LONDON // Elena Dementieva went agonisingly close yesterday to giving an ailing Wimbledon women's tournament a huge shot in the arm, the Russian holding match point against Serena Williams only to see the world No 2 save it dramatically with the aid of a lucky net cord. Serena, who has been making loud noises throughout the fortnight that this is going to be her year, was almost made to eat those words by last year's Olympic gold medallist.
As has so often been the case during Serena's splendid career that has brought her 10 grand slam titles and 23 other successes on the WTA tour, the powerful Californian was able to find that extra ounce of star quality when the going was at its toughest. Rarely has she had it tougher than in front of a Centre Court crowd who were kept enthralled for nearly three hours, for once not knowing how a women's match was going to end.
Serena, reprieved by that timely slice of fortune in the 10th game of a deciding set, held her nerve and won the longest women's semi-final in the history of the Championships when her opponent put a backhand into the tramlines to succumb 6-7, 7-5, 8-6. Dementieva, the fourth seed, will look back and wonder how she did not add to her three previous wins over Serena. "I should have gone down the line," said Dementieva over her match-point agony. "I'm very surprised I didn't go down the line because it is my favourite passing shot. I didn't see she was moving to cover cross-court."
Dementieva dismissed suggestions that she will never again get a better chance to end her lengthy wait for a first grand slam title. "I have got to take some positives away from playing such a close match against Serena," she said. "I have to believe that I will get more opportunities like this one." Having played much the stronger tie-break to claim a keenly-fought opening set, she retrieved an early break in the second and was within millimetres of getting herself in a position to serve for the match.
The electronic aid of Hawk-Eye rescued Serena on break point in that game and the American continued to have the best of a series of other vital line decisions confirmed by technology to her opponent's undisguised despair. That was particularly so when a Dementieva forehand on break point against her was called 'good' by the sideline judge only to be overruled by Hawk-Eye whose verdict allowed Serena to serve for the set. Serena, typically, needed only one chance when set point eventually came her way and she accepted it by hammering down one of her 20.
Even then Dementieva refused to lie down. She made what looked like a crucial first break in the deciding set, only to surrender it immediately and she threatened the imposing serve of Serena on several other occasions. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org