Thursday, June 4, 2015

Williams and Safarova: Who could ask for anything more?

I once saw Serena Williams win a major final while being wrapped like a mummy in bandages all over her body. I once saw her win an important match at the Australian Open when she had functional use of only one leg and one hand. So it was no surprise today when the world number 1 won her French Open semifinal while experiencing some really nasty flu symptoms that caused her to sweat profusely and stagger around the court. Williams defeated Timea Bacsinszky 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.

Serena Williams is a warrior in the classic literary sense. She has endured the ugliest racism, the most repulsive misogyny, a series of significant bodily injuries, the break-ups of significant relationships, her sister's murder, Venus's chronic illness, and a near-death illness of her own. And she has used all of these things to make her tougher and more resilient. She is simply amazing.

I'm going to say, however, what others seem to be shying away from because of their awe of Serena and their great regard for Bacsinszky: Bacsinszky blew it. She might not have won the match, but she could have made it a lot closer (or even won it?) had she not mentally collapsed in the third set. Was the collapse caused by the "not ready for prime time" fear syndrome? Or was it caused by the very sight of a resurgent Williams on the other side of the net? I'm going to go with the first answer because I don't think Bacsinszky was that afraid to face Serena--or anyone.

Timea Bacsinszky is a class act and it was a pleasure to see her make a run to the semifinals of a major. And there will be more of the same to come, I believe.

Williams' opponent in the final will be Lucie Safarova, who has yet to drop a set (in singles or doubles) at the French Open. Yesterday, someone Tweeted me that Ana Ivanovic would take Safarova out, and I was thinking "in what parallel universe?" Safarova is a woman on a mission, and it's been a long time coming. And Ivanovic, for all her talent, can handle only so much pressure. And pressure she got, almost every moment, from the aggressive Safarova.

The Czech star, for her part, displayed both the blessing and the curse of being a lefty. She served her way to success (as she has the entire tournament), but she got shaky when she realized she was about to advance to the final of the French Open. Serving at 5-4, Safarova double-faulted away her match point. But, like many players who are prone toward anxiety, Safarova found it an easier job to break Ivanovic in the next game than to hold her own serve.

After breaking, Safarova did hold her own serve, defeating Ivanovic 7-5, 7-5. The first-time major finalist hit 36 winners, 18 of them with her forehand, and 18 with her backhand. Lucie's body language tells the story: The lanky Czech now walks around the court with an air of confidence and competence; she looks like a different person.

We also got a champion today: Bethanie Mattek-Sands, with partner Mike Bryan, won the mixed doubles title, defeating Lucie Hradecka and Marcin Matkowski 7-6, 6-1 in the final. Mattek-Sands is still alive in women's doubles, too, with partner Safarova. The pair won the 2015 Australian Open.


Todd.Spiker said...

Some of the post-match comments from some corners about the prospect of Williams "faking" her condition, or playing it up to get attention (which is essentially what V.Wade said), were as sad as they were expected. Unfortunately, it sort of goes with the territory where Serena (and Venus, at least before the Sjogren's) is concerned that some are going to immediately go down that road.

It's sort of remarkable that for all the attention she's gotten and all that she's accomplished, a case can still be made that she's not been given all the recognition and admiration she's deserved. :(

Diane said...

I always brace myself for the tacky and disgusting comments people make about any player, but especially Serena. What do they want from her? She could stick nails in her head and and bleed all over the court and people would find something "fake" about it. And did you notice that today, it was Brits who were having a field day trashing her?

Todd.Spiker said...

Yes. Though at least as far as Wade goes the last few years, as I recall, she seems to take issue with many of today's players for various reasons that seem senseless and/or derogatory.

Roi said...

I'd like to agree with everything you say about Serena, I'd really do. But I can't help but see this phony persona about her and everything she does on and off court. The same as I think with Maria. But in saying that, I really do recognize Serena as the best player to ever hold a racket and I'm fortunate to be a witness of it, I might not like her but what a pleasure is to see her doing her thing, overcoming every single obstacle and as you said it, she has endured a lot of those.

Timea really has no one to blame but herself, even at the net she seemed to be expecting something from Serena, she had that judgemental look on her and I think she was wrong, if that was the case. Serena will be a wonderful champion and such an inspiration yet again, IF Lucie lets her. But this is the Serena fucking Williams, as Irina Spirlea would say, and we know how this story will end if the player on the other side of the net forgets it.

How great would it be if Lucie makes both finals, let alone win them too!!!

Diane said...

Roi, think back to a time, not that long ago, that I call pre-charm school Serena. This was before her handlers quite obviously taught her "how to act" and what to say. I miss that Serena! I may have occasionally cringed over something she said (or didn't say), but we were getting authenticity. I wish that Serena would return.

As for Maria, I like her just as her smart-ass, somewhat world-weary self!

Agree, Todd, that Wade is pretty much negative about everyone and everything.

shalini said...

Thanks for the great statement about Serena. It is very upsetting to me how she has been treated and continues to be treated by the media and so called tennis fans. Thanks for pointing out what everyone else missed and want to blame Serena for - Timea choked. It's her first time on the big stage so it's understandable and she will have many more opportunities.
It is true that Maria and Serena seem too polished and controlled these days but really I don't see how either has a choice given the constant scrutiny.
Oh and Virginia Wade is embarrassing. She cant seem to get over the fact that when it comes to tennis, the doors to the country club have been smashed open.

Diane said...

Thanks for your kind comment, shallini.

Unknown said...

Hello all, I say lets just enjoy this time with Serena. Love or hate her (why would anyone not love her?) She is truly amazing...we are watching history! I remember watching at 17 years old... look at her now, again I Being older, She had to made the adjustments...stronger mentally and physically (since there's a new young tennis every year) I believe Serena is changing game of Tennis.
Again I


Unknown said...

Go us all what you can do!!!