Sunday, 25 January 2015

Serena drops set then motors

Serena Williams has won the Australian Open five times but not since 2010, and while winning her matches comfortably this year, her start against Zvonareva was a concern, and today against the Ukraine's Elina Svitolina was another cause for worry.

In trouble and down a break due to poor execution off the forehand, Serena took Elina to deuce twice but could not make an impression and trailed 0-2.  Better news for the number one seed next turn at the line when she found her groove, winning the game with her first ace.

Nothing it seemed would stop Svitolina though who powered her way through the next service game and then pulled 3 freshly minted forehand winners from her bag of tricks to stun Williams and break for a second time - a disconcerted Serena officially announced her progression to outright fury.

Not sure that there is anyone in the tennis world who can intimidate an opponent from 1-4 and two breaks down, but Serena certainly can, and did in the 6th game which Elina basically presented on a plate, a double fault part of the gesture.
Unfazed, Elina ordered a third break in succession when Serena's inconsistency continued to play havoc, the Ukrainian ground strokes cleaning up the mistakes. 5-2.

The Williams forehand asserted itself to ensure the fourth break in a row and then Serena continued to bully the Svitolina forehand causing multiple errors and assisting her to hold serve. 4-5 and Elina could serve for a set lead.

The first 3 points were handled brilliantly by Elina whose groundstroke placement and strength gave Serena little room to move.  The game was held to love, the set to Svitolina 6-4, and Serena had to fight back from a set down once more.

The third and fourth games of set two proved to be match changing in retrospect.  Serena was struggling at 1-1 and 15-40 before she dug deep with fine tennis to find some temporary solace at deuce.  She then created 4 game points only to waste each with either a double fault or a self inflicted mistake. The fifth opportunity was converted with enormous relief when Elina was forced into an errant forehand.

The fourth game had Elina serving at 40-15 before Serena began the attack which netted a service break finished off with a fine backhand.  The number one seed led 3-1.  Elina bounced back in the best fashion, breaking Serena to love with some of the highest quality tennis.

At 6-4 2-3 and 40-30 Elina disappeared from the Australian Open not winning another game.
4-6 6-2 6-0 to Williams - it was the most extraordinary collapse and reminded us so much of the Vera Zvonareva match where Serena dispatched the Russian similarly.

In the final set, Serena won 29 points to 14, and hit 16 winners with only 4 unforced errors.  If ever she started like that, the results would be scary.

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