but then the ace came, followed by a service winner, and a backhand winner down the line and Serena yelled, fell on her back, covered her face before getting up and jogging to the net where she clasped hands with a smiling Aggie at the net.

Serena raised her arms to the crowd and, applauded by the audience which included the likes of Navratilova and old-foe Hingis, Serena made her way up to the players box where she hugged her team, most notably her sister Venus whose haul of five Wimbledon titles she had equalled by winning a match that though not the classic the game needed was more than worthy of satisfying the most ardent of tennis fans and perhaps drawing in a couple more. And for those who like some emotion from their sporting heroes there were some tears in both of the presentation speeches that would have had even the most objective of viewers wiping their eyes.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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