Post Number: 1880
|Posted on Saturday, July 02, 2005 - 12:39 am: |
THE QUEEN IS BACK!
BY PAM SHRIVER
I think Venus Williams is going to win her third singles title this afternoon. She arrived here with various question marks surrounding her game, particularly her forehand, but she has dealt with enough pressure so far - the second set against Mary Pierce and overcoming defending champion Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals - to suggest if her forehand was going to crack it would have done so by now.
I expect it is going to hold up against Lindsay Davenport and it is going to need to because Davenport is playing really great tennis at the moment. But then you would expect that from the world No 1.
For Venus to get this far, though, is outstanding. She has improved with every round and one major factor is that she is moving quickly around the court.
That has probably earned her a two-step advantage over her opponents, which is a lot of court. It is crucial when you play against Davenport that you need to be able to cover a lot of ground.
Venus's movement from the back of the court negates Davenport's strength in moving the ball from side to side.
Venus is capable of hanging in on those rallies - just as she did against Pierce and Sharapova. And I think Davenport will get a little frustrated if the unforced errors made by her opponents in her past four matches are not repeated by Venus.
There were two moments when the tournament turned for Venus. Firstly, raising her game in the third round after a poor performance in her previous match and, secondly, her sister losing at the same stage, meaning she did not have to meet her in the last 16.
While Venus was upset for Serena after her loss to Jill Craybas there had to be a part of her that was pleased, especially after Justine Henin-Hardenne had gone out in the first round. Two enormous obstacles had been removed from her path.
Even though Venus beat Serena in Miami in March for the first time in a long while, just think about the bruising she has taken in major finals against her sister. Not having to face that trauma was huge for her.
While Venus has had help along the way to the final, Davenport has had to do it the hard way.
She had that massive match against Kim Clijsters in the fourth round and this will be her fourth top-10 opponent in succession, if you include Clijsters who is ranked lower but regarded by everybody to be one of the world's top five players.
She has had to take on Clijsters, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Amelie Mauresmo before facing Venus in what is a rematch of the final of five years ago.
Has she been drained mentally after playing these top players one after another? We will find out this afternoon.
But Davenport's technique is so sound it holds up to pressure. Serving out to love in a grand slam semi-final after an overnight stoppage is almost as much pressure as you can have. Only a stoppage in the final can be more stressful.
The big plus for Davenport is their recent head-to-head record - four wins in 12 months without a loss.
They have gone back and forth in their records against each other over the years. Davenport won eight of their first nine meetings, but then Venus won nine out of 10 between 2000 and 2004.
Davenport ended a long losing streak against the Williams sisters last summer and that is important in assessing her prospects here.
Obviously going into a final you do not want to be carrying the baggage of a long sequence of losses. Without that turning of the tide, Venus would be the overwhelming favourite, but now I am looking at it as 55 per cent to 45 per cent in her favour.
Davenport's big weakness is her frame of mind which is sometimes suspect.
It was in her last grand slam final in Australia in January when she lost her concentration against Serena and just could not snap out of it.
Providing Davenport can avoid a repeat of that attitude problem and Venus's forehand does not break down, this has the potential to be a tremendous final.
MY PREDICTION: VENUS GONE WHOOP ASS!