Myskina has final say as Dementieva serve falters

Martina Navratilova was accused of demeaning both herself and women's tennis when she took a wild card entry into the singles at the French Open here at the age of 47. On reflection, Navratilova's first-round defeat, 6-1, 6-3, by the 19-year-old Gisela Dulko, of Argentina, seems a reasonable contribution to a disappointing women's tournament.

The nadir came on Saturday, when the first all-Russian Grand Slam final turned out to be woefully one-sided, Anastasia Myskina defeating Elena Dementieva, a fellow Muscovite, 6-1, 6-2, in 58 uninspiring minutes.

While some finals fail to live up to their billing, this one was an accurate representation of the two weeks of women's tennis that preceded it. Justine Henin-Hardenne, the defending champion and world No 1, tried to come back from illness too soon. The Williams sisters were not ready to rumble. Amelie Mauresmo sank into the clay under the burden of French expectation. Jennifer Capriati saw off Serena Williams and then folded against Myskina, who had dispatched Venus Williams.

Dementieva closed in on the final by eliminating the struggling Lindsay Davenport before freezing Mauresmo in her headlights - an ironic twist in the circumstances. A routine semi-final win against Paola Suarez did nothing to steel Dementieva for the emotional demands of her first major final. Mental strength can be as important as a reliable serve, and the embarrassed Dementieva had neither.

Midway through the second set, the softly-spoken Dementieva screached a volley of self-condemnation. "I said, 'I hate my serve'," she translated later, "which is true." In the interview room, she tearfully admitted: "I don't know how to serve." That is also true. Her round-arm deliveries are a joke on the WTA Tour, on which she is now ranked a career-high No 6.

Dementieva's coach, Olga Morozova, who was, until Saturday, the only Russian woman to compete in a Grand Slam singles final (she lost to Chris Evert in straight sets in 1974, both here and at Wimbledon), started working with Dementieva after being made redundant by the Lawn Tennis Association.

Reminding Morozova that something needs to be done about Dementieva's serve is stating the obvious. Ten double-faults in the final took her total to 67 for the tournament. When Dementieva advanced to the final at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, in March, she was swatted by Serena Williams, 6-1, 6-1, in 50 minutes.

That was Serena's comeback tournament after knee injuries had kept her out of the game since Wimbledon. Dementieva, who had been fortunate to catch Venus Williams on a bad day in the quarter-finals, called to mind Gabriela Sabatini and Anna Kournikova at their worst in the league of dodgy servers. In her six matches in Key Biscayne, Dementieva hit three aces and double-faulted 57 times. She faced 69 break points and her serve was broken 30 times.

Reconstructing a serve takes time and patience, and Morozova is likely to wait for a lull in Dementieva's schedule, possibly after the US Open in September, before attempting a major overhaul of the technical problems.

Helping Dementieva to overcome her big-match nerves is also on the agenda. "I was waiting for this moment all my life, and I just couldn't handle the pressure," she said. Myskina capitalised. "I knew Elena was not going to serve well when she was nervous," she said.

As a victim of stage fright, Dementieva is in elevated company. Danny Kaye had to be pushed into the spotlight from the wings on his debut at the London Palladium. Rod Stewart is said to have hidden behind the speakers for the first couple of songs when he appeared with the Jeff Beck Group in New York. Jacques Brel vomited before the curtain went up and was close to vomiting after the curtain went down.

None of the above had much of a serve, either.

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own