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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Vinci's win dashes Serena Grand slam dream !

In a family sport, the ‘ Williamses ’ have provided a sibling rivalry like no other, and it seemed altogether fitting that they met again this September with so much tennis history on the line.  Playing each other for the first time professionally, Venus Williams defeated Serena, 7-6, 6-1, at the 1998 Australian Open.  In the US Open 2015,  Venus the elder swung for the lines and even won the second set in a hurry, Serena the younger prevailed — as she has so often in recent years — to win this quarterfinal match, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, and bring the prospect of a Grand Slam ever closer to reality.

That was not to happen as the little known World No. 43 Roberta Vinci did what many thought was impossible, taking out No. 1 Serena Williams and ending her Grand Slam quest in one of the greatest upsets of all-time on Friday, beating the American, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.  Vinci had reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 11 in 2013.  With her victory, Vinci became only the third unseeded women’s singles player in the Open era to reach the US Open final. The other two were champion Kim Clijsters (2009) and finalist Venus Williams (1997), who have combined for 11 Grand Slam titles.

The US  Open Tennis Championships is a hardcourt tennis tournament which is the modern version of one of the oldest tennis championships in the world, the U.S. National Championship, for which men's singles was first contested in 1881. Since 1987, the US Open has been chronologically the fourth and final tennis major comprising the Grand Slam each year; the other three are the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon.  The US Open is held annually, starting on the last Monday in August, and lasting for two weeks into September.  The US Open is the only major that employs tiebreakers in every set of a match. If a match reaches a 6-6 tie in the final set (third set for women, fifth set for men) at the Australian Open, the French Open, or Wimbledon, the match continues until one player wins by two games. The sets played before the last set always employ tiebreakers. Not here !

Roberta Vinci  [1983]  is an Italian tennis player. To date she has won 9 WTA singles titles.  At the 2012 US Open, Vinci reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final, at 29 years of age, by defeating then-World No. 2 Agnieszka Radwańska in the fourth round.  Her victory  ended one of the great runs in tennis history just two victories shy of the final goal. Williams had won 33 Grand Slam matches in a row entering the semi-final. She was seeking to become just the fourth woman and the first in 27 years to collect all four major trophies in the same season. She had won the Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon in order with formidable displays of mental fortitude and brawn, aided by a serve that at times reached 125 mph and bailed her out of tough spots.

The main question was, what happened? The answer partly was that Williams was too heavy a favorite; all who predicted an easy victory failed to appreciate the pressures, why Slams are so rare. Williams had fought through 11 three-set matches to get to this point in her pursuit of the four titles. Hall of Famer and announcer Chris Evert observed that it was a case of “flirting with disaster too many times. This time she couldn’t dig herself out of a hole, couldn’t find the next gear.”

Williams came out flat and uptight, which made her seem heavy-footed. She was forced to generate her own pace against Vinci’s off-speed tactics, and it wore on her patience at times as she scalloped and scooped the ball rather than hitting it with her usual wallop.  By 3-3 in the third set, the pressure was clearly telling on Williams. When Williams made consecutive double faults on her serve, Vinci knew she was feeling the nerves. “A lot,” she said.

Williams calmly shook hands and then hurried off the court, head down, ducking to the tunnel with a cursory wave to appreciative applause. Afterward, she was composed but frozen-faced, save for flashes of warring emotions.

Age too perhaps it taking its toll on one of the strongest ever players !

With regards –S. Sampathkumar
12th Sept. 2015.

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