August 18, 2009

Always a Bridesmaid

You might not have noticed, but if you won a major tournament on the WTA Tour this year, you probably had to beat Elena Dementieva to do it.

The pretty Russian star began 2009 with a bang, amassing a perfect 15-0 record in January and capturing two titles in Auckland and Sydney. And while she hasn't won a trophy since then, she did make the finals in Paris plus six more semis, four times losing to the eventual champion -- at least twice in matches that could easily be considered the biggest highlight of their tournament.

Most famously, she gave Serena Williams a stunning run for the money at Wimbledon, taking the first set and even holding match point late in the third. In a match that lasted just short of three hours, Elena proved that she can be a powerhouse, despite her thin frame and comparatively lackluster serve. Of course we know Serena went on to win the match and the tournament, her eleventh major, easily downing her sister in straight sets in the final -- and making me wish I'd been watching the previous match in the finals. (Incidentally Dementieva also lost to Serena in the Melbourne semis, just days before Williams won that title.)

This weekend too Elena played an exceptional semifinal match. Against Jelena Jankovic on Saturday in Cincinnati, Dementieva bageled her opponent in the second set to level the score and even held a 6-2 lead in the deciding tiebreak, but still failed to close. Not surprisingly, she double faulted seventeen times and barely won forty percent of her second serves -- but she did win more points than Jelena, 116 to 108. To her credit, though, the Serb rebounded nicely from the exhausting match to demolish her opponent for the championship the next day.

I guess you can argue that if you can't perform under pressure, you don't deserve to play for the title (ahem, Dinara Safina), but without garnering a ton of attention, Elena has become the best tennis player no one knows about. (During the Wimbledon match my co-worker kept calling her "Dementia".) Sure she's won thirteen trophies, including Olympic gold, climbed to a career-high #3 ranking earlier this year, and has beaten players like Williams and Safina on multiple occasions. But most commentators continue to write her off, instead concentrating on players who are far less consistent but perhaps riding a good wave of momentum.

This week Elena is in action in Toronto as the fourth seed at the Rogers Cup. She'll get a bye in the first round but, if she's going to make her tenth Final Four of the year, could face Roland Garros champ Svetlana Kuznetsova -- the only Major champion this year who didn't face Elena on her road to the title. With all top ten players in the draw, she'll have to work to make it any farther, but she's proven she's a fighter.

And hopefully when she puts on a great show, it'll be in the championship match -- and maybe this time she'll come out the winner!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your article has been linked in Elena Dementieva Official Forum


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Elena Dementieva Official Forum ...waiting for the new website