'There isn't even a molehill'
Serena: No lingering ill will toward Henin-HardennePosted: Friday July 04, 2003 1:44 AM
LONDON, July 3 (Reuters) -- If there was any suggestion that Serena Williams was distracted by her supposed feud with Justine Henin-Hardenne, the world No. 1 buried it at 4-3 in the first set of her Wimbledon semifinal on Thursday.
After going up 4-0, she had seemed to lose her focus and let the Belgian take three games in a row.
But in the first point of the next game, she turned up the power -- and the volume on her full throated grunts -- and battered Henin-Hardenne into submission in an 18-stroke rally.
Serena won four straight games to take the first set and race to a 2-0 lead in the second on her way to a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
"She was really aggressive in the point. Much better than me. She was so good today," Henin-Hardenne said.
This was billed as a grudge match after their semifinal in Paris, when a crowd jeered Serena to tears while Henin-Hardenne ended the American's 33-match winning streak in Grand Slams.
In the third set of that match, Henin-Hardenne raised her hand as Serena was serving. The umpire didn't see it and wouldn't give Serena another serve. The French crowd began hooting and whistling, and Serena's game never seemed to recover.
Serena later accused Henin-Hardenne of "lying and fabricating" for not acknowledging that she had called time on the serve, although she never said it had cost her the match.
The two have since done their best to bury the grudge, blaming the media for blowing it out of proportion. Both women are 21, and both have made the point that they expect to play each other for years to come.
"I think it's more the press want to start a rivalry between people," Serena said. "It used to be us and [Martina] Hingis: the Williams sisters and Hingis. I think you guys just make a mountain out of a molehill.
"In this case there isn't even a molehill here."
Henin-Hardenne called the uproar "really stupid," and complained that journalists had allowed that one point to overshadow her French Open triumph.
"It's hard sometimes, when you won a Grand Slam [and] everybody's talking about what happened at one point of the tournament," she said. "I played good tennis at the French Open. Everybody forgets this and just talks about what happened at 4-2 in the third set against Serena."
But if she wanted to put the story behind her, her coach Carlos Rodriguez did her no favors by telling the New York Times she would have conceded the fateful serve in Paris if she had been up against any player other than Serena.
Still, in London on Thursday, the feud was not nearly as good a story as the tennis.
If there was any flaw to Serena's game, it was the occasional awkward backhand volley that found the net -- one dropped in weakly to start the second game in the second set leading to three break points that might have given Henin-Hardenne a chance to come back.
But Serena saved the three points, used a devilish backhand volley to take the advantage from deuce, and then put Henin-Hardenne away.
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