From Pete Bodo's write-up of the Serena/Lena semifinal:
It's hard not to feel for 'Lena, but then it's legitimate to ask whether someone with such a glaring flaw really ought to win a Grand Slam event. Given Dementieva's results since last summer, we had reason to think that she'd hurdled that final, hitherto omnipresent obstacle to ultimate success - the conquest of her nerves, the state of which has always been telegraphed to us by her service proficiency. The message she tapped out yesterday told us that we were wrong. It just took a player of Williamses stature to tease out the message.
After the match, Serena was asked what she "did better" today than in her previous and sometimes uninspired performances. She replied: "Well, I definitely served better. It's so important to serve well against her. She's a really good returner. I moved better and I was definitely more consistent and I kept my cool. . ."
While all of that is true, Serena's greatest virtue may have been the last quality she cited. She kept her cool. It was apparent from the start that Dementieva was jacked-up and jumpy, probably convinced that she had to do too much, too quickly, in order to beat Serena. It was a predictable dynamic, and one that Serena routinely relies on in her matches. To a greater extent than any woman player in recent memory, Serena has imposed herself on the game. Great players of the past - Martina Navratilova immediately comes to mind - have been no less intimidating to play, but it's always been the direct result of their form and recent results. The girls knew they would get waxed, because Martina has waxed the last 123 player's she's met - why should today be any different?
But it's different with Serena. Her opponents quake in their tennis boots simply because of who she is, and the extent to which she's shown that each day is a new day. That's usually good news for the aspiring upset-maker, but Serena has turned the cliche upside down: On any day, there a good chance that Serena will just get a notion to go out and. . . destroy you. The WTA exists in a state of this perpetual fear.
On each new day you face a sum total of experience, talent, determination, and skill that is as absolute as it is unpredictable, and unrelated to the previous day. This can be, as they say, stress-inducing. Sit back to sniff the wind and try to get a read on how she's playing that day and you may quickly find yourself running for cover. Attack too eagerly and you get shot to rags. I wonder how many women players have been taught, or told: Now, it's really important to get a good start against Serena. Keep her off balance. She hasn't been playing that great, so if you can get a good jump you can take control of the match. . .