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. â€œExcuse me, thatâ€™s Serena, itâ€™s 7 oâ€™clock and I got to go talk to Serena,â€ he said… Then he walked into the playerâ€™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 wasnâ€™t very charming during her post-match interview.
The first questioner wanted to know if she could explain what went wrong.
No, I canâ€™t,â€ Serena responded. â€œIâ€™m sorry. Anymore questions?â€
Subsequent exchanges between the media and sullen Serena moved downhill from there. Sarcasm flowed from Serenaâ€™s mouth with more bite than Heninâ€™s back-hand volley winners.
â€œAre you devastated by this loss?â€
â€œNo, Iâ€™m very happy.â€
â€œYou seem much more disappointed than Paris or London.â€
She was as quick with the barbs she tossed at the media as she was slow on her feet, chasing down Heninâ€™s well-placed, power-packed ground strokes. Though winded after several long rallies, Serena insisted that sheâ€™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.
â€œI played much more aggressive, like the No.1 player in the world,â€ Henin said. â€œJust trying to dictate points. Playing Serena is very exciting for me. Iâ€™m very happy to beat her here in this stadium, in a great atmosphere. That means a lot to me.â€
Told that Serena was upset after the loss, Henin said, â€œI donâ€™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 didnâ€™t find really the solutions at that time.â€
After the match, Richard said that Serena had arrived in New York, hampered by a sore thumb and blisters.
â€œBut thatâ€™s not why she lost,â€ Richard said. â€œIf you donâ€™t do what youâ€™re supposed to do on the practice court, youâ€™ll not going to do it in the match. It was her technique. You donâ€™t hit flat balls to short girls. You hit spin to her. And Serena wasnâ€™t getting down low to hit the ball. Youâ€™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.â€
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. Heâ€™s disappointed that Serena isnâ€™t as focused on the fundamentals as Venus is.
â€œNo one hits better angles than Serena but you canâ€™t get her to hit angles anymore,â€ he said. â€œJustine had her on the run and you canâ€™t win on the run. I would strongly suggest that she goes back to the way she was playing when she was on top.â€