Wimbledon 1997: The total eclipse of Venus

The clouds may have lifted a little at Wimbledon yesterday afternoon but one of the spectacles they revealed was Venus falling. America's much hyped 17-year-old Venus Williams bit the turf on her first appearance at The Championships, losing 6-4, 2-6, 4-6 to the 18-year-old Polish girl Magdalena Gryzbowska.

Williams had taken the first set, and a two game to love lead in the second but then proceeded to lose seven games on the run to concede the second set. She had seven break points on her opponent's serve early in the third set but failed to take them until the seventh game when she established what seemed to be a vital 4-3 lead.

But Williams immediately dropped her own serve to allow Gryzbowska to level at 4-4. The Pole won her own serve and then broke Williams to love to take the match and a place in the second round.

Williams had stomped her way back from Court One to a locker-room but by the time she came up for the press conference she was trying to put on a brave face at the end of what has been a difficult week.

"I am not disappointed. It's my first Wimbledon and there will be many more to come. I tried to do my best and I never gave up during the match. As long as I know that I didn't, I think I'll do better as the year goes on. I'm not disappointed at all.''

Her eyes said otherwise however. She was blatantly betrayed by her own lack of playing experience, not just on grass, exposing the flaws in this roughly hewn diamond. For all the power and reach in her game - she smacked one serve down at 114mph - she was, at best, tactically naive.

In the third game of the final set, having led 0-40 on Gryzbowska's serve she lost one break point by simply knocking an easy ball to the Pole's backhand, blatantly her strongest side and promptly suffered the consequences.

"She had a good backhand,'' Williams said in appreciation, albeit too late for her own progress. "She hit it very flat, took a lot balls early and so it was very solid.''

The two young girls had come on to Court One at 12.15 as the awful weather finally relented, but the conditions were still far from perfect, with a heavy atmosphere and a treacherous slippyness in the lush turf. Wearing big, basketball-style tennis shoes Williams slithered to a double fault on her first ever service at Wimbledon, an apt omen as she was to serve 11 more to undermine her chances.

But with her green, purple and white hair beads swishing through the air Williams soon began to unleash her trademark forehands, although with more power then placement. She also stuck consistently to the baseline for most of the first set, aiming to out gun Gryzbowska with her ground strokes.

In the seventh game a booming forehand set up a first service break which Williams exploited to take the set, although a double fault on set point was some indication of her nervousness. With an immediate break and a win on her serve in the second set, a planetary alignment looked good for Venus.

But she then lost her serve three times as Gryzbowska produced her run of seven winning games. And though games went with serve early in the final set, Williams' vulnerability brought two more crucial losses. In the final game it wouldn't be untrue to say that Gryzbowska toyed with her, moving her around the court at will before ripping off big winners.

Williams mainly has a steep learning curve ahead of her and the role of her father Richard as coach may well come under further scrutiny - he hadn't even travelled to Wimbledon, and the subject brought a touch of tetchiness to the post-game interview. But the immediate demands on Williams' future are for her high school grades in a few weeks' time. Back to school seemed to have double meaning after yesterday.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
i100
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Voices
The number of children in relative income poverty is currently 2.3 million in the UK
voices

Environment
A Brazilian wandering spider
natureIt's worth knowing for next time one appears in your bananas
Life and Style
Time and Oak have developed a product that allows drinkers to customise the flavour and improve the quality of cheaper whiskey
food + drink

Sport
football

Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday

Life and Style
The final 12 acts will be facing Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Mel B and Louis Walsh tonight
fashion

The X Factor's judges colourful outfit was mocked by Simon Cowell

Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past