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Serena has a big heart, Amelie doesn’t, and don’t make fun of Rafa

Serena and Venus Williams are on opposite sides of the draw here at Wimbledon. If they both end up in the final, NBC will be delirious but the sisters will not. They’ve never had a good match against each other because they don’t like to play each other.

That’s one of the few pressures they don’t relish. There’s one more: the pressure of being the only U.S. women likely to do well in a slam with no promising U.S. players behind them.

Serena couldn’t take time off from tennis to recover from her sister’s death and various injuries without hearing that she was wasting her talent. She was also subject to repeated comments about her big booty. Neither sister will be able to amble towards the latter part of her career at her own pace because U.S. fans have no other women players to obsess over.

Pete Sampras was allowed to wallow around for his last two years of his career and win nothing, absolutely nothing, until he finally took the 2002 U.S. Open and left us for good. That was o.k. because Andre Agassi was still around and Andy Roddick was making his way into the top ten. Agassi was allowed to limp through his last years with tea and sympathy because by then the U.S. had James Blake to supplement Roddick.

Serena has ping ponged back and forth between injury and strong slam performances to the exasperation of desperate fans. Her third round match with Daniela Hantuchova was more of the same. She strained a calf muscle and the pain brought her to tears. The rain came along and gave her enough time to get ice and massage for the calf but she could hardly move.

That didn’t stop her from winning the match and afterwards she explained what motivated her:

Q. Were you irritated when she[Hantuchova] hit the dropshot in the fourth game?

SERENA WILLIAMS: That pretty much set it off for me. After that, I was so motivated to win. I was like, you know what, I’m going to do this. You know, I’m going to die trying.
You know, I just — I don’t know why that particularly made me so upset, but it was just like, you know what, this is it. I’m not going down today. I mean, no. There’s no way.

It reminds me of the 1995 five set final between Pete Sampras and Jim Courier at the Australian Open. Sampras’ coach Tim Gullikson had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and he’d recently suffered a third stroke. In the fifth set, a fan called out for Sampras to win the match for his coach and that was it, all the grief and sadness that had built up over Gullikson’s illness flowed out of Sampras in sobs.

Courier yelled across the net to his good friend, “Are you all right, Pete? We can do this tomorrow, you know.” It annoyed Sampras and woke him up. “I think once he said that, I thought he was giving me a hard time, ” he said later.

Sampras immediately served two aces, won the fifth set, and went on to take the Australian Open title.

Serena and Pete have hearts as big as the world. Serena’s father expressed it in his own unique way: “She’s a young Mike Tyson. She feel like a pit bulldog…” Her father also said that Serena should go home because she now had a tear in her calf.

Amelie Mauresmo is going home. She lost her fourth round match to Nicole Vaidisova. Mauresmo was up a break in the first set when Vaidisova started coming to the net despite the fact that it’s not her favorite place in the world. It energized Vaidisova’s game and her confidence to the point that her serve – that had not been working well – started popping.

James Blake should take note. He failed to change his strategy against Juan Carlos Ferrero when Ferrero started taking over their third round match and now he’s on his way home too.

Mauresmo lost that first set in a tiebreaker but fought back to take the second set. In the third set she was down a break at 1-4 when she hit two double faults. The serve on the second point was actually good but she was too discouraged to challenge it. She followed that up with a forehand drop shot that cried uncle and it was all over.

Before Amelie won her first slam I said she’d win her first slam and that would be such a great accomplishment that one would suffice. I was almost right. The first one didn’t count because Justine Henin gave it to her by retiring at the 2006 Australian Open. Mauremso beat Justine for real in Wimbledon the same year and now it looks like that was enough.

Mauresmo gets to a certain place – in her match with Vaidisova that meant winning the second set and evening the match – then she says that’s enough. I’m done. That doesn’t get you a high ranking on the heart monitor.

It’ll be interesting to see where Rafael Nadal rates in the heart department. We know he has the most mental toughness but is that the same thing?

In their third round match – yes they’re still in the third round – Robin Soderling made fun of Nadal by pulling on his pants to mock Nadal’s habit of giving himself a wedgie in his long playing preparation routine. Soderling had already annoyed Nadal by stopping Nadal’s serve to get a new racket and Nadal got him back by sarcastically holding up the new tennis ball in his hand to belatedly indicate new balls.

That would be more than enough to turn Serena and Pete Sampras into your worst enemy and it was enough to push Nadal past Soderling when their match resumed, but is it enough to propel him to the final?

When Tomas Berdych played Nadal in Madrid last year, Berdych motioned to the crowd and told them to be quiet after Nadal’s homies applauded his errors. Nadal lost the match in straight sets and lectured Berdych about his manners when they met at the net. Rafa, you’re supposed to decapitate him with the ball, not lecture him. That’s not ferocity.

Maybe Nadal is too nice. Maybe he should adopt some of Serena’s attitude. When a reporter asked Serena how she’d feel if she were Hantuchova and had just lost a match to someone who could barely move, this was her answer:

If she was Serena Williams, I wouldn’t feel that bad (smiling).

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See also:
James Blake the Confidence Man
Wimbledon: A Little Play, a Lot of Water
Wimbledon 29 Years Back
Wimbledon Joins the Hard Court Season
B**tch and Sing Dept: Grass Munching Time
ATP Fantasy Tennis: Wimbledon Picks

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