venus the vanquisher

Posted on July 6, 2007

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What a Wimbledon tournament this has been!

All that rain washing play out notwithstanding, tomorrow’s women’s singles final is going to be played by two players whose chances hadn’t been much-fancied — Venus Williams and France’s Marion Bartoli.

They are also the two women ranked the lowest to have reached the Wimbledon finals ever. And if 23th-seeded Venus wins, she could be the lowest-seeded player to win there.

Not that Venus is some fresh-faced newbie shaking up the tennis world — after all, she had won here three times before and is on track to add a fourth Wimbledon trophy. But Venus had been playing sparingly in the past year after being injury-plagued and distracted by other interests such as fashion and Hollywood.

The Williams sister that everyone had thought had the better chance of winning this year’s title, Serena, was stopped in the quarterfinals by her arch rival, Belgium’s Justine Henin.

But Bartoli could have made the quest for the crown to return to the Williams family easier by shocking everyone with her upset win over Henin.

Bartoli, though 18-seeded, showed no nerves in her first Wimbledon semi-finals and displayed grit by coming back from her 1-6 first set defeat to stun Henin by taking the next two sets, humiliating Henin in the third set by getting ahead 5-0. Henin’s only consolation was salvaging some pride by winning one game in the final set, to finish 1-6 against an ebullient Bartoli.

Venus, who is a lower seed and less favored, has blasted her way into her sixth Wimbledon final. Along the way, she had steamrolled players such as Russia’s Maria Sharapova and Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic.

There were no strong indications that Venus could’ve come as far as she did, with a good shot of winning the whole thing altogether. Venus was looking shaky in the first three rounds, against lower-ranked players like 59th-ranked Alla Kudryavtseva and 71st-placed Akiko Morigami.

But Venus suddenly displayed the fine form that showed why she had won at Wimbledon so many times before. In the round of 16, Venus totally annihilated Sharapova in straight sets. She continued her run in the quarterfinals, again wiping out Svetlana Kuznetsova easily.

Today, she took out rising star Ivanovic, who displayed flashes of brilliance but ultimately had no answer to Venus’ aggression and dominance. Williams broke Ivanovic twice early in the first set and never looked back after that. Ivanovic disappointed by crumbling again in a big match and although she fought back in the second set, she looks like she has to work harder on her mental game.

By far, Venus is the fastest-moving player on the women’s side, and along with her incredible power, self-confidence and will to regain her former glory, Venus will be a tough opponent for Bartoli to beat tomorrow.

On the man’s side of the game, the match of the day had to be between Marcos Baghdatis and Serbia’s other tennis star, Novak Djokovic. Djokovic is living up to the hype that he’s the man with the goods to win at Majors, when he not only endured a 5-hour match, he also overcame back pain. More importantly, Djokovic displayed tremendous tactical and strategic thinking in the fifth set to thwart Baghdatis.

Tomorrow, Djokovic must dig even deeper to face the awaiting Rafael Nadal, in a repeat of the French Open semifinals last month. It’s going to be tough, when he has played two preceding matches that lasted over four hours and five sets. But there’s no doubt that Djokovic is right up there with the best.

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