Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Dossier: All-out attack from Venus will blitz Safina
Exclusive briefing from the man who has coached players from Agassi to Sharapova and the Williams sisters
Thursday 02 July 2009
Today's big match: Venus Williams v Dinara Safina
Venus and Safina are both known as offensive baseliners but Venus tops the Russian in versatility because she's got so much else to her game. Safina's style is marked by taking the ball early, and hard. To get technical, she beats the crap out of it while it's still on the rise. The purpose of these shots, played consistently, is to force a defensive return that can be punished with a winner. Venus is relatively susceptible on her forehand, so Safina's prayer today is to target Venus in that area.
Watch out for Safina playing to her opponent's forehand with her own strong, dangerous, backhand. Safina's serve is big, though not as big as Venus's. It can also misfire. Safina is not going to dazzle with huge variety. She is a committed baseliner. It's a simple concept and she executes it well but I don't think it is enough.
Though Safina should go for Venus's forehand, it's easier said than done. Venus doesn't just stand back slugging. She'll come to the net and has the volleying skills to do that. Regular doubles with Serena helps.
Underpinning Venus's technical abilities is her athleticism. She is tall and immensely powerful. She's also cool in the heat of battle, someone who steps it up on key points.
Here's how I think Venus will win: her service will be more effective than Safina's. Even if Safina targets her forehand, Venus's superior court coverage through better movement will allow her to dictate points more easily. One of Venus's major weapons is the ability to play a ball that normally requires a defensive shot offensively. Watch out for Safina playing what she'd expect to be a winner not just reached by Venus but returned with venom. This is because Venus is more athletic than most so has reached that ball earlier, has greater wingspan so connects better, and is stronger, so can bullet it back harder.
Also watch for Venus's two-handed backhand, and the measured backswing that looks languid but becomes in an instant a ferocious stroke.
Venus can play backhand winners, of course. But she also uses her backhand to prepare for an approach. Watch her try to move Safina around, and then come in when the opponent least expects it to try to kill her off at the net or pass her.
Venus is one match's work from another final. I don't see her slipping.
Tale of the tape
Venus Williams Name Dinara Safina
American Nationality Russian
29 Age 23
Lymwood, Ca Place of birth Moscow
Palm Beach Residence Monte Carlo
1994 Turned pro 2000
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
6ft 1in Height 5ft 11in
72kg Weight 70kg
No 3 World ranking No 1
No 3 Wimbledon seeding No 1
41 Career titles 11
£12m Career prize-money £4.4m
W63 L7 Wimbledon record W12 L6
Winner 5 times Wimbledon best SF (2009)
2-9 Odds 4-1
Head-to-head: Three previous meetings. Venus leads 2-1
Bollettieri's prediction: Venus
Serena will play on until Dementieva makes mistake
We all know Elena Dementieva for her baseline game, which is solid as a rock and defined by those powerful, flat groundstrokes that helped her become the Olympic champion of 2008 but haven't, yet helped her to a singles Slam title. She's been in two Slam finals (back in 2004 at the French and in the US) and lost both to fellow Russians. Her running forehand is another weapon to look out for today.
Dementieva's service, which on second serve used to be the butt of jokes, is improved, and if she can go on the offensive and come in a bit, she can land blows. Except she doesn't come in unless she's forced to by a short ball.
Serena's game we know all about. Power from the baseline, booming groundstrokes, approaches to the net when necessary (nowhere near as much as Venus), and lethal execution of overheads and the swing volley, a shot pioneered by and popularised at my academy.
Serena has been known to make errors by going for broke but I think we'll see more percentage tennis today, with her keeping the ball in play, waiting for frustration to cause Dementieva to over-hit. I pick Serena to win.
Haas used huge second serve to beat Djokovic
We won't dwell long on the fate of Ivo Karlovic because as I said yesterday, we always expected him to get beaten by Roger Federer. There's no shame in losing to the best player in the world. Roger is exactly where we expected him to be at this stage.
If you go back a fortnight, you'll also see that Tommy Haas is pretty much where I expected he could be if he played up the potential of his newly bolstered confidence. He was one of my dark-horse picks and here he is, in the semi-finals, after beating Novak Djokovic for the second time in short order on grass.
Volley Haas came in a lot. He used a huge second serve. He was attacking from the off. When he gets the chance on grass and in this mood, he'll use his forehand to pass. He's brim full of confidence and controlling his emotions. He mixed up his play. And when you do all that you're dangerous. Tomorrow's another day.
Clinical Murray just took care of Ferrero business
The kid's on a roll. Andy Murray didn't need another convoluted five-setter and he didn't have one because he just went out and took care of business. Solid, not spectacular but he did what was required. Nobody's going to be sitting around in a few year's time asking if you remember the score of a quarter-final.
The winner matters, that's all.
Improve your game: Footwork on court
Got a tennis problem? Email me and I'll try to help out. Today's question comes from Sean McGee, who says he admires how Roger Federer makes his movement around the court look so effortless. "I know this is down to his footwork," writes Sean, "but how can I get footwork like that? Just a starter drill would be nice." Well, Sean, try playing points between the singles and doubles sidelines, ie in that four and a half feet strip. You'll need complete control to do it, and it's a good workout for your feet and movement.
The Ato Z of Bollettieri: Snapshots from 53 years as a top tennis coach
T is for Ten, as in 10 of the players I've had the pleasure and privilege of working with during my career who have been ranked No 1 in the world. They are Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Jim Courier, Marcelo Rios, Boris Becker, Venus and Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic. I'm not through yet, though, not by a long shot. There's more work to be done, at least another 53 years' work by my reckoning. I've helped a few players make some history but that is yesterday's news. I want to create more history now with the next generation.
U is United States Army, in which I served as a paratrooper after graduating from college in Alabama in 1953. I was a para for a few years before moving on to law school, which is what my father wanted me to do, then dropping out of that to become a tennis coach earning three bucks an hour. The military teaches you a lot of things, like the importance of being in good physical shape, and of being adequately prepared for battle. Both those carried over into a life in tennis.
Win a week in Florida at my tennis academy
Want a week's tennis holiday at my academy in Florida? Included in the prize is five days' top-class tuition, accommodation in our poolside clubhouse, and all meals. The winner arranges the travel. All you have to do is email to tell me who will win today's big match. I want a specific score line, and as a tie- breaker, a one-sentence summary of the manner in which your pick will win. At the end of the tournament, all the daily winners will go into a hat, and one overall winner will be picked from there. Yesterday's winner was Colin Allen, and he goes into the hat.
Email me at email@example.com
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