Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One For the Ages

by Savannah

Or should I say ageless? How about the throw down in Londontown? No? Oh well.
Most tennisheads know the story of Date Kimiko. She left tennis for 13 years seemingly content to play exhibitions and get on with her life.

But as we all know tennis is an addiction, an itch you can never quite scratch. Still I think most of us expected good but not spectacular play from her nostalgia tour figuring that her best tennis was behind her. Besides she was a throwback, someone who wouldn't stand a chance in the world of big babe baseline power tennis or survive the rise of the pusherocracy. At 40, as those of us who have left that age in the rearview mirror know, your body has started to exact it's revenge for all the shit you did up to that time.

Still the woman known now as Kimiko Date-Krumm kept plugging away on the sidelines while another woman from Asia began to hog all the limelight.

When she walked on court this morning I noticed she was cut but thought nothing of it. She'd annoy her opponent and that would be that.
Oh yeah. Kimiko Date-Krumm was playing someone named Venus Williams. Another ancient warrior, at 31 Venus has become the Grande Dame of women's tennis. She is the undisputed Queen of Wimbledon and for the last decade if she hasn't won the tournament her little sister has stepped up and maintained the family honor.

But Venus is 31. Many of us saw her severely injure (or reinjure or aggravate a healing injury depending on what you believe) herself back in January and after a four month layoff it was debateable what she could will her battered body to do.

It's now about 12 hours later give or take a few minutes and I'm doing something I rarely do - rewatch a tennis match. Why? Because it's been a long time since I've seen tennis played at such a high level by two women who many think should be home with a baby in one arm and a couple more pulling on the hem of her dress.

Instead I will say that I have never seen a set of tennis as spectacular as the first set of their match today.
The innovation shown by Date-Krumm was jaw dropping. She was playing all court tennis for sure, but she was creating angles where none should have been. She was absorbing the power of Venus and giving it back to her in a way the Queen of Wimbledon, I think it is safe to say, has not seen before. Kimiko was taking the ball early and with almost no back swing. Venus was forced out of her comfort zone and it showed. She fought back to force a tiebreak in the first set but lost it. Date-Krumm deserved that set. What remained to be seen was if she would be able to survive what was coming. She was threatening to throw Venus out of her house. No one abandons their house without a fight and she was in for one.
I won't say Venus calmly won the match. The older of the Williams Women is not given to emotional displays in public but she opened the door and let anyone who was looking see the emotion, the heart, the desire to win that fuels her, that makes her return to the sport that seems not to know how to embrace her.

The replays they'e showing here focus on the two sets Venus won ignoring the brilliant tennis that was featured in the first set. If the women of the WTA played the kind of tennis we were treated to this morning there wouldn't be any talk of no one wanting to watch a women's match. Date-Krumm and Venus Williams showed all their intelligence, court knowledge, skill and creativity as well as the ability to think for themselves in one amazing set of tennis.
Throw the rankings in the toilet. We're seeing Grand Slam tennis from the likes of Francesca Schiavone, Venus Williams, Li Na and Serena Williams. They're not, and never have, played every week so that they can accumulate enough points to be ranked #1 by the computer. They do their talking on the court. And oh, what conversations they have!

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