Williams serves up a lesson in desire

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The Independent Online

After Serena Williams successfully defended the Nasdaq-100 Open title here on Saturday - her comeback tournament after being out of the game for eight months - it was surprising and reassuring to hear her confess: "Outside of tennis, I'm terrible at sports. I'm not coordinated." Although the Wimbledon champion back-tracked by admitting she can "run pretty fast" and was good at volleyball ("but the sand was tiring"), the point she was making was that athleticism does not count for everything in tennis.

"I think it all boils down to if someone has desire, that means more than being athletic. If you have enough desire and heart to do well, you can be a champ," she said. A serve helps, too, but Elena Dementieva, who Williams defeated in Saturday's anti-climactic final, 6-1, 6-1 after 50 minutes, might as well have used a feather duster. The tall, elegant Russian has splendid ground-strokes, but it bodes ill for the WTA Tour that someone who can barely hold serve is the eighth best player in the world.

Gabriela Sabatini and Anna Kournikova are called to mind as dodgy servers, but Dementieva's weakness against the power of Williams on the court was compounded by her reaction to the defeat.

"It's good that she beat me so easily," she said, "because now I'm going to work harder on my serve and improve my game. I had nothing to lose and I was already satisfied with my results in the tournament. I was just a little upset that that I was tired and couldn't play as good as I can." Dementieva, who was fortunate to catch Venus Williams on a bad day in the quarter-finals, cannot use fatigue as an excuse for an alarming compilation of match statistics. In her six matches, the Russian hit three aces and double-faulted 57 times. She faced 69 break points and her serve was broken 30 times.

In the final, Dementieva was unable to hold in any of her seven service games, salvaging the two games she won by breaking Willliams in the first game of the opening set and when 5-0 down in the second set.

Apart from one or two blips, such was the ease with which Williams won her first tournament since knee surgery after defeating Venus in the Wimbledon final last June that questions concerning the truer challenges ahead were inevitable.

Was the former world No 1 ready to face Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, the two Belgians now at the top of the rankings? "I think there's so much I want to do better," Williams said.

"Everything from my serve to my return to my ground-strokes to my running. Like I say, I don't care who I play. It really doesn't matter to me, because I'm going to play [Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters] sooner or later."

As the women's game continues to struggle for talent in depth, it is hardly surprising that Martina Navratilova, 48 this year, has been persuaded to play singles in Charleston and Eastbourne. "I don't blame her," Williams said. "I think she'll win a few rounds. It keeps me motivated. When I'm 48 I hope I can be standing, let alone competing."