A day of two (Williams) sisters
SERENA Williams, world number one and the the top seed in the Ladies Draw, won a closely contested match against Garbine Muguruza of Spain (2-6; 6-3; 6-2), but the eight day belonged to elder sister, Venus, who won her match against sixth-seeded Agnieska Radwanska from Poland, with the score of 6-3; 2-6; 6-2.
The older Venus had not featured in Grand Slam tournaments for more than two years, while Serena dominated the Ladies game, as the two won in doubles in all the Grand Slam events. Since 2013, there had been speculations about Venus retiring. Therefore, the fourth round match at this year’s Australian Open took on greater symbolism. Was the eighth time grand slam champion playing her way back into contention?
Monday, in the Rod Laver Arena, Venus won the first set easily by the score of 6-3. In the second set, however, the Polish lady turned things around and played consistent tennis to lead 4-1. There was a glimmer of hope when Williams won the first point of the fifth game. Serving, Agnieszka controlled the rally and followed a good approach shot to the net. The passing shot from Venus was within Agnieszka’s reach but a net-cord diverted the ball past her waiting racket. Undeterred she won the next point to level and then hit a perfect drop shot before sealing the game with an ace serve. Venus won her service game to reduce the tally. Serving for the set, Agnieszka got the first point when Venus hit a forehand shot long. Two more forehand errors gave her the game and set.
Williams served well to open the deciding third set but leading 30-15, she missed an overhead smash right by the net and then lost the breakpoint with a forehand hit wide. Venus fought hard in the second game. At 30-all, she hit a powerful backhand cross-court winner to earn the break point, which she converted by longing to hit a backhand volley winner. She consolidated the break by winning the third game and then broke Agnieszka’s serve without losing a point.
The fifth game provided excitement and drama. Venus was serving and leading 40-15 but she over-hit a forehand at game point taking the game to deuce. She lost the first advantage point but struggled to level. She had the advantage three consecutive times before winning the game. She broke Agnieszka’s serve at love. Serving for the third set, at 30-all, Venus served hard into her opponent’s body to earn match point. She hit an unreturnable serve that was questioned by Agnieszka.
The electronic review showed the serve was good. It was game, set and match to Venus Williams, and a place in the quarter-finals. She would face American rising star Madison Keys
Venus had not won the Australian Open though a finalist in 2003. She was a Semi-finalist in 2001 and got into the quarterfinals in 1998, 199, and 2002. With Serena she won the doubles in 2001, 2003, 2009 and 2010. She and her sister have the best career winning records; 659/179 and 675/116 respectively. Serena won the Australian Open in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010 and she has won The Grandslam. Venus has not won the French Open.
Her formidable weapon all through her career was her backhand while her forehand shot had been exploited by opponents at critical points of matches. However, Venus had improved on her forehand and her second service.
Venus was the first to come to the limelight, when she reached the finals of the 1997 United States Open on her first try but lost to Martina Hingis. Serena was the first to win a Grandslam when she became champion in the 1999 United States Open.
Tennis enthusiasts and analysts marvel that although trained by the same teachers, each sister has a different shot-making technique. They both have very good serves, thanks to their height and technique. Venus has a formidable backhand. Serena is technically sound all round and is reputed to have the most reliable second service in the game.
The difference between other players and champions is that champions hit the ball with authority, with no doubt in mind that the ball will stay in the court!