• US Open, Day Four

Mix it up to match Serena

Alex Livie August 31, 2012
Serena Williams screams in frustration © PA Photos

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Serena Williams has looked pretty much bombproof this summer, but the unlikely figure of Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez may have opened up a potential window of opportunity for the rest of the US Open field.

Williams came into her second round clash with Martinez Sanchez as an injury doubt after turning her ankle. She dispelled those fears by moving with freedom and the scoreline of 6-2 6-4 would suggest all was well. But it was anything but as she was driven crazy at times by the play of Martinez Sanchez.

Martinez Sanchez is currently sat at 89 in the world rankings, but she has been as high as 19 which confirms she is no mug. In recent years, though, the Spaniard has focused on doubles and that format is what stood her in such good stead against the world's best player.

Williams has looked unbeatable against the game's power players, soaking up what they have to offer and countering with her own, heavier strokes. That formula has won her 14 grand slams, the most recent of which was at Wimbledon this year which was followed up with the 2012 Olympic gold medal.

But against Martinez Sanchez she came up against a player who was intent on taking the ball early, chipping and charging, hitting unorthodox slices, cute angles and the occasional drop shot. It all combined to pose a different puzzle. And for a while it proved tough for Williams to solve. She was screaming at herself in the seventh game, her usually brilliant serve started to go off and at one stage in the second set she was staring down the barrel.

It was only when Martinez Sanchez faltered on her own serve, three double faults gifted Williams a much-needed break, that the No. 4 seed regained control.

The Azarenkas, Sharapovas and Radwanskas of this world have come up short with Plan A, so they could do a lot worse than take a look at the video (DVD for the youngsters) of this match and throw a bit of the Martinez Sanchez into the mix to formulate a Plan B. It may not work, but Plan A hasn't so far so what's the harm in trying?

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Alex Livie Close
Alex Livie was editor of ESPN.co.uk