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Serena pushed to the brink by Dementieva


 

Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:37

No matter what may come in the final, Serena Williams’ marathon three-set semi-final victory against Elena Dementieva will be remembered as the best women’s match of this year’s tournament.

The two-time champion faced a match point against the Russian before going on to win 6-7(4) 7-5 8-6 in two hours and 48 minutes – the longest women’s semi-final in Wimbledon history.

In truth it was a solitary match point squandered rather than saved for Dementieva in game ten, when she inexplicably opted to try a cross-court pass with Serena at the net rather than shovel the ball down the line.

The American clipped the net with her volley but had survived, while the Russian could only point to the empty corner of the court.

“We gave the crowd a wonderful match”

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but to sum up this match in a single act is to do both women a huge disservice. Many had dismissed both semi-finals as foregone conclusions, and while the were half-right, the first pair up on Centre Court had already ensured the crowd got a semi-final performance to savour.

Williams had simply overpowered all who had come before in the tournament, but the No.4 seed proved capable of dealing with the weight of shot the American is capable of generating.

Her footwork and pace got her to more balls than the rest, and her own formidable ground strokes kept Williams off balance time and again.

It was enough to match Williams and even surge ahead as Dementieva sealed a first set tie-break with a single mini-break when Serena whipped a cross-court forehand into the tramlines.

Williams was visibly riled by the challenge of the Russian, but famed for her fighting spirit, she refused to be beaten. Facing break point at 3-4 in the second, Serena hit the corner of baseline and tramline with a bravely driven winner before holding.

It proved crucial as Dementieva slipped up in game eleven, allowing Serena to break and serve out to level the match.

The Russian couldn’t hide her frustration and anguish with every missed shot as the match approached its third hour, often falling to her knees and covering her face with her hands in despair – but she was still matching Williams game for game.

After trading breaks early in the set, the fateful moment that will haunt Dementieva for a long while yet occurred in game ten. She recovered to hold serve in the next game but Serena broke a game later and survived on her own serve to draw a bow from father Richard after sealing the match.

It was really, really tough, said the American, still breathless a few minutes after the match ended. Shes been playing so well and has won a lot of matches against me in the past. We gave the crowd a wonderful match.

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