Tenacity, electricity, brilliance. You saw them all last night in Venus Williams' face, pace and shots. They all played their part in her incredible victory over Maria Sharapova yesterday. But the single factor that settled it was that Venus was just too darn good, physically, for Maria to live with. Her movement was exceptional, her athleticism superb. She got so many more balls back than other opponents manage against Maria, and was hitting brilliantly.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Venus and Serena Williams were, and still have the capacity to be, the two finest female athletes in history. Serena is clearly a way away from that now. Venus is getting back there, and yesterday was evidence of that.
In my preview of the match, I said it was too close to call, that maybe a little bit of nerves would work against Maria. I don't think nerves were actually a factor. I think she just got tired. She got worn down. She did not play badly. But she just isn't used to playing so many long rallies.
In the middle of the first set, there were rallies of 12, 13 and 14 shots. The penultimate game of the match alone had 14 points, and five of them had rallies of six shots or more. Venus just kept getting that ball back. Maria was tired into submission. That was the story for me.
The other semi-final was interrupted by rain at one set each and with Amélie Mauresmo, who'd played some great tennis, serving to stay in the match at 5-3 down. Coping effectively with rain delays and breaks is about knowing how your player ticks. Some want to keep active, exercise or hit balls. Others prefer a fixed routine, to be by themselves, are contemplative, or maybe a little annoyed. Some players like a moan, saying it's not fair that the rain comes when they're winning. I say to them: "Listen, buddy, life ain't fair. The fact is it's raining. You can't argue with the man upstairs about why. Either we accept it or we let it wash us away. What do you pick?"
Others want company. Monica Seles spent delays with her parents. Andre Agassi played backgammon, and liked his manager, Bill Shelton, to sing Nat King Cole songs to him. Jim Courier would often want to use the time to talk strategy. It's all down to a player's mentality.
Trevor Moawad, the director of our mental conditioning department at the academy, illustrates the power of the mind with a true story about an engineer who got locked in a refrigerated train carriage by accident. His body was found after a few days, and he'd written on the walls about getting increasingly cold, and then freezing. It turned out the refrigeration unit hadn't been functioning. The guy literally thought himself to death. Brains are powerful machines. Marry that with physical excellence, as Venus did yesterday, and you won't get beaten often.Reuse content