Tuesday, July 10, 2018

How to beat Serena Williams

Three years younger, three inches shorter and far less powerful, Marion Bartoli knew she had to do something extraordinary to have a chance against Serena Williams in their fourth-round meeting at Wimbledon in 2011.

So Bartoli decided not to hit any second serves. If she missed her first serve, she’d simply blast another first serve with all her might, rather than a high-percentage second serve, and not worry about double-faulting. As she figured, she would lose the point anyway if she gifted Williams a weak second-serve. Why not take a risk?

“If you serve under a certain speed, she’s just going to expose that constantly and [gain] so much confidence, that it’s pointless to do so,” the now retired Bartoli recalled Tuesday, when asked how she had managed to upset Williams, then the tournament’s four-time and defending champion, in straight sets.

In doing so, Bartoli joined an exclusive club as one of just nine women (all but two now retired) to beat Williams on the grass at Wimbledon.
--Liz Clarke, Washington Post, on understanding payoff function convexity. More underdogs should do this kind of thing.