Many thanks to Adam Wells (some of you may recognise Adam as createdsick in the comments section of Moo’s Tennis Blog) for writing this recap of the second round match that took place in Beijing today between Venus Williams and Caroline Garcia. My preview of Wednesday’s matches in Beijing will follow soon. Thanks again, Adam!
On a chilly Chinese afternoon where neither player took their warm-up tops off, I watched the re-run of last week’s cracking battle between these two with a great deal of intrigue.
Garcia received rave reviews for the way she closed out that previous meeting, but she’ll earn no plaudits for her start here. Two double faults in the first two points handed Williams a lead she never let slip. Garcia found the service box for the first time with her fifth serve of the match, but, though she won that point, she went long in the next, then gifted the break to Williams when she failed to recover after serving at 15-40, perhaps surprised she hadn’t double faulted.
The worst of Garcia was joined by the best in the next game. Stepping well into the court to return the Williams’ serve, she made two bad errors as well as two big winners down the line. But two smart backhands from Venus put paid to any plans of breaking back straight away.
Still, Garcia was moving in the right direction, and her improvement continued in the next game as she held to love, finding a couple of first serves and sealing the game with a huge cross court forehand.
Heavy baseline exchanges dominated the rest of the set, with Venus coming out on top more often than not. At 1-3, with very little variety on show so far, it surprised both Garcia and me when Venus crept into the net behind a deep forehand and put the volley away to put pressure on her opponent’s serve again. Williams pressure and Garcia errors led to more beak points, but they were both superbly saved – the first with a big serve and the second through a brutal, long exchange.
Garcia took belief from this, and it was her turn to put the pressure on in the next game. Now more consistent off the ground, she stepped in to hit her shots with conviction. But she wasn’t making Williams move enough, and though she hit a couple of winners herself, when she let Williams stand and hit she was inevitably punished. Aggressive returning earned Garcia her first break point of the match, but a couple of unreturned serves ensured Williams stayed firmly in control. Garcia did well to hold twice more and make Williams serve for the set, and Williams had little trouble doing so.
The second set started with an echo of the first. Garcia threw the opening two points away, then double faulted at 15-40 to give Williams an early lead. But this time, Garcia broke back straight away. She played a stunning point at 15-0, stepping in and hitting two massive forehands from well inside the baseline. A double fault helped Garcia get to 30-40, and she found the perfect depth on a return to force Venus to surrender her serve for the first time.
It looked like she may have found a lifeline, as more big hitting took Garcia to 30-15 up in the next game. But such hopes proved short lived, with Garcia missing down the line before a world class point was finished with the perfect passing shot by Williams, and the break was handed back with yet another double fault.
Venus took the score to 3-1 with the help of an ace in the next game, reaffirming her control and setting up a stark contrast between the way the two women had served and played the big points today. At this stage, Williams had served 4 aces to Garcia’s 0. Garcia had served 4 double faults, 2 of them at break point, the other 2 the first 2 points of the match. When Garcia next managed to get a foothold in a Williams’ service game, via some aggressive hitting and a fine drive volley, Venus threw down two huge body serves to shake her loose. Serving for the match at 5-3, with Garcia looking to put the pressure on as Williams reached for the finish line, Venus sent two of the new balls she was serving with thundering past her. Any hope of a comeback was snuffed out in a flash, and victory was sealed with a 60 second service game and another hold to love.
All in all it was a slightly disappointing match, partly because of its proximity to their last meeting, largely because Garcia handed her the tools and Williams turned the screw. Garcia has scored a couple of great victories over top players recently, but if she wants to compete with them regularly she has to play the big points better and add a bit more variety to her game ( I think there was one slice played all match, and that was by Williams!) If she can learn from moments like today’s, and from opponents like Venus, she can go a long way in the women’s game.
This recap was written by Adam Wells