Younger sibling made the right noises and was hungry for title
Sunday 05 July 2009
Serena wanted this title. She wanted it badly. We know this because she said so, several times, over the past fortnight. We know it because in her semi-final against Elena Dementieva, which she almost lost, she celebrated holding one vital service game by balling her fists and shaking them.
For a moment it seemed possible that she was about to leap the net and tear off the Russian's head with her bare hands, tip her upside down and drink her. She didn't do this, obviously. Not the done thing. But she was so pumped by not losing that game, it was frightening. That told us how much she wanted this.
Yesterday we knew she wanted it because of her fist clenches and pumps. She's not averse to a clench or pump against most people. It's part of who she is. But she tends not to clench and pump against Venus. Not the done thing, not to a sister you evidently like and respect so much.
Yet there she was yesterday, clenching and pumping. The first clench of significance came at the end of the eighth game of the first set. Serena was serving and had handed Venus two break points by dumping a forehand into the net. "Aaaagghhh!" she yelled.
She saved the first break point when Venus hit wide, and the second when Venus hit long. She moved to advantage with an ace, and took the game with another.
Then she clenched her left fist, tightly, drawing it slowly to her chest. She did not scream but the message was clear. She wanted this.
The first big fist pump confirmed what was obvious (she wanted this), and it came in the first-set tie-break, just after Serena had secured a mini-break on Venus's serve to go 6-2 ahead. She had won the point with one of those low, violent forehand cross-court winners that make the crowd go "Oooh!". She pumped her fist. She may have yelped a little but it was wasn't easy to hear, what with the applause. We also knew Serena wanted this by her noise emission on important points. This is best illustrated by describing a rally as she sought (unsuccessfully) to break Venus in the 11th game of the first set.
The rally was a mixture of brutal Venus double-handed backhands and savage Serena forehands. The latter part of the rally sounded as follows: "Uuugh!", "Aaaagh!", "Uuuugh!", "Aaaaaaaagh!", "Uuuuuugh!", "Oooh!" (that was the crowd) "Aaaagh!", ""Uuuuuuuuuuuuugh!". Serena won the point.
The only time it looked as if she might not want it was in what turned out to be the last game of the match, 5-2 to Serena in the second set with Venus serving.
Suddenly it looked like Serena didn't want it that much at all, wasting three match points, and "waste" is certainly not too strong a word for the first two of them.
The first was when Venus was making a second serve. It had spin but it was slow and somehow Serena whacked the ball well wide. The second was during a rally, with Serena on the left side of the court as a tame ball from her sibling sat up in front of her at a perfect height.
If tennis balls could talk, that ball would have begged: "Please, please, please, hit me in any direction you choose, at virtually any speed, and it'll be a winner." Instead, Serena played the dampest squib of a shot, allowing Venus to stay in the point, and then dumped a backhand into the net.
Serena admitted after the match that when Venus had finally hit a shot into the net to seal victory for her sister, her first thoughts were: "Thank God. Did she hit it in the net? I was thinking 'Thank goodness I didn't choke on another match point'.
"I feel so amazing. I'm so blessed. I feel like I shouldn't be holding the trophy. I can't believe I'm holding it and Venus isn't."
That's because Serena wanted this badly.
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