Posted: Thursday June 30, 2005 4:48PM; Updated: Thursday June 30, 2005 5:45PM
Venus Williams matched Maria Sharapova shot-for-shot in a 7-6 (2), 6-1 win Thursday.
S.L. Price is covering Wimbledon for Sports Illustrated and SI.com. We caught up with him to get his impressions of Thursday's rain-soaked shocker, and more.
Venus Williams' upset of Maria Sharapova was impressive. How did she pull it off?
Venus was completely prepared, mentally and physically. It's quite obvious now that she's put in the work. Her ground strokes are as solid as we've seen from her. Her forehand held up quite well. Her serve was great. Mentally, she really had a great approach to the match. She and Serena both are the ultimate "in-the-now" players. Venus is definitely on right now. You can't deny where she is. She's back in the final for the first time in years. But who knows? Serena won the Australian Open in January, and after her loss at Wimbledon, we're talking about her.
It was great drama out there. It was a great match to watch. Sharapova didn't play as well as she's capable. But a lot of that has to do with Venus just taking it to her. That's exactly what you want from the women's game these days. We want some defined personalities taking it to each other and we got that today. It was a fantastic match.
Sharapova didn't seem like herself. What was going on?
I think what was wrong with Maria was Venus. Venus just took it to her and played a better match. She won the long rallies for the most part. Venus started out sprinting, and Sharapova lifted the level of the match midway through the first set, and then Venus responded. It's exactly what you want to see. I don't think it was that Sharapova broke down. She wasn't as mentally tough as she had been through the championships. Her serve wasn't as strong as it's been. But you've got to give Venus credit. She won that match and she took it from Sharapova. It was truly great to see.
What are Venus' chances in the final, depending on who she plays?
Lindsay Davenport is, on this surface, as tough as they come for Venus, and it looks like she'll be the one to win. She's leading right now and we won't know until tomorrow if she can hold on. If Davenport gets through it, I think it'll be a three-set match and Venus will win it. Not to take anything away from Davenport -- she's played quite well through these championships. I wouldn't be surprised either way, which is great. You really walk in there now with no idea what to expect. If Sharapova had blasted through this match today, she'd be carrying all the momentum of the women's draw with her. Now it's a pick 'em. Both Venus and Davenport are playing at a high level. You could go either way and not be surprised, but I'd give the edge to Venus. More than anything, she has full belief in herself, at least for the moment. It's tough to beat Venus and/or Serena when they're physically and mentally in it and for the moment, that's exactly where Venus is.
How do you predict the men's semifinals will go?
Roger Federer has such an edge on Lleyton Hewitt -- he's won seven straight against him. I'll say exactly what Andy Roddick said yesterday: You can't bet against Federer until it happens, so I'm going to go with Federer, obviously. Roddick is a tough one. He's had some shaky moments, some five setters here -- he hasn't cruised. Thomas Johansson is tricky -- he's a Grand Slam champion as well. They've played twice before, and Roddick has beaten him.
I'll go with Roddick, and part of that is wishful thinking. I'd love to see Andy get another shot at Federer in the finals. I think that's what most people want to see, if only to measure how far Roddick has come. He's put in a lot of work. He's definitely more comfortable up at the net then say, two years ago, when he played Federer.
And we want to measure Federer a little bit. He played a great match against Marat Safin at the Australian, but he had a shaky outing against Rafael Nadal in the semis of the French -- really, his first spotty performance in a big match since he became Roger Federer, since he elevated himself to his current premier position in the game. It'll be interesting to see how he responds, and whether he'll consolidate his play again.
No one doubts he's the best player in the game, but he hasn't won a Slam yet this year and this is the year where a lot of people predicted he'd take a run at winning all four Majors. Now it's down to the last two. He's on a surface in which he's extremely comfortable, a surface that's best suited for his game. As much as we want to take a measure of Roddick and see how far he's come, in a more subtle fashion, we want to see how far Federer has come, too.
That's the final everyone wants to see, and I think that's the final we're going to see. But it's going to be a little tougher for Andy than it looks on paper.