Thursday, June 07, 2012

RG.12- Deja Vu All Over Again

Both the women's semifinals turned out to have a very familiar feeling to them. And that wasn't good news for Sam Stosur and Petra Kvitova.

As Stosur walked onto the court for the day's first semifinal, she carried along with her rackets the knowledge that she'd twice advanced this far before in Paris, reaching her first slam final in 2010 against Italy's Francesca Schiavone. That match turned out to be the "most disappointing" loss of the Aussie's entire career. After having played better than any other woman in getting to the championship match, Stosur was stymied by the ultra-aggressive play of Schiavone, who pressured Stosur's shots and prevented her bigger game from taking control of the action. Facing off on Day 12 with Sara Errani, another claycourt-loving Italian, on Chatrier Court offered Stosur the opportunity to take another step toward "making right" that had once gone wrong for her there.

In the second semi, Petra Kvitova, for her part, was both trying to re-live a great match from her recent past and erase two other frustrating ones that have occurred over the last five months. All three featured Maria Sharapova on the opposite side of the net from the Czech. At Wimbledon last summer, Kvitova had played a nearly "perfect" match, taking on the Russian head-on with her powerful serve and groundstrokes. It may have been the best performance EVER by a player in her first career slam final. Well, other than maybe that of Sharapova's on the same court seven years earlier. Kvitova was named the WTA's "Player of the Year" in '11, and seemed destined to climb into the #1 ranking this season. But, in 2012, things haven't gone as planned. After having reached three semifinals on the season prior to today, she'd gone 0-3. Twice, she lost to Sharapova in SF matches that turned on but a few spare points, pretty much all of them won by the Russian. Once again squared off against Sharapova in what has become THE marquee match-up on the WTA tour over the past year, Kvitova had the chance to reclaim a part of the current conversation about which player is the best in the world and get within one match of her second career slam title... and do it at the expense of the Russian, who was just a single match win herself from taking over the #1 ranking from Victoria Azarenka and getting a third chance in the past twelve months to claim her first post-shoulder surgery slam title.

Earlier, at five-feet-and-a-handful-of-pennies (sorry, that's just my impersonation of "B-Gilly," as it sounds a little like how Brad Gilbert might describe Errani's 5'4" height), 25-year old, #21-seeded Errani didn't have the luxury of a super-powerful game like Kvitova's. Save for grade school-sized opponents, Errani isn't going to blow anyone off the court with the force of her far-from-massive blasts off either wing or in her service game. With quick feet, a long-running motor and some of the same sort of motivational tools employed by her friend Francesca at RG in years past, Errani was set to follow a plan of action against Stosur that was laid out like a blueprint for a complicated machine that, when everything lined up just right, was a beautiful contraption. But a great final product was anything but a certainty. Errani needed to move into the court to accept Stosur's serve -- something that the Aussie's QF opponent, Dominika Cibulkova, had not done, getting back returns quickly so that Stosur didn't have time to run around her backhand and smack forehand winners against an out-of-position foe all afternoon. She had to move Stosur from side to side during exchanges, extending rallies with good defense and elongating points to give herself a better chance of outlasting her opponent. She wanted to move her around just enough to work on her weaker backhand stroke, while hoping that her natural fighting spirit would eventually bring out Stosur's long-time issues with nerves in the latter stages of big matches. It was nice work... if she could get it.

Kvitova, while trying to mix things up by going to the net and/or attempting more angled shots is always a nice tactic for her to employ, went up against Sharapova with a bit more straightforward plan: hit it hard, hit it deep, keep the ball in the court and don't waste the opportunities presented to her on the Russian's serve like she had in the two's previous 2012 meetings in Melbourne and Stuttgart. In those matches, Kvitova had had handfuls of chances to break Sharapova's serve and seize control of the match at multiple stages. In the Australian Open SF, she'd gone 3-for-14 on break point chances. In Stuttgart, her numbers (1-for-11, including the first 10) were even worse. Sharapova had displayed big point prowess in those situations, calling upon big serves to pull herself out of danger, but Kvitova's penchant for losing track of her lethal-but-streaky forehand's accuracy more than shared some of the blame for the Czech's failures.

Stosur had spent most of this Roland Garros handling her nerves quite well. Out of the glare of the spotlight afforded someone who didn't arrive at RG as a tournament favorite -- sort of like how she'd battled her way into the U.S. Open final last summer with a series of dramatic wins on outside courts and a win in a mostly-ignored semifinal match over then-largely-unknown Angelique Kerber -- Stosur hadn't lost a set, calling upon her recent big match experience to fight out of potentially tight situations against game opponents before things got truly treacherous. Against Errani, Stosur suddenly found herself thrust into a spotlighted favorite's role against an opponent who'd never beaten her (going 0-5), but one intent on finding a way to finally do it.

It turned out to not be a good combination for Stosur, though things DID start off rather well. She began the match by using her great kick-serve, which had bounced high above the head of the set-up-ten-feet-behind-the-baseline Cibulkova one round earlier, to drag Errani to the court's edges. She slugged an ace to hold, then used a huge return game to break the Italian for 2-0. But then, slowly but surely, Errani's gameplan began to get its footing while finding small victories that only grew larger over the course of the set and, later, the match. Moving Stosur around the court during rallies, and often stepping forward to chip and block back the Aussie's serve to prevent her from constructing her favored bang-bang kick-serve-and forehand winner combinations. After having broken Stosur at love for 2-1 to get back on serve, things stayed that way until it was 5-5. Then, in Game #11, Errani carved out two break points with a great return of serve. On the second, Stosur attempted the wide serve and quick winner combo, coming in behind her serve, only to see Errani return her shot right at her. Stosur netted the volley and as broken for 6-5.

In the 4th Round, Sloane Stephens had served for the 1st set against Stosur, but the teenager stepped back just enough to allow the Aussie to seize control. Errani was having none of that. With her own wide serve and down-the-line winner combo, Errani held for 7-5 to take the first set off Stosur at this Roland Garros (and taking Stosur's career 48-0 front-running slam record when she wins the 1st set out of the equation).

Stosur upped her aggression in the 2nd, quicky going up 4-0, then knotting the match with a forehand winner for a 6-1 win. But in the 3rd set, Errani retuned to her 1st set tactics, while Stosur's game began to show some of its old big-match cracks once again. After Errani opened with a hold of serve, Stosur's back-to-back double-fault and error put her into a quick love/40 hole. Errani broke and was soon up 3-0. Stosur, on her fourth break point of the game, managed to break to get back on serve at 3-2, but she couldn't stem the time of her own errors down the stretch. Her 20th of the 3rd set broke her own serve as Errani took a 5-3 lead and served for a berth in the final. From there, the momentum was unstoppable. Perhaps trying TOO hard to hit her way out of trouble, Stosur's wild return of a 61 mph Errani 2nd serve gave the Italian a 30/love lead.

Errani held at love, then dropped her racket and collapsed onto her back in disbelief, as her 7-5/1-6/6-3 win sent her to her first career slam singles final. Her win over world #6 Stosur gave her two Top 10 victories at this slam alone (she had none in her career before coming to Paris), as well as a pair of wins over former RG champs Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova. One year after climbing out of a 5-0 3rd set hole to defeat Christina McHale in the 1st Round at Roland Garros, Errani will now play for the title... in both singles AND doubles.

For Sam, the familiar image of an Italian opponent rolling around on the terre battue after ending Stosur's dreams of winning this title will sting. Only this time she'll have the memory of wincing TWICE at virtually the sight.

With Errani's date with Saturday's final secure, Sharpova and Kvitova lined up to see which one would go into the championship as the favorite to take the title. And, in the windy conditions, the Russian's first shot didn't seem to bode well for her chances -- she bounced her first serve three-quarters of the way into her own service box. In that opening game, Kvitova pounded deep returns of serve, and Sharapova tossed in a double-fault to give the Czech her first chance to reverse her failures to convert break points in Melbourne and Stuttgart. But, again, Kvitova was not able to do it. In the clutch, Sharapova upped the quality of her serves, then held with an ace to go up 1-0. It would set the tone for the match.

In Game #4, Kvitova got another break point shot. But Sharapova's big serve rescued her again and she held for 2-2. Perhaps feeling frustrated at her inability to crack the Russian's serve after continually getting so close, Kvitova quickly fell down love/40 in the next game. Just as in Melbourne, where she was 5-for-5 in BP attempts, Sharapova took advantage of HER opportunity, breaking on her first chance to take a 3-2 lead. She put together a string of ten consecutive points en route to going up 4-2. Then, with Kvitova serving to stay in the set at 5-3, Sharapova went up triple break point. She only needed one. She broke to take the set 6-3 on the strength of her 2-for-2 record on BP attempts vs. Kvitova's 0-for-2 numbers.

In the 2nd, Sharapova again won the opening game with an ace. Two games later, also again, Kvitova got a chance to take control of things when a Sharapova double-fault got her a break point. But Kvitova netted a backhand (0-for-3) and Sharapova went on to hold. With her frustration again carrying over, Kvitova slipped behind love/40 on her own serve in the next game as her hooking lefty serve was having no effect on the clay and her ground game was rife with errors. After saving two BP, her double-fault handed Sharapova (3-for-5 on BP) the game and a 3-1 lead. Finally, after going up 40/15 on Sharapova's serve in the next game, Kvitova got her first break when a Sharapova shot sailed long, but the Czech was barely holding onto the match with the very tips of her fingers.

At 3-3 on Sharapova's serve, with the Russian up 40/30, Kvitova hit a shot that was called long on the baseline. Kvitova didn't agree with the call, even after the umpire climbed out of the chair and referred to the "correct" mark that proved that the ball had landed out. The call gave Sharapova the game, even as replays showed that the ball had, indeed, actually been in. Kvitova seemed to accept the situation, but it lingered in her mind. Then, two points -- up 30/love -- into her own service game, another shot that landed at her feet was called in by the same linesperson. Reacting angrily with a yelp, Kvitova furiously circled the mark in the clay and then stormed in the opposite direction. The umpire agreed that Sharapova's ball HAD been out. But the Czech's frustrations were now beyond the point of no return.

Kvitova didn't win another game in the match. In fact, she lost six straight points from that moment, getting broken for 5-3 when she netted a forehand (making Sharapova 4-for-6 on BP). The Czech finally ended the streak with a forehand winner up the middle to get to 30/15 on the Russian's serve, but it was too late to matter. A long Kvitova return gave Sharapova two match points. As usual, she didn't need both. Again, she ended the game and match with an ace, winning 6-3/6-3 to reach her first Roland Garros final. She'll play for a "Career Grand Slam" on Saturday, and return to the #1 ranking for the first time in four years on Monday. Meanwhile, Kvitova heads back to the grass courts with a 0-4 record in '12 semifinals, a 0-3 mark against Sharapova this season, and the memory of going 5-for-30 on break point attempts against the Russian when their three matches hung in the balance.

Sharapova, in her third slam final in the last four majors, and her second consecutive (the first time she's managed that single-season feat in her career), once again finds herself facing off against a player looking to claim her maiden slam title, this time at the slam where more women have done it than at any other in the Open era.

[Open Era]
1971 Evonne Goolagong, AUS
1974 Chris Evert, USA
1976 Sue Barker, GBR
1977 Mima Jausovec, SLO
1978 Virginia Ruzici, ROU
1987 Steffi Graf, GER
1989 Arantxa Sanchez, ESP
1990 Monica Seles, YUG
1997 Iva Majoli, CRO
2003 Justine Henin, BEL
2004 Anastasia Myskina, RUS
2008 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2010 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2011 Li Na, CHN
NOTE: Ann Haydon-Jones won first career slam at '61 Roland Garros, before Open era began in '68

While Stosur and Kvitova experienced unfortunate cases of deja vu on this semifinal day, will Sharapova be next? Or will her feeling of familiarity revolve around the exhilaration -- and, likely, relief -- of being crowned a slam champion for the fourth time in her career? Will it be deja vu all over again... again?

We know what result The Radwanska desires. But, if Sharapova has HER way, The Radwanska will definitely NOT get what The Radwanska wants. Not this time.

...with a final featuring Sharapova and Errani, we're now assured of six different women being crowned champions at the last six slams, and eight at the last nine. Meanwhile, Sharapova's return to the #1 ranking will come after she last held the spot in June 2008. It's the third-longest span between stints at #1 in WTA history, behind only Serena and Clijsters' returns to #1 in recent seasons.

...the first champions of this RG were crowned in Mixed Doubles, and they're Sania Mirza & Mahesh Bhupathi, who defeated Klaudia Jans-Ignacik (sorry, Rad) & Santiago Gonzalez 7-6/6-1. It's Mirza's second Mixed title, having won the AO with Bhupathi in '09. It's Bhupathi's eight Mixed crown with seven different partners.

In the conclusion of the Women's Doubles SF today, Maria Kirilenko & Nadia Petrova completed their comeback from yesterday to knock off '11 RG champions Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka with a 7-5 3rd set (I'd thought yesterday that they'd play a super-tiebreak final set, but I was mistaken). The Russian pair will now face off with Italians Errani & Roberta Vinci, with the winners lifting their first career slam titles.

...Petra might be out, but boyfriend Adam Pavlasek is alive and well in both the Boys singles and doubles SF. Today, the #11 seed got back at top-seeded Luke Saville, who'd beaten him in the AO Boy SF en route to the title, in the QF. He'll next face Canada's Filip Peliwo, who lost to Australia's Saville in the AO junior final.

In the Girls, #2-seed Annika Beck (GER) is joined in the semifinals by two unseeded players -- Anna Schmiedlova and Antonia Lottner -- and #12 seed Anett Kontaveit. Kontaveit took out American Allie Kiick today, while Beck defeated the other Bannerette left in the draw, Chalena Scholl. Slovak Schmiedlova upset her second Top 5 seed at this RG, #5 Katerina Siniakova; while Lottner, one of two Germans left in the Final 4, defeated the last Pastry remaining, Clothilde De Bernardi.

It's been a while since any of the nations with players still left in the Girls semis has produced a junior slam champ. The last Slovak to be a Girls champ was Kristina Kucova at the '07 U.S. Open. The last German was Anna-Lena Groenefeld at Roland Garros in '03, while Estonia's former champ is not really a surprise. It's Kaia Kanepi, who won in Paris in 2001. Esther Vergeer double-bageled fellow Dutch player Sharon Walraven in the Wheelchair semis. She'll next another countrywoman, #2 seed Aniek Van Koot, in the Women's Final. This will be the third straight slam final in which the two have faced off for the title. Vergeer allowed just three total games in the previous two matches.


that I still have a shot to go four-for-four on my singles picks for this Roland Garros. I had Sharapova and Nadal as winners. Good chances there. In the juniors, I had Kontaveit to win the Girls, and Pavlasek (though I didn't post my Boys pick, as I never do my weekly ATP picks -- which are actually quite a bit better than my WTA "guesses") to defeat Mitchell Krueger (also still in the junior SF) in the Boys final. Speaking of "flukes"...

...and, finally, it took a while, but it DID happen. Over the past week and a half, ESPN2 has steadfastly refused to talk about the fact that Errani put on a QF run at ANOTHER slam -- the Australian Open in January, a HARD COURT event. Sure, she's at her best on clay courts, but listening to the talking heads you'd think she ONLY won matches on clay. Even during today's match, a stat was put on the screen highlighting her great clay court singles record this season, along with her (not great, but not horrific, either) 11-7 mark on hard courts, complete with a little footnote about her reaching two hard court QF in '12. One might have thought that the note would have mentioned that one was a grand slam. But no. Then, FINALLY, ten minutes after Errani advanced to the final, Darren Cahill FINALLY noted how the Italian had made the Fight 8 in Melbourne, so her RG run wasn't just some sort of "specialized fluke."

Somewhere, I suspect, an angel got its wings.

#21 Sara Errani/ITA vs. #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs.#3 Roger Federer/SUI
#6 David Ferrer/ESP vs. #2 Rafael Nadal/ESP

#4 Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) vs. #7 Kirilenko/Petrova (RUS/RUS)

#1 Mirnyi/Nestor (BLR/CAN) vs. #2 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA)

#7 Mirza/Bhupathi (IND/IND) def. Jans-Ignacik/S.Gonzalez (POL/MEX) 7-6/6-1

Anna Schmiedlova/SVK vs. Antonia Lottner/GER
#12 Anett Kontaveit/EST vs. #2 Annika Beck/GER

#11 Adam Pavlasek/CZE vs. #5 Filip Peliwo/CAN
#8 Mitchell Krueger/USA vs. #6 Kimmer Coppejans/BEL

#1 Bouchard/Townsend (CAN/USA) vs. #6 Gonzalez/Haddad Maia (PAR/BRA)
Sasnovich/Vekic (BLR/CRO) vs. #2 Gavrilova/Khromacheva (RUS/RUS)

Couacaud/Favrot (FRA/FRA) vs. Harris/Kyrgios (AUS/AUS)
Monteiro/Quinzi (BRA/ITA) vs. #7 Pavlasek/Safranek (CZE/CZE)

#1 Esther Vergeer/NED vs. #2 Aniek Van Koot/NED

#2 Stephane Houdet/FRA vs. Shingo Kunieda/JPN

#2 Buis/Vergeer (NED/NED) vs. Ellerbrock/Kamiji (GER/JPN)

Jeremiasz/Olsson (FRA/SWE) vs. Cattaneo/Kunieda (FRA/JPN)

[Career slam Finals - active]
17...Serena Williams (13-4)
14...Venus Williams (7-7)
8...Kim Clijsters (4-4)
4...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2-2)
[2012 WTA Finals]
6...Victoria Azarenka (4-2)
4...SARA ERRANI (3-0)
3...Agnieszka Radwanska (3-0)
[2010-12 slam Finals - by nation]
3...Belgium, ITALY, United States
2...Australia, China
1...Belarus, Czech Republic

26 - Victoria Azarenka (January-March)
17 - Serena Williams (April-May)
11 - Kiki Bertens (April-May) *
11 - MARIA SHARAPOVA (May-current)
* - w/ qualifying round wins

Auckland - Flavia Penneta, ITA (L+L)
Bogota - Alexandra Panova, RUS (L+W)
Acapulco - Sara Errani, ITA (W+W)
Charleston - Lucie Safarova, CZE (L+W)
Barcelona - Sara Errani, ITA (W+W)
Roland Garros - SARA ERRANI, ITA

[AO-RG-WI-US; where/when completed; age]
Doris Hart, USA [1-2-1-2, 1949 AO, 24]
Maureen Connolly, USA [1-2-3-3, 1953 AO, 20]
Shirley Fry, USA [1-1-1-1, 1952 AO, 30]
Margaret Smith-Court, AUS [11-5-3-5, 1963 WI, 20]
Billie Jean King, USA [1-1-6-4, 1972 RG, 28]
Chris Evert, USA [2-7-3-6, 1982 AO, 27]
Martina Navratilova, USA [3-2-9-4, 1983 US, 26]
Steffi Graf, GER [4-6-7-5, 1988 US, 19]
Serena Williams, USA [5-1-4-3, 2003 AO, 21]
Maria Sharapova, RUS [1-0-1-1, ??]

[AO-RG-WI-US; since Navratilova & Evert]
Steffi Graf, GER [5-9-9-8]
Justine Henin, BEL [3-4-2-3]
Martina Hingis, SUI [6-2-1-3]
Serena Williams, USA [5-1-6-5]
Venus Williams, USA [1-1-8-4]
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, ESP [2-6-2-2]
Monica Seles, YUG/USA [4-4-1-4]

1974 Wimbledon - Chris Evert def. OLGA MOROZOVA
1974 US Open - Chris Evert def. OLGA MOROZOVA
2004 Wimbledon - MARIA SHARAPOVA def. Serena Williams
2006 Roland Garros - Justine Henin-H. def. SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA
2006 US Open - MARIA SHARAPOVA def. Justine Henin-H.
2007 Australian Open - Serena Williams def. MARIA SHARAPOVA
2007 US Open - Justine Henin def. SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA
2008 Australian Open - MARIA SHARAPOVA def. Ana Ivanovic
2008 Roland Garros - Ana Ivanovic def. DINARA SAFINA
2009 Australian Open - Serena Williams def. DINARA SAFINA
2010 Wimbledon - Serena Williams def. VERA ZVONAREVA
2010 US Open - Kim Clijsters def. VERA ZVONAREVA
2011 Wimbledon - Petra Kvitova def. MARIA SHARAPOVA
2012 Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka def. MARIA SHARAPOVA
2012 Roland Garros - MARIA SHARAPOVA vs. Sara Errani

377...Steffi Graf
331...Martina Navratilova
260...Chris Evert
209...Martina Hingis
178...Monica Seles
122...Serena Williams
117...Justine Henin
98...Lindsay Davenport
67...Caroline Wozniacki
39...Amelie Mauresmo
26...Dinara Safina
22...Tracy Austin
20...Kim Clijsters
19...Victoria Azarenka
18...MARIA SHARAPOVA (as of June 11)
18...Jelena Jankovic
17...Jennifer Capriati
12...Ana Ivanovic
12...Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
11...Venus Williams
2...Evonne Goolagong

265 weeks - Serena Williams (2003-08)
256 weeks - Kim Clijsters (2006-11)
208 weeks - MARIA SHARAPOVA (2008-12)
156 weeks - Chris Evert (1982-85)
144 weeks - Lindsay Davenport (2002-04)

[Mixed Doubles]
2005 Daniela Hantuchova & Fabrice Santoro
2006 Katarina Srebotnik & Nenad Zimonjic
2007 Nathalie Dechy & Andy Ram
2008 Victoria Azarenka & Bob Bryan
2009 Liezel Huber & Bob Bryan
2010 Katarina Srebotnik & Nenad Zimonjic
2011 Casey Dellacqua & Scott Lipsky
2012 Sania Mirza & Mahesh Bhupathi

TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #6 Samantha Stosur/AUS
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: #1q Kiki Bertens/NED d. Annika Beck/GER 6-1/4-6/9-7
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Virginie Razzano/FRA d. #5 Serena Williams/USA 4-6/7-6(5)/6-3
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 4th Rd. - #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS d. Klara Zakopalova/CZE 6-4/6-7/6-2
FIRST WINNER: #6 Samantha Stosur/AUS (def. Baltacha/GBR)
FIRST SEED OUT: #30 Mona Barthel/GER (lost 1st Rd. to Lauren Davis/USA)
UPSET QUEENS: United States
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Romania (1-5 in 1st Rd; A.Cadantu double-bageled & 18 total points)
LAST WILD CARDS STANDING: Claire Feuerstein/FRA, Melanie Oudin/USA & Irena Pavlovic/FRA (all 2nd Rd.)
LAST PASTRY STANDING: Mathilde Johansson/FRA (3rd Rd.)
IT: Sara Errani/ITA
COMEBACK PLAYER: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
CRASH & BURN: #5 Serena Williams/USA (lost 1st Rd. to Razzano/FRA; led 6-4 & 5-1 in 2nd set tie-break; was 46-0 in career slam 1st Rd. matches)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #1 Victoria Azarenka/BLR (came back from down 7-6/4-0, BPs for 5-0, to Brianti/ITA in 1st Rd.; avoided earliest exit ever by RG women's #1 seed)
JOIE DE VIVRE: Virginie Razzano/FRA
DOUBLES STAR Nominees: Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA), Kirilenko/Petrova (RUS/RUS)
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: Nominees: A.Schmiedlova/SVK, A.Lottner/GER, A.Kontaveit/EST, A.Beck/GER

All for Day 12. More tomorrow.


Blogger Zidane said...

The analogy between Sharapova's record against Serena and Kvitova's record against Sharapova, so far, is unflawed.

Sharapova [Kvitova] might have had the high hand over Serena [Sharapova] in the year that she first took the spotlight, but Serena [Sharapova] always won in the following years.

It will be interesting to see if the analogy persists or deviates.

Thu Jun 07, 10:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Will Corby said...

Looking at your Russian finals stat, it is interesting to note the Russians not named Sharapova are oh-fer in finals against non-Russians. I think they just have this major mental block when we reach those finals, and Sharapova because she moved to the US or maybe was born in Siberia managed to overcome that.


Thu Jun 07, 11:39:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

It's been noted by some in the past that the Russian players are trained (culturally? tennis-wise? both?) to be perfectionists, so naturally, they would not be equipped to take over at really big moments.

Fri Jun 08, 11:22:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Sharapova *is* American. She's only fooling herself.

As for Kvitova v. Sharapova. I think the story will deviate since they're closer in age (less of a mental block) and Sharapova can't just overwhelm top players with her play. A lot of things have to running smoothly. Not to mention, both players play frequently. There's bound to be a day when Maria is not so hot and Petra is.

Fri Jun 08, 11:26:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Also, since so many of the 2000's wave of non-Sharapova Russians have been a pretty tight group, I'd imagine that the familiarity of their opponent might have taken away some of the nerves that they might otherwise face in a slam final. Myskina and Dementieva, for instance, grew up playing against each other as kids at the Spartak Club.

Fri Jun 08, 02:22:00 PM EDT  

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