If you could pick two images that stand out from this year’s Wimbledon, what would you pick from the men and women?
Whoa, you’re saying, what about Mssrs. Federer and Nadal in tomorrow’s final? Won’t that provide us the visual treats we’re always on the lookout for? Especially since my co-writer Nina Rota and I are dragging our sorry asses up at six in the morning tomorrow to cover the final live. They’d better show me the money. ALL the money, ok guys?
Frankly though I have my favorite tournament images firmly secured in my brain already. Whatever Batman and Robin whip up for us tomorrow, my favorite moments involve Venus Williams, stretched out probably ten feet wide at the net, and Richard Gasquet’s wonderful backhand disappearing up the line in another breathtaking shot.
There must be a reason Venus Williams wore that big chunk of green stone on a chain around her neck; green is definitely her color. She emerged as the dominant female player on grass, with emphasis on the word dominant. After being tested early on, Venus just kept on rolling as she beat up the draw. Her father Richard Williams predicted his elder daughter would win this event, and he was proven correct once again. Serena’s earlier demise at the hands of Justine Henin paved the way for her sister Venus to take up the slack and carry on the family banner. Not having to face her sister in the final may have been that little bit of extra motivation Venus needed to win her fourth Wimbledon title. The sisters don’t like to play each other, but everyone else? Cannon fodder, baby!
Venus Williams will never show the grace of Roger Federer on the court. But on the other hand Venus shows us something that I don’t think Roger would ever let us see: the naked desire with which she wants to win this tournament. She doesn’t move so much as she pounces, lunges, stretches, and sometimes overruns the balls. Pretty? Well, maybe if you like seeing a praying mantis pounce on its victim.
Is there any way to get a ball by her when she’s on her game? Probably not. At least not wide to the sides. Maybe you could whip a quick little lob over her head, like Marion Bartoli did today in the women’s final. But it had better be a good one. I’m surprised more players don’t try and go directly at her when Venus is blanketing the net. Handcuffing her with a fierce dipping shot may be the only way to go. Her ferocity grew, along with her appetite for winning matches, until by the final you wouldn’t be surprised if nobody showed up on the other side of the net. It wouldn’t have mattered if Henin was there, or God herself, Venus was going to take this title.
As for Richard Gasquet, well. And well again! I love this guy’s game. Maybe his quarterfinal win over Andy Roddick will be the asterisk in his career where we say, “This is where Gasquet started to deliver the goods.” God knows we have been waiting. And waiting. He showed us qualities we always wondered if he had. Like mental toughness, for one. In the past, the words “grit” and “Gasquet” did not go together in anyone’s mind. Yet he showed surprising fortitude, mentally and physically, coming back from two sets and 4-2 down against the game’s biggest server.
Gasquet himself also served a lot better than he has before. He was generating more pace to go with the good placement he already has. But he could use even more pace. If I could make one change to his serve, I would like to see him work on just hitting a simple, flat, hard ball right up the T. His serve has too much spin and he could use more pace in the big moments. It should be more of a weapon, in other words.
The Gasquet backhand was the most stellar shot of this year’s Wimbledon. Even Federer’s comes in second. And if I wanted ever to see Roger Federer lose to anyone, let him lose to Gasquet, the man who probably in his overall game most closely resembles Federer’s.
Unfortunately the guy left it all on the court on Friday. Today he had no game left against Federer. What else is new. Grand Slams are always wars of attrition, after all. But how does Gasquet proceed from here? WILL he power his way into the Top Ten and stay there? I am hopeful. But then I’ve been down this road before with his compatriot, Amelie Mauresmo. Another fragile soul with every inch of class and stylishness to her game that “Reeshard” has in his. She won her first two Grand Slams last year but then slipped away.
So I for one am holding my breath still with Gasquet. He may not win any Slams soon (nobody is really going to be winning any Slams unless it’s the two guys at the head of the pack, and that is just a fact of tennis life right now). Being in the Top 5 though is a goal I think he can reach.
In the meantime, as the people of France like to say, formidable!
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