Monday, August 31, 2009

US 1.5- Venus, If You Will...

ESPN2, I christen thee a U.S. Open nighttime network.

Sure, I can do without Mary Carillo's constant yammering about the night session going too long into the evening and fans in the stands having to be somewhere tomorrow morning (hello, if you're purchasing tickets for the U.S. Open evening schedule and are hoping that things wrap up before 10:30pm, then why are you there in the first place?), but otherwise, the "worldwide leader in sports'" very first Open-at-Night worked like a charm (and Andy Roddick is only playing in the 1st set of his match as I speak).

Thank Venus Williams... or whoever that was out there for most of Night 1.

Of course, a somewhat hobbled (she called for a trainer to tend to her left knee, which dad Richard kindly told Pam Shriver had been bothering her for five or six weeks... something it was apparent she didn't authorize for public consumption, if the look on her face when Shriver asked her about it after the match was any indication) Venus spraying unforced errors and dancing with defeat is nothing new. Either she or Serena -- and sometimes both -- treat us to at least one of these moments at every grand slam, or so it seems.

As of now, the one designated for the 2009 U.S. Open came at the expense of Vera Dushevina.

With a trainer visit and a series of foot faults mucking up the works for Williams in the 1st set, Dushevina stayed with the American and served for the set at 6-5. She was broken, but in the proceeding tie-break, Williams' fourth foot fault of the set erased what would have been a point that gave her a 6-3 TB lead and three chances to claim the set. Having to serve again, she double-faulted, saw the Russian hold both her service points and then pass a net-hugging Williams with a crosscourt backhand to claim the seventy-six minute opening set 7-6.

In the 2nd, Dushevina served at 3-1. With a chance to potentially race too far ahead for Williams to catch up, she was broken again (at love). Still, she managed to get a 5-4 lead and found herself within three points of wrapping up a straight sets win for probably the biggest victory of her career. With more nighttimes Open wins than any other woman, and with not a single loss in this tournament in the first three rounds since she made her debut in 1997, a Venus opening round loss (she's only had three such defeats in her slam career -- '97 Wimbledon, '01 Roland Garros & '06 Australian Open) would surely make headlines.

But, of course, that didn't happen.

With Venus upping her in-point aggression, she broke Dushevina to take a 6-5 2nd set lead, then held at love to take the set at 7-5 and knot the match. In the 3rd, Venus got two early breaks and led 4-1. She gave one of them back, and failed on her first two match point attempts, but this story was already written once Dushevina failed to put her boot on Williams' neck when she had the chance in the 2nd. In converting her third match point, Venus won the 2:44 match 6-7/7-5/6-3, but only the heart of an experienced veteran resembled that of a champion on this night. After entering this tournament as a longshot-in-theory based on her setback-stuffed summer, and then proceeding to show that the questions were very well-founded, Venus' odds of both making it through two weeks at Flushing Meadows look like they just got a little bit longer.

Let's see... a Williams, battling an injury and poor form, slips through a tough 1st Round match in a slam after very nearly being sent packing. Everyone assumes she can't physically make it through two weeks of action or, if she can, her game's struggles certainly won't allow her to escape oblivion again on a bad day or night for too much longer. Does that sound about right? Hmmm... that sounds spookily familiar to a few other past slam scenarios.

Yeah, I guess it IS best to remember that Venus is still a Williams. Looks can be deceiving.

All for tonight.


Post a Comment

<< Home