Why not review another match of the dominant Serena Williams? This was the 2015 French Open final against Safarova, who has beaten 4 seeds on the way to the final: Lisicki, Sharapova, Muguruza, and Ivanovic, all without losing a set! On the other hand, Serena had a rough road to the final. She had 4 three setters with Friedsam, Azarenka, Stephens, and Bacsinszky. Not only was she on the court for many hours, she was also not feeling well, which is never a good thing going into a final. But lucky enough for her, even though it was another three setter, these obstacles didn’t prevent her from holding the first place trophy.
Let’s look at each of the player’s strategies. For Serena, she needs to have shorter points, especially when she is not one hundred percent healthy. She needs to have a good serving day, and she needs to attack any mediocre shots that Safarova gives her. On Safarova’s side, she needs to move Serena, and due to Serena’s condition, she needs to extend the match as long as possible if she is down. She also cannot give up on Serena’s service games. She needs to take advantage of any games when Serena is not serving well because the only way she wins is if she breaks Serena. Lastly, she needs to be aggressive with her lefty forehand, and make Serena uncomfortable on the court.
Let’s now look at the positives and negatives of each player’s execution, starting with Serena. In the first set, she was very aggressive, knowing that in her condition shorter points are her best friend. She was also the dictator. No mediocre shot was hit back with another mediocre shot, she always finished the point with a hard angle or down the line winner. On Safarova’s side, she was the defender. She missed many of her second serve returns going for bigger shots, which is exactly what she doesn’t want because she needs to break Serena’s serve, and her best chance of doing that is on Serena’s weaker second serve. The strategy itself is smart, but she needs to go for bigger targets in order to not give away the point. Missing a return is ultimately like your opponent hitting an ace. The majority of the points Safarova lost was because she was hitting perfect balls to Serena, without having to make her move. The points she won were when she moved Serena, but that did not happen much in the first set.
In the second set, Serena was up 4-1, up two breaks of serve. So how did she end up losing this set? Her intensity dropped. She started to make many mistakes, and even double faulted two times in a row, which is extremely rare for the number one in the world. Not only did this leave an open door for Safarova, but she also raised her intensity. She started to make the shots that she was missing before, and her confidence rose to allow her win the second set in a tiebreaker.
In the third set, Safarova was up a break, but just like what happened with Serena, she let it go with a dropped intensity and a double fault. The momentum shifted back to Serena and the first set repeated itself once again to make Serena the victor.
So what’s the lesson from this up and down match? It’s all about the momentum. Momentum is the driving force in a match, and it is ultimately gained through one’s intensity. Serena had the higher intensity in the first set, and then Safarova raised her intensity and took the momentum until Safarova gave it back away with her double fault. Finally, Serena kept her momentum to victory.
So make sure that once you have the momentum, do not lose it.The match can change so quickly that you can be losing before you know it! And if you do lose the momentum, the best thing you can do is raise your intensity, because the higher your intensity is, the more you will make your shots and be the best player you can be!