Venus Williams and the grandly named Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor played a first-round match that could have been mistaken for one of those Goran Ivanisevic-Pete Sampras rockfights from the days of yore. They began by targeting each other with big serves—wide, down the T, to the body—and did what all players are charged with on grass: They held serve.
Williams won it, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, in 1:46, but not without some anxious moments.
Neither woman had a sniff at a break point until the ninth game, with Torro-Flor serving at 4-4. Williams cracked a service return on the first point of that game, then Torro-Flor responded with a service winner to the body. She won the next point as well, but then mishandled a Williams service return to fall to 30-all. The next point produced the best of the few long rallies in this match, Williams winning it when Torro-Flor nailed a backhand just wide.
The first break point of the match came at a critical time, which helps explain why Torro-Flor responded with a woeful, nervous double fault. That left Williams serving for the set, and she closed it out with a love game. She had lost all of two points on her first serve in the entire first set.
The established themes continued to shape the action in the second set, but there was one critical difference—Torro-Flor began to find the range with her forehand, a kind of slap-shot hit almost totally flat, and with a short backswing. She began to score with that stroke, although she still had trouble getting her opinion in Williams’ service games.
The women held serve to 4-all, at which point the next game appeared to be a replay of the same juncture in the first set. After building a 40-0 lead, Torro-Flor lost two points, then threw in a double fault that made it deuce. But she went on to save that game this time.
To that point, Torro-Flor hadn’t gotten as far as 30-all in any of Williams’ service games. It looked like the pattern would continue in the 10th game, but yet another forehand winner by Torro-Flor created that breakthrough. Another forehand winner—and by this point you had to wonder, why was Williams so oblivious to the danger Torro-Flor presented on that side?—gave her a set point. Williams dispatched it with a nifty 83 M.P.H. serve, then added 30 M.P.H. and whacked an ace to take the advantage.
But once again, Williams went to the Torro-Flor forehand, and she was punished with a winning service return. At deuce, Williams hit an apparent ace that was called out. She didn’t bother to challenge, although she should have—replay showed that the ball was clearly good. Worse yet, Williams then hit a forehand wide of the sideline as she finally adjusted her game and tried to avoid the Torro-Flor forehand.
That brought Torro-Flor to set point again, and this time she claimed it when she poked back a return that Williams took moving forward. The American's forehand approach shot ticked the top of the net—just enough for the ball to go out, wide. Set to Torro-Flor, 6-4.
Through the first few games of the final set, it looked as if the war of the holds would continue. But at 2-all, Williams struck quickly and unexpectedly. From 30-15 ahead, Torro-Flor gave up a point and then hit Williams’ next service return into the top of the net. Suddenly, it was break point.
In the next rally, Williams smacked an inside-in forehand to Torro-Flor’s backhand corner. It was too hot a shot to handle, and after Torro-Flor missed to surrender the break, she produced such an angry outburst that she received an official warning.
Williams backed up the break with a swift hold, and Torro-Flor, probably still angry for surrendering a break so early, promptly served herself into a 0-40 hole. Williams converted the first of those three break points when Torro-Flor drilled a backhand into the net off Williams’ return.
Torro-Flor seemed to understand that there was no coming back from that big a deficit in a match of this nature. She went down quietly as Williams served out the final game without much ado.
Stat of the Match: In a match that had a grand total of just five break points, Venus was 3 of 3 while Torro-Flor was 1 of 2.
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