Serena Loses Three in a Row to Henin, Big Sis Venus Battles Jankovic Tonight

Richard Williams spent about an hour on a U.S. Open practice court Tuesday evening with older daughter, Venus, preparing her to face Jelena Jankovic Wednesday in the quarterfinals. Afterwards, his small-talk chat with a reporter about his golf game was interrupted by a cell phone call. “Excuse me, that’s Serena, it’s 7 o’clock and I got to go talk to Serena,” he said… Then he walked into the player’s lounge for his pre-match huddle with his youngest daughter, the No. 8 seed, who was about to face top-ranked Justine Henin for the third consecutive time in a highly-anticipated Grand Slam quarterfinal clash. The third time was not a charm for Serena, who was beaten soundly by Henin 7-6 (7-4), 6-1. And she wasn’t very charming during her post-match interview.

The first questioner wanted to know if she could explain what went wrong.
No, I can’t,” Serena responded. “I’m sorry. Anymore questions?”

Subsequent exchanges between the media and sullen Serena moved downhill from there. Sarcasm flowed from Serena’s mouth with more bite than Henin’s back-hand volley winners.

“Are you devastated by this loss?”

“No, I’m very happy.”

“You seem much more disappointed than Paris or London.”

“Do I?”

“You do.”

“Go figure.”

She was as quick with the barbs she tossed at the media as she was slow on her feet, chasing down Henin’s well-placed, power-packed ground strokes. Though winded after several long rallies, Serena insisted that she’s fit. She showed spurts of brilliance, especially late in the first set when she held a set point at 6-5, but hard-hitting Henin refused to fold, taking the next three points and then winning the tiebreak. She took the second set in a breeze.

“I played much more aggressive, like the No.1 player in the world,” Henin said. “Just trying to dictate points. Playing Serena is very exciting for me. I’m very happy to beat her here in this stadium, in a great atmosphere. That means a lot to me.”

Told that Serena was upset after the loss, Henin said, “I don’t care if she was 100% or not. She was moving pretty well. In the second set, I just took control of the rallies. She probably didn’t find really the solutions at that time.”

After the match, Richard said that Serena had arrived in New York, hampered by a sore thumb and blisters.

“But that’s not why she lost,” Richard said. “If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do on the practice court, you’ll not going to do it in the match. It was her technique. You don’t hit flat balls to short girls. You hit spin to her. And Serena wasn’t getting down low to hit the ball. You’re not going to win anything with a flat ball. Henin was so low on her shots, she was scraping her knees on the court.”

Though 6-1, Venus stays low on her ground strokes, smacking the ball with topspin from either side. Richard likes that and expects to see Venus continue to stay low when she faces Jankovic Wednesday night. He’s disappointed that Serena isn’t as focused on the fundamentals as Venus is.

“No one hits better angles than Serena but you can’t get her to hit angles anymore,” he said. “Justine had her on the run and you can’t win on the run. I would strongly suggest that she goes back to the way she was playing when she was on top.”

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