Friday, November 12, 2010
Dementieva's shock retirement
In the past few weeks, I have been concentrating on writing articles on cricket. Today though, I would like to write an article on Dementieva's retirement. Since the time I saw the sad news of Dementieva's retirement, I have been thinking about writing an article on her, and finally I got the time to write the article.
First glimpses of Dementieva
Dementieva made her debut around 95/96, but she made a impact for the first time only in 2000, when she won a few matches in all the grand slams she entered. Yes, a few tennis fans may say that her breakthrough year was in 99 itself, as if I remember correctly, she made a comeback from behind to beat Venus Williams in a Fed cup match. In 2000 though, she didn't just win more matches than what she did in 99, but she was able to break into the top 20 in the rankings. I vaguely even remember the young lass getting a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics at Athens. Dementieva lost the final to Venus Williams in the Olympics, but her court coverage was exemplary, though it was very much evident that her serve was a weak link in her game as sometimes she wasn't even finishing her service action. In the years to come, every player would target her weak serve and that would stop her from winning majors.
Rise of Dementieva
It was in 2004, when it looked like Dementieva would finally be able to fulfill the promise that she showed during the early years of her career. At the 2004 French open, she played sparkling tennis and reached the final of the French open, but lost out to the unheralded Myskinia. During the final, it became crystal clear that her service would stop her from winning majors. At the US open in 04, she yet again reached the final, but only to lose against her good friend Kuznetsova.
Golden opportunity missed
As the years went by, she started to slide in the rankings, but she had a good year in 2008 which helped her to get back into the top 10 in the rankings. What impressed me most during that year was Dementieva seemed to have worked day and night to improve her serve and as a result she was serving better. It just shows that she was a thorough professional and always demonstrated the commitment and work ethic required to succeed in tennis.
The improvements in her game helped her to reach a career high ranking of three in 09. It was in 09 itself that she had a golden opportunity to upset the apple-cart against Serena Williams at the Wimbledon championships. I would even say that match between Serena and Dementieva was as good as any match I have watched at Wimbledon. I would have no hesitation in rating that match on par with the match between Graf and Sanchez at Wimbledon in 95. In that epic match played at Wimbledon, Dementieva took the first set and it even looked like she may win it in straight sets, but Williams battled hard to win the second set to take the match to the decider. In the final set, both played like their lives were depended on it and hit winner after winner. In-fact, Dementieva came close to winning the match a few times and was even able to get a match point or two, but Serena is a one tough competitor, who has a never say die attitude which in the end, helped her to win the match. In-fact, I haven't seen too many players, who have been mentally tougher then Serena in the women's game. It was also the only time I backed Dementieva to win the elusive slam that was missing from her trophy cabinet, but my prediction bombed lol.
Actually, during that time she played a few great matches against Serena which includes the Australian open semifinal in 09. Yes, Serena won that match in straight sets, but for most part of that match, Dementieva matched Serena shot for shot and even led the second set by a break, but Serena again proved to be too powerful for our poor Dementieva.
2010 was a up and down year for our Dementieva. This year can be best described by her game against the serve and volleyer Stosur in the US open. Dementieva in that match played some brilliant shots, but also made lots of un-forced errors and in the end, lost the match. Throughout this year she was inconsistent and in the WTA tour finals held in Doha, her game went to pieces. She was troubled by an ankle injury throughout the tournament and looked a pale shadow of her former self as she won only one match. Immediately after the WTA tour championships, she announced her retirement and that ended the career of one of the game's most consistent players.
Dementieva's signature shot
Dementieva's main strength was her court coverage and in my opinion, her signature shot was the forehand winner she would hit on the run. Most players knew that with her excellent court coverage Elena could hit a forehand winner even when she was on the defensive.
Dementieva won't go down into the history books as one of the greats of the game, as she never won a major, but by winning six WTA tour titles and by consistently reaching the later stages of majors, she would be surely remembered as one of the most consistent players on the tour. Just like any other tennis fan, I would wish her all the best for her post retirement life.
Finally, her good friend Kuznetsova on twitter,
" I will stay in touch with her! Best wishes to Elena! hope to see her kids soon!!! Lol"