Sunday, January 9, 2011

As she sat there quietly contemplating what had passed before her, the tears that seeped from the wells of her eyes and gently cascaded down her cheeks spoke a thousand words.

Told a tale they did, of hardship and of a woman that at times was down on her luck. One that was as much about relief, that all those years of traipsing around the world by herself struggling to get by had finally started to pay off, as it was about elation.

She had only ever won one WTA title during her fifteen year career, in 2007.
Now Greta Arn had finally secured her second title at the ASB Classic in Auckland today. She didn’t just beat Yanina Wickmayer 6-3, 6-3, she fair pummelled her.
With the modern propensity to attempt to perforate the ball, hers was instead a victory for acute tactical nous.

Certainly Arn gave the ball an almighty wallop at times. It’s just that, unlike her adversary, she interspersed this with the occasional slice serve, a delicate lob shot and every so often to change the pace of the game she would throw in some high topspin forehands.

Wickmayer had but not a clue what was going on. For the most part, she kept on belting hard flat forehands and not much else. On the few occasions that she ventured into the net, her approach shots were inadequate, leaving Arn free to fire shots back at the Belgium’s feet. Which Wickmayer promptly volleyed back into the net.

Arn simply dismantled her with the utmost precision. Never, at any stage of the match did Wickmayer seriously look like threatening the Hungarian wonder. If there was a service break to be had, it was Arn who would make a rendezvous with it.
Which she promptly achieved in the fifth game, to take a 3-2 lead. To date, despite the score line suggesting an even contest was at hand, in reality Arn always had control. Wickmayer looked under pressure from the beginning, and was hanging on by a mere thread. No matter what she tried, she couldn’t hang with Arn who was playing with great consistency. She put the ball back over the net and let Wickmayer commit errors. And she did.

Enough so that in the ninth game the thread snapped. Arn, ever ready, pounced and once again captured herself another service break and the first set, 6-3. The dream run of the previous four days seemingly was set to continue.

The defining moment of the final came in the sixth game of the second set. With Arn up 3-2 and each player holding their serve thus far, Wickmayer, at 15-15 on her serve decided to attempt a drop shop from the baseline. Not the right place to try such a stunt. Nor was it the right time of the game. Maybe if she had been up 40-15. But, then, she wasn’t. Panic had made an effort to acquaint itself with Wickmayer, who unwittingly welcomed it into her world.

What was there for all to see in that one fateful moment was a searing insight into a mind that was at the end of its tether as it searched for a way to combat the tactical prowess of a player that, by rights, had no business to have visited the upper echelons of the week’s play.

The match was effectively over.

Arn may only have been up 4-2, but, in reality, Wickmayer was a lost soul. She looked beaten. It was merely a matter of time before Arn put the defending champion out of her misery.

Before she did that though, Arn had the small matter of taming her nerves over the next couple of games. This, fortunately for her, turned out to be nothing more a minor blip in the large scheme of things. At 5-3 she was able to serve out the match to secure a popular victory

All week she had been able to keep a lid on her emotions, remaining ice cool under pressure for majority of the five days. But no longer could she contain the tidal wave of emotion swelling up within her as the mental exhaustion of the week finally took its toll as she fell to the ground in a crumpled heap.

Eventually, as she got back to her feet and sat at courtside, Arn would have been able to reflect on a career that hasn’t always gone to plan, but, now, she really will have something to truly saviour.

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