Thursday, June 23, 2011
American Serena Williams on Day 4 of 2011 Wimbledon Championships
Photos by © AELTC/ J.Buckle
Another layer of the rust accumulated during her 49-week absence from the game was shaken off as Williams gradually warmed to her task, converting an erratic start into a rousing finish.
Unusally for a title holder, Williams was required to play outside the two main courts, though the No.2 is of course a show court, and an impressive one at that.
This is the first Wimbledon appearance for Halep, the former Junior Roland Garros champion who stands at No.58 in the world rankings after zooming up more than 100 places in the past year. Though she stands only 5ft 6in she makes up in power and pace what she lacks in height. In the opening set she ran Williams relentlessly from side to side and led 3-1 when the American dropped serve on her ninth unforced error in just four games.
Halep's deep, accurate services kept Williams very much on the back foot until in the seventh game, when Halep took a tumble attempting a sharp turn and damaged her left leg. An extended break ensued while a trainer was summoned to treat the injury and although the teenager eventually resumed, the edge had disappeared from her game and her speed. Still, she clung on to her lead and jumped for joy when she closed out the set after 37 minutes.
Subsequently there was not a lot for Halep to be joyful about. Having seen the warning, Williams duly heeded it, tightened her own game and took control, at one point bellowing "C'mon, fight".
Though she landed only 39% of first serves on target in the second set, Williams won it with ease in 42 minutes, levelling the match with a net cord that dropped dead on the Romanian's side of the net. With Halep now demoralised and unrecognisable as the eager youngster who had started so brightly, the third set was embarrassingly one-sided.
But the better players awaiting Williams deeper into the draw will have noted that she required four match points to wrap up the win and committed 19 unforced errors.