Saturday, June 09, 2012

A Star is Reborn

Maria Sharapova has traveled a long road to get back to "super." But, as is often said, it's the journey that makes the destination.

The now-25 year old Sharapova first burst onto big-time scene eight years ago, not in London when she won her first career slam title, but in Paris, when the then-17 year old reached her first major quarterfinal at Roland Garros a month earlier. Back then, the slower red clay never seemed to fit the Russian who was always looking to go somewhere and get there as fast as she could. With a game based around a big serve and powerful groundstrokes, the six-foot-two, usually gracefully-attired Sharapova wasn't as graceful a mover on the terre battue. She even likened her ungainly attempts to a "cow on ice."

So much has changed since then. In 2004, Anastasia Myskina was the new Roland Garros champion. Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova were 14. Sloane Stephens was 11, and Twitter didn't even exist. Serena Williams was around... well, maybe that's not a good example. But a certain Pole who would soon be renowned for needling Sharapova's nerves WAS, too, and the junior was about to finish the WTA year ranked #941, while the Russian was about to go on a run that would conclude with her finishing '04 ranked #4 in the world and, not long afterward, #1.

In the three and a half years after her initial slam breakthrough in Paris, Sharapova won titles at the other three majors, going full-blown "Supernovic" in London, playing exquisitely in New York City in '06 then, in early 2008, sweeping through the Australian Open field. She seemed ready to become the dominant force on the WTA tour. Later that spring, the top player in the world, Justine Henin, announced her first retirement from the sport, and Sharapova inherited her #1 ranking. But her ownership of it it wasn't meant to be a longtime thing. Having injured her shoulder earlier in the season, only to have the injury misdiagnosed and made worse with continued play, Sharapova was forced to have rotator cuff surgery. She missed the Olympics, two slams, and nine months of action as she saw her ranking fall outside the Top 100 and her entire tennis career flash before her eyes. When she returned, she wasn't quite the same. The serve that she'd relied on, and upon which her entire game seemed to gain strength (and weakness) in the past, was no longer a "given" weapon. Upwards of nearly twenty double-faults in a match weren't uncommon, as she tinked with her service mechanics and saw her confidence dip in and out for nearly two years.

But that started to change last spring and summer. Sharapova's service woes began to even out, and she worked hard to improve her fitness and court movement. After having the most successful clay season of her career, her confidence was high. After winning Rome, she said, "This is just the start of everything." The Russian seemed on track to potentially win at Roland Garros, only to fall in the semifinals. Next came a run to the Wimbledon final, her best post-surgery slam result. She lost to Petra Kvitova, then did the same in the Australian Open final to Victoria Azarenka earlier this season. But, again, it was the clay season where she found her true footing, no pun intended. Committing to playing a full red clay season for the first time, she won two titles, including a defense of her Rome crown. In Paris, as other top seeds fell by the wayside, it was Sharapova, on what used to be considered her worst surface -- by both her and others -- who remained, finally reaching the first RG final of her career.

But after going 0-2 in the past year in slam championship matches against first-time finalists, Sharapova once again found herself up against another first-timer in Italy's Sara Errani.

The 25-year old, #21-seed came into Saturday as a decided underdog against a player a full ten inches taller than her and with a second serve mostly bigger than HER first. But Errani knows she's not a power player. She probably learned that fairly quickly during her stint at Nick Bollettieri's Florida-based academy when she was a kid. The academy has played host to a number of eventual grand slam champions, and most of them sport the type of power game -- either on the serve or off the ground or, as in Sharapova's case, both -- that is hardly the diminutive-but-feisty Errani's stock and trade. Errani says she even remembers hitting with a fellow 12-year old at the Academy -- a certain Siberian-born Russian who had the carriage of a champion (according to no less than Martina Navratilova, who saw her hit at the time) as a six-year old.

But, keeping to her personality, the Italian has never given up trying to find a way to "play beyond her means." She eventually left Florida to train in Europe and, after last season, stuck in the #40's in the rankings, decided to buy out her racket contract to enable her to switch to a slightly longer racket that would give her a bit more power on her extremely weak serve. The change has seemed to work wonders. With three clay court titles under her belt this season, Errani came to Paris with a career 0-28 record against Top 10 players, but near the end of nearly two weeks of play at Roland Garros she'd gone 2-0 in such matches, AND knocked off a pair of former RG singles champions (as well as an ex-runner up and defending U.S. Open champ), too. So, eight years after that impromptu academy hitting partner had played in and won HER first grand slam final, Errani had managed to climb into the first of HER career.

As the day began, Errani had already won one title in Paris, taking the doubles crown yesterday after having finished as a runner-up along with partner Roberta Vinci at the Australian Open in January. Errani reached the AO singles quarterfinals in Melbourne, as well, giving her more actual match wins than any other player on (either) tour at this year's slams. But lifting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen was a whole other kettle of fish. Before the match, Errani answered the question of whether or not she believed she could defeat Sharapova and win Roland Garrros. "It's not a question of believing or not believing. I don't think about that. I just think about playing. I just think about going on court and giving my all. And whatever happens, happens."

The match began with somewhat windy conditions. Just a few days ago, the wind -- along with heavier conditions -- had played such havoc with Sharapova's serve in the 4th Round that she nearly lost to Czech veteran Klara Zakopalova. Right on cue, by the third point of the match, she already had her first double-fault. But, moments later, she got to an Errani short ball, then held with an ace for 1-0. Sharapova took control of the match's initial rallies against the Italian, not used to the pace of the Russian's shots and unable to move into court to take balls early as she had against Sam Stosur in the semifinals, thwarting her opponent's easy power and trying to make her play the into her hands. In Game #3, Sharapova again fired an ace to hold for 3-0.

Errani, as promised, tried as she might, but found it difficult to string points together. When she was able to find moments to employ a gameplan of keeping Sharapova off balance with spins, drops and crosscourt rallies that kept her from aggressively moving inside the baseline to hit winners, she managed to get good results. But finding the time of her own to get on top of Sharapova's far-harder shots proved difficult for on a point-by-point basis. In the fourth game, Errani won a long first-point rally, keeping her shots deep in the court and ultimately forcing an error from the Russian. But, one point later, Sharapova killed one of Errani's slow-moving serves. The Italian saved two break points by utilizing her slice backhand and keeping Sharapova at bay, but then Sharapova smashed back another less-than-unwieldy, 68-mph serve and broke again with a forehand winner to take a 4-0 lead.

The Russian, surrounding Errani's first winner of the match, opened the match's door a crack by double-faulting to start and end Game #5, leading to the first break of her serve. As the set wore on, Errani found more opportunities to move into the court, getting on top of her opponent's power and making her hit more shots in the sort of longer rallies that played more to the scrambling Italian's skills. She held for 4-2 and 5-3, but couldn't coax Sharapova into playing into her hands -- or commits multiple erros in a single game -- for long. Errani got to 30/30 on Sharapova's serve by winning an 18-shot rally, but then the Russian slowed down and took a little bit of the risk out of her serve, then followed it up with strong groundstrokes that ended points quickly. She held with a backhand up the line and took the 1st set 6-3.

In the 2nd, Errani appeared to finally be more used to the pace of Sharapova's shots, but the Russian grabbed an early advantage with a break in Game #1 and never let it go. In Game #5, Sharapova flashed a little of the skill that has made her a better claycourter than in years past. With a break point on Errani's serve, the Italian pulled off a volley that landed short on the other side of the net, angling into the doubles alley. It seemed like a sure winner, but Sharapova broke into a full sprint from the baseline, reaching the ball in time to send it back, with purpose, at a surprised Errani. Errani barely got her racket strings on the ball, which bounced harmlessly away and gave Sharapova the break. Errani reacted just as her tennis-playing bretheran from Italian usually do on the tennis court under such circumstances -- with an expression of exasperation evident on her face, as well as through her hands, body and voice.

The point highlighted precisely how Sharapova, while waiting for her serve to come back to her, has worked to make herself capable to winning without her formerly-overpowering #1 weapon. Working to run her around the court, especially by bringing her uncomfortably forward and trying to exploit her mediocre-at-best-on-clay movement, used to be a full-proof plan. But even when Errani sometimes was able to work such a point in this final, it wasn't the foregone conclusion that it once was that she was going to win it. Now, even with her serve more reliable, Sharapova has enough skills to win without it being dominant. In many ways, she's now a better player than she was during her "Supernova" days.

With the match's finish line within sight, it was up to Sharapova to close things out and complete her four-year journey. An Errani blocked backhand service return winner helped her get a break for 4-2, but the Russian outgunned her one game later, going up 40/love on the Italian's serve and hitting a backhand up the line to break for 5-2. Tasked with serving out her "Career Grand Slam"-clinching title, Sharapova wasn't finished having to work. But, by this time, after four years, she was used to it. Sharapova's hit a running, lunging forehand winner from the baseline to get to match point, but saw the Italian, never giving up until the last ball was struck, fight back with a pair of what Sharapova later admiringly called the "sickest" backhands she's ever seen over the next five points, one of which gave Errani a break point and the other on Sharapova's second match point.

After Sharapova gained her third match point with a forehand winner, Errani attempted a third drop shot from the baseline. This time, though, she came up short. After having not been able to reach the previous two drops in the game, Sharapova had been hot on the trail of this one. But when she saw the ball fail to clear the net, she knew that she'd finally traveled beyond her career threatening 2008 surgery and all the doubts -- admitted to or not -- that she had about whether or not she'd ever become a champion again. She slid into the red clay onto her knees, bent over with her face in her hands and cried tears of joy for a job -- and journey -- well done. Sitting up, she opened her arms wide to the sky. It was finally time for Sharapova to be allowed to take it ALL in.

Sharapova's 6-3/6-2 win completed her "Career Grand Slam," a nice accompaniment to her return to the #1 ranking after a four year absence on Monday. Maybe even just as impressively, the Russian ends the 2012 red clay season with a spotless 16-0 record.

Jumping around and twirling in air like a big 25-year old kid immediately after her victory, Sharapova in some ways almost inadvertently recalled the image of Frenchwoman Suzanne Lenglen, for whom the second show court at Roland Garros and women's championship trophy is named. A six-time RG champion in the 1920's, Lenglen was known for her showy, flashy on-court moves and fashion sense... and lives on in a series of in-match photos and video clips that make her seen like a ballerina posing for the camera, trying to look as graceful in the air as humanly possible. At the very least, a case can be made that Sharapova might be the most glamorous woman to hoist the RG woman's trophy since the current coupe's namesake did it back in 1926.

Meanwhile, while the Italian's efforts in her first grand slam final didn't produce her hoped-for result, as it had for her in-attendance-for-the-final friend and countrywoman Francesca Schiavone (the '10 champ), Errani, who'd never won a match over a Top 10 player in her career as of two weeks ago, will NOW BE ONE HERSELF on Monday. Although she readily admits that it'll be hard for her to believe and get used to her new standing, not to mention just as difficult to live up to, the little Italian has surely won over the admiration of a whole new group of fans in 2012. From Melbourne to the EuroClay courts and Roland Garros, she's now earned a reputation as a dogged competitor who, even when outgunned, will always try... and then try some more. You'd expect nothing less from a player who says that the player she admires isn't the likes of slam-winning Rafa Nadal, but another, more diminutive-and-dogged Spaniard named David Ferrer, who strives to and often does get the most -- and maybe more -- out of his abilities than any other more "built for greatness" player in professional tennis.

Prior to the post-match trophy ceremony, there was Sharapova climbing into the stands, kissing babies and even lifting one to the skies like a scene from "The Lion King," adding a few more tags -- politician? Queen of the Serengeti? -- to a career job resume that includes stints as a businesswoman, model, spokesperson, (currently) fiancee, (soon-to-be) candymaker and one of the all-around best competitors in the sport. Unlike many of her fellow champions, though, who found the world to be their oyster after finding grand slam success, Sharapova has never lost track, first and foremost, what it was that got her there -- her tennis -- or lost her desire to be the best that she could be at it. It says something about her that it was Sharapova who has become the first player to win a slam following shoulder surgery, for it speaks well to the drive that has always lurked beneath her glossy, fashionable exterior. In effect, it's always been her secret weapon. Finally, after a long, painful and, ultimately, affirming four years, it is once again. Many players who'd climbed as high as she once did would have given up and accepted the "dying out" nature of the supernova-like brilliance she once experienced. But not Sharapova. She dug in and worked harder than ever, and today she receives the spoils of her efforts. Nearly a half-hour after the conclusion of match, Sharapova was still levitating around the court on her own personal Cloud Nine. Calling her victory the "most special" of her career, she said she'd, "never felt this happy."

The WTA has now crowned six different champions at the last six slams, and eight at the last nine. But with Sharapova back in the grand slam winner's circle and atop the rankings, it might be difficult to prevent the Russian from adding to her career numbers at least one more time over the next handful of majors. After what she's managed to do after dealing with such adversity, who's to say what she can accomplish from a position of power. Super.

Eat your heart out, Radwanska. Better luck next time.

...with the days of the old "Triumvirate" of women's tennis -- the Russians, the Belgians & the Williams Sisters -- sort of in its "dying days," it's still noteworthy when a slam title comes from a player from what remains, literally and figuratively, of those three groups.

From 2002-10, 31 of 35 slams were won by either a Russian, Belgian or Williams. After a 1-for-5 drought since then, Sharapova finally added another to the total. Hey, it's not Federer-Nadal-Djokovic style dominance, but 33-of-41 is still pretty darn good, I'd say. was interesting to see the Russian flag raised and the Russian national anthem played during the post-match ceremony. Not because it might have offered the opportunity for many to raise as eyebrow for the honor, considering Sharapova has effectively grown up in the U.S. and usually seems more "American" than even some American players (at least judging by the way ESPN2 and NBC were treating Varvara Lepchenko last week... and how John McEnroe, seemingly seriously, actually asked on-air today which nation Sharapova was representing in the Olympics), but because I'm not sure that I can recall that particular ceremony being performed after a slam final before. It's more of an Olympic thing. Maybe I'm just being absent-minded, though. the junior doubles, the all-Czech team of Adam Pavlasek and Vaclav Safranek lost to Aussies Andrew Harris and Nick Kyrgios in the Boys final, while the all-Hordette team of Daria Gavrilova and Irina Khromacheva -- the junior year-end singles #1's the last two years, respectively -- defeated the all-South American pair of Montserrat Gonzalez (PAR) and Beatriz Haddad-Maia (BRA). It's Khromacheva's second straight RG Girls Doubles crown. the Men's Doubles final, Max Mirnyi & Daniel Nestor defended their 2011 RG title, defeating the Bryan twins 6-4/6-4 in the final. It's Mirnyi's fourth career RG doubles crown, and Nestor's fourth, as well. In fact, Nestor has now won three straight in Paris, having won in '10 with Nenad Zimonjic.


it's always nice to have a moment of levity in the post-match ceremonies of a slam, considering the loser has to watch -- often through tears -- as their opponent celebrates a few feet away. We got one on Court Chatrier as the players were being introduced to be awarded the ceremonial hardware, when "runner-up Maria Sharapova" was announced. Everyone laughed, including Sharapova (who shrugged and lifted her hands in a "what can ya do?" sort of way), and a smiling Errani jumped up with her arms in the air and finally had her "championship moment." Hey, she'll always have Paris.

...and, finally, with tomorrow's men's final having much historical significance with Rafael Nadal going for a seventh RG title and Novak Djokovic going for a fourth straight slam win, the Olympics are shaping up to be a mad scramble for a career accomplishment even more rare than a "Career Grand Slam." Call it a "Career Six-Pack."

To this point, only two players in men's or women's tennis history can claim to have won the six biggest singles titles in professional tennis -- the four slams, the year-ending championship and the Olympics. And both of them live under the same roof. Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, with the Olympics only having returned as a Medal sport in 1988 (when Graf won it, in fact, to put the glow on her "Golden Slam" season), are the only two players with all six titles. But quite a few active players are VERY close, and the Olympic competition at the All-England Club might be the last chance for most of them to have a legit shot to get the most difficult-to-get singles honor.

Sharapova's RG title means she only needs Olympic Gold to have won all six. The same goes for both Serena Williams and Roger Federer, though both HAVE won Olympic Doubles Gold. If Djokovic wins the RG men's title tomorrow, he'll only need an Olympic Gold in singles, as well. Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal already has Olympic Gold (2008), with the only piece left for him to complete the ultra-rare career six-pick is a title at the ATP's year-ending championships.

#2 Maria Sharapova/RUS def. #21 Sara Errani/ITA 6-3/6-2

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #2 Rafael Nadal/ESP

#4 Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) def. #7 Kirilenko/Petrova (RUS/RUS) 4-6/6-4/6-2

#1 Mirnyi/Nestor (BLR/CAN) def. #2 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) 6-4/6-4

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

Anna Schmiedlova/SVK vs. #2 Annika Beck/GER

#5 Filip Peliwo/CAN vs. #6 Kimmer Coppejans/BEL

#2 Gavrilova/Khromacheva (RUS/RUS) def. #6 Gonzalez/Haddad Maia (PAR/BRA) 4-6/6-4/10-8

Harris/Kyrgios (AUS/AUS) def. #7 Pavlasek/Safranek (CZE/CZE) 6-4/2-6/10-7

#1 Esther Vergeer/NED def. #2 Aniek Van Koot/NED 6-0/6-0

#2 Stephane Houdet/FRA def. Shingo Kunieda/JPN 6-2/2-6/7-6(6)

#2 Buis/Vergeer (NED/NED) def. Ellerbrock/Kamiji (GER/JPN) 6-0/6-1

Cattaneo/Kunieda (FRA/JPN) def. Jeremiasz/Olsson (FRA/SWE) 3-6/7-6/10-6

Doris Hart, USA [1-2-1-2]
Maureen Connolly, USA [1-2-3-3]
Shirley Fry, USA [1-1-1-1]
Margaret Smith-Court, AUS [11-5-3-5]
Billie Jean King, USA [1-1-6-4]
Chris Evert, USA [2-7-3-6]
Martina Navratilova, USA [3-2-9-4]
Steffi Graf, GER [4-6-7-5]
Serena Williams, USA [5-1-4-3]
Maria Sharapova, RUS [1-1-1-1]
Fred Perry, GBR [1-1-3-3]
Don Budge, USA [1-1-2-2]
Roy Emerson, USA [6-2-2-2]
Rod Laver, AUS [3-2-4-2]
Andre Agassi, USA [4-1-1-2]
Roger Federer, SUI [4-1-6-5]
Rafael Nadal, ESP [1-6-2-1]
Novak Djokovic, SRB [3-0-1-1]

[men & women]
Andre Agassi, USA [3-1-1-2-1-1]
Steffi Graf, GER [4-6-7-5-5-1]
[active players close]
Novak Djokovic, SRB [3-0-1-1-1-0] - needs RG & Olympics
Roger Federer, SUI [4-1-6-5-6-0] - needs Olympics #
Rafael Nadal, ESP [1-6-2-1-0-1] - needs YEC
Maria Sharapova, RUS [1-1-1-1-1-0] - needs Olympics
Serena Williams, USA [5-1-4-3-2-0] - needs Olympics #
# - S.Williams & Federer have won Olympic Doubles Gold

13...Serena Wililams, USA
7...Venus Williams, USA
4...Kim Clijsters, BEL
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
[Russians - all-time]
4...Maria Sharapova ['04 WI, '06 US, '08 AO, '12 RG]
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova ['04 US, '09 RG]
1...Anastasia Myskina ['04 RG]

[year first reached]
Flavia Pennetta (2009)
Francesca Schivone (2010)
Sara Errani (2012)

2008 Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams
2002 Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati, Venus Williams, Serena Williams
2006 Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo, Justine Henin
1980 Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin, Chris Evert
1995 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles
2001 Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport
2003 Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin
2004 Justine Henin, Amelie Mauresmo, Lindsay Davenport
2009 Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams, Dinara Safina

[Men's Doubles]
2003 Bob Bryan & Mike Bryan
2004 Xavier Malisse & Olivier Rochus
2005 Jonas Bjorkman & Max Mirnyi
2006 Jonas Bjorkman & Max Mirnyi
2007 Mark Knowles & Daniel Nestor
2008 Pablo Cuevas & Luis Horna
2009 Lukas Dlouhy & Leander Paes
2010 Daniel Nestor & Nenad Zimonjic
2011 Max Mirnyi & Daniel Nestor
2012 Max Mirnyi & Daniel Nestor
[Girl's Doubles]
1999 Flavia Pennetta & Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA
2000 Maria Jose Martinez (Sanchez) & Anabel Medina (Garrigues), ESP/ESP
2001 Petra Cetkovska & Renata Voracova, CZE/CZE
2002 Anna-Lena Groenefeld & Barbora Strycova, GER/CZE
2003 Marta Fraga & Adriana Gonzales, ESP/ESP
2004 Katerina Bohmova & Michaella Krajicek, CZE/NED
2005 Victoria Azarenka & Agnes Szavay, BLR/HUN
2006 Sharon Fichman & Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, CAN/RUS
2007 Ksenia Milevskaya & Urszula Radwanska, BLR/POL
2008 Polona Hercog & Jessica Moore, SLO/AUS
2009 Elena Bogdan & Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, ROU/THA
2010 Timea Babos & Sloane Stephens, HUN/USA
2011 Irina Khromacheva & Maryna Zanevska, RUS/UKR
2012 Daria Gavrilova & Irina Khromacheva, RUS/RUS

TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #6 Samantha Stosur/AUS
TOP LATE-ROUND (SF-F): #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS
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 STARS Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci (ITA/ITA)

All for now. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

You know, there are some similarities to Lenglen, who was also a huge international celebrity. I don't think of Maria having that much grace (she's no Bueno or Mandlikova or Mauresmo) during play, but the rest of the time, the elegance is certainly there.

Sun Jun 10, 12:52:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, I was just thinking about the moment when Sharapova was jumping around, but there ARE quite a few parallels between the two.

Of course, I doubt we're going to be seeing Sharapova sip brandy between sets like Lenglen did. Not that we couldn't HOPE for it. ;)

Sun Jun 10, 02:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

I still feel like sharapova is evert2... The consistency, the media savvy, the standards for professionalism, the (faux) blondeness...

And wow does this win move her up the all-time list. I mean I used to think clijsters and Venus were better players due to their athleticism...but Maria has now separated her from them. Interesting.

Do you think clay is her best surface now? Or are others just better at the other surfaces?

Sun Jun 10, 03:14:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Karen said...

Eric, clay is her best surface now. While Sharapova has improved, the fact remains that on the other surfaces the limitations in her game show up even more. It will be interesting to see what the grass season brings.

For my money, seeing her jump around reminded me more of Venus after her 2005 Wimbledon win. The absolute uncontained joy in her face and the fact that she could hardly sit down because she was so happy made me think of Venus.

As for national anthems, they did play the national anthem of Switzerland when Fed won in 2009. I also think they played it when Li Na won last year as well. Not sure if they played it for Rafa this year seeing as he seems to have set up shop at Roland Garros :(

Mon Jun 11, 12:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Thanks for your insight Karen.

Sharapova has mentioned how listening to the Russian anthem after winning tournaments is "always a highlight and makes me proud if where I come from." So I think its a common practice at tournaments ... And also gives credence to the fact that players are always representing their countries making fed cup, the Olympic eligibility rules and the olympics somewhat of a farce.

Mon Jun 11, 01:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, I guess they don't always air that during coverage.

Now that I think about it, I DO think I can now remember the Chinese anthem being played for Li last year, as Karen mentioned, though.

Mon Jun 11, 04:42:00 PM EDT  

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