venus marches on

Posted on July 4, 2007


Today, Venus Williams showed the champion that she is, crushing Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 in a first-rate match at the fourth round of Wimbledon that had the look and feel of a championship game.

Of the two, Venus had more tricks up her sleeves; moving well, serving phenomenally and being aggressive right from the start, not letting up on the pressure on the Russian. No matter how hard Sharapova shrieked and tried to psyche herself, she was helpless against the relentless Venus, who had a stranglehold on her serve and didn’t drop it once during the match.

Venus also showed Sharapova why she was a three-time winner at Wimbledon, with her sure and rapid groundstrokes and agility. Sharapova by contrast, seemed stuck to the baseline. The few times she tried to move forward, she was punished, no doubt increasing her unease at playing at the net. It looked like her determination and will to succeed were the only things that pushed her on, where she mentally refused to be cowed by Venus’ pressure, even if her game was.

There were occasions when Sharapova looked like she could assert herself, particularly in the third game of the second set, but that was when her serve was under threat. She never came close to threatening Venus’ serve at any point in the match. In contrast, Venus was close to, or breaking, Sharapova’s every serve.

Venus goes on to face 2004 US Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals. More significantly, Venus’ last trip to the quarters at a major was at the 2005 US Open.

Her little sister, Serena, is playing Belgium’s Justine Henin in the quarterfinals today. That’s bound to be a tougher match, as Henin is a much wilier player than Sharapova, and has more variety in her game. Henin is also playing her best tennis ever, mixing up her game with effective serve and volley, while displaying a new mental fortitude and contentment as she reconciles with her long-estranged family.

Serena recently survived her fourth-set match after a dramatic cramp, and could be finding it a little tough to move the way she wants to. She is also determined to play on, despite doctors’ advise against it. But there’s no underestimating will and determination.

It’s going to be a treat for tennis fans today.