Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Schnyder gives Serena a Roman holiday

The feature second round match between Patty Schnyder and Serena Williams began late at night in Rome because there was so much rain there today. The court was damp and cold, conditions that Schnyder strongly dislikes. I saw part of the first set and thought Patty looked pretty good. I left my office, and by the time I got home, Patty had won that set, 6-2.

Then I started having more trouble with Tennis TV (what else is new?) and missed the beginning of the second set. When I did tune in, the conditions had become colder and damper, but Schnyder persevered. Williams, however, raised the level of her game and took the second set, 6-2.

As readers of this blog know, I consider Patty Schnyder to be the biggest under-achiever on the tour. She can do so many things--serve, return, move--so well, yet she is inconsistent about doing them--and especially about serving well. There was a time when she had that big looping forehand as a major strength, but not much of a backhand. In the past few years--late in her career--she has developed a much better backhand, and it was on display in today's match.

Commentators rarely mention Schnyder without using the word "crafty," and--though there is more to her tennis than craftiness--it is true that Patty's looping and dropping and spinning are major factors in her game. She said, in an interview last year, that she cannot compete with so-called power players, but she can, at least some of the time. (If you are a Schnyder fan, you are still hurting over that French Open match against Sharapova.) What Patty often lacks is confidence, and it seems to have been especially lacking lately.

In the third set of tonight's match, Schnyder saw the second seed lose her confidence, and she exploited that reality. She went up 5-0, then--after five deuces--Williams held to win her first game of the set. Schnyder then served for the match, and went down 15-40. The game went to deuce, and Schnyder saved a break point with a wide-out serve. There was another deuce and another break point, followed by a body serve, which gave Schnyder a match point. Williams saved that, and got a third break point, which Schnyder saved, and then--on her second match point--she won the match.

Schnyder's shot-making made the clay seem soft and sticky for Williams, who just couldn't get to the ball, and when she did get to it, she made errors. Schnyder wound up with a 71 first serve win percentage, and a 42 second serve win percentage. She also hit seven aces. She is always capable of serving that well, but many times--like in Charleston recently--it just doesn't happen.

This is the Patty we love to watch--the one who knows how good she is. She is now 3-0 against Williams on clay, though she is 4-8 against her overall. Her next opponent will be Kaia Kanepi, who defeated Sybille Bammer today.


Beatka said...

So I wonder what will be Serena excuse this time, the mouth injury?

Diane said...

I understand that three losses (not counting retirements) in a row is a first for Serena. Serena goes up and down, and undoubtedly went into this match with a certain amount of unease, given her history with Patty on clay. Ironically, it was Patty who wanted to stop playing.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this match will turn Patty's season around and give her some confidence going into the French. Im hoping for another tourn like Charleston 2002? where she had that amazing run to the finals being unseeded.

ken said...

Kind of makes Serena's recent comments about "the true #1" seem a little boisterous.

Diane said...

Yes, Serena is taking a lot of heat from fans for her "I'm number 1" comment.