| Anastasia Myskina spent more of her time battling her boyfriend-cum-coach than her opponent
The Russians were coming. Soon after, they were going. Not a short treatise on the history of communism, but the story of Day VII of the All England Lawn Tennis Championships, when the much-hyped Russian revolution of the women’s game failed to materialise, blown away by the heavy guns of American artillery.
Lenin, you realise, never played Serena Willliams.
Unfortunately for Elena Dementieva, she did, and so the 21-year-old Muscovite was swiftly eradicated from proceedings in 57 gung-ho minutes from the defending champion. It was a shame for those of a romantic inclination.
Dementieva has a huge cactus collection in Moscow and a small Yorkshire terrier named Patrick. There was true tabloid mileage in the girl. (For a start, were the cacti themselves “huge”, or were there a lot of them' Now we will never know.)
Obviously the sense of disappointment was mutual. She stalked off the court, blonde ponytail flouncing, without waiting politely for the victor and in every appearance of a strop with the score 6-2, 6-2 flashing up through the drizzle on the scoreboard.
One down. Two to follow. By political coincidence, two of her fellow Moscow-born compatriots were playing American opposition at precisely the same time. A little to her south-east, on Court No 2, the other Williams sister was rocketing through her first set against the 18-year-old Russian, Vera Zvonareva, who had beaten her at the French Open this year.
This was different. Venus was seeking to rectify the experience and if you replace ‘rectify’ with ‘avenge’ and ‘experience’ with ‘butt-whipping’ it might go some way to explain her frame of mind. Poor Zvonareva was permanently on the receiving end of screaming groundstrokes that required her to dive and stretch like a goalkeeper behind the West Ham defence.
She lasted an hour while losing 1-6, 3-6.
She also gave the lie to this irritating suggestion that all the Russians are hungry. If that was the case coming into the tournament, Sunday lunch must have rectified matters.
Splendidly upholstered in the waistband area, we were not looking at a Dostoyevsky waif. Motivated she may be, but the desire to see every player from eastern Europe as a deprived blonde babe flinging herself into the arms of the West in an ecstasy of post-Soviet desperation is a bit rich.
Come to think of it, so are they. Dementieva has already banked £1.5 million in prize-money (albeit ploughed back into cacti).
If Zvonareva was miffed at the ease of the Williams revenge mission, she must have been enraged to hear the self-critical post-match comments of the former champion. Venus described it as an “off match” but announced her expectation that the rest of her matches would be “on”. This was pure emotional gamesmanship.
She was certainly more on than off, but she takes mischievous pleasure in swindling our perceptions.
Her younger sister is less clever at this. More forthright, Serena spent much of her press conference discussing the great works of Katharine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe (she expected we would be surprised to learn she liked How To Marry A Millionaire more than The Seven Year Itch), as well as her own.
She is apparently likely to miss the next US Fed Cup date to fulfil an acting commitment. “It’s kind of hard to get jobs in the acting field. I kind of have to go do it,” she said, demonstrating exemplary hunger in all areas of life.
The last of the Muscovite trio in operation against Misses America was Anastasia Myskina, tsarina by name, tempestuous by nature.
She was thrashed by Jennifer Capriati 2-6, 3-6 in only 52 minutes and spent much of that time in a fierce battle, not with her opponent, but her coach/boyfriend, Jens Gerlach.
This turned the match into a triangular affair which did nothing for the Russian’s game. It allowed Capriati the freedom to return serve with monstrous venom and flatness, which she was asked to evaluate after the match.
“I just step in, hit it and that’s the way it goes back,” she said scientifically.
That’s odd. If it was that simple how come British women tennis players step in, hit it and watch the ball bounce three times before it arrives in the net. Perhaps they are not hungry enough.
But how is Capriati still starving after all these years, especially having won £4.7 million in prize-money, the Australian Open twice, the French Open once and a sports car long before she could drive at the age of 13.
It is more than hunger that sustains the Americans. More like inbred competitiveness that allowed Lindsay Davenport, also through to the quarter finals, to acknowledge with a smile: “It just shows the Americans are still on top of the Russians.”
American imperialism is a tricky subject to make jokes about, but the Californian was probably on safe ground. The Cold War is a distant memory. Russia no longer figures in the US psyche as a demon state and to the average New Yorker Russians just represent another minority racial group, with funny writing on their shop fronts down in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach.
Now the French. There is a nation worth the price of American enmity. Camembert is notionally still banned in several US states, largely the same ones that retain the death penalty. But France’s sole representative in the fourth round at Wimbledon was Mary Pierce and she lives in Sarasota, Florida. Not much room for war-by-another-name there.