Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Cockatoo Island
Winners keep their cool
Winners keep their cool
By Patrick Smith
January 20, 2005
THE heat would find you out and fluster you no matter where you cowered. Shade was no protection. Nor breeze, nor floppy hat. The sun would melt a fridge.
Dinara Safina, sister of the very odd Marat, played a beautiful first set against Amelie Mauresmo, the No.2 seed in the Little Lleyton Open. An upset was on the boil.
Safina led 4-0 as she worked Mauresmo from side to side, hitting powerfully and precisely with her forehand. Mauresmo wore a large bandage about her left thigh and it might have been all that was holding her together.
Safina won the first set 6-2 but would win only one more game for the match. She lost her opening serve of the second set, broke back but not quite immediately, for the tempo of the game was now a slow burn and she could not make the most of her first two break points.
Safina is nearly six foot and not yet 20. Mauresmo is shorter, older and wiser. At 25 she knows that the loss of the first set was exactly that. A setback and not the match. She would withstand both Safina and the sun.
The Russian girl began to wilt. She retreated to the shade and lingered there, panting. It was a vision that cooled Mauresmo. Safina now could not hold her serve, her forehand lost its punch and she was asking too much of her backhand. The third set was done in 27 minutes.
Mauresmo was disappointed with her early lethargy but comforted that she was stronger than her younger opponent even though she had no match practice before the open. In a tournament where the likely winner continues to remain obscure, Mauresmo is confident.
"Well, I hope I'm going to be, you know, better and better. I already feel not too bad physically even though at the beginning I think my energy wasn't really there. But, yeah, hopefully getting into that second week will be better," she said.
Russian Maria Sharapova is said to be hot all the time. Never mind if it is the chill of winter or the glare of summer. She is simply hot. Not all of it has to do with tennis.
Yesterday the Wimbledon champion was so hot it hurt. So desperately did she have to play to stay alive in the Little Lleyton Open that the air burnt her lungs and her legs shook with exhaustion. It was not the sun doing this but Lindsay Lee-Waters, a 27-year-old American who in 12 years on the tour has been ranked as low as 533 but never higher than 33.
For five years she did not play in a Grand Slam event, preferring to care for her four-year-old daughter Sevyn. Back on the tour full-time, she is doing well enough to make a living. Her husband travels with mother and daughter and coaches tennis when he can.
Sharapova won in three sets and one hour and 47 minutes. The 4-6 6-0 6-3 scoreline perfectly reflected the phases of the game.
The first set went to the American. It was a brutal 10 games where points were not constructed but blasted away. The two women simply thumped the ball at each other with unrelenting power. Each would let out a scream when they hit the ball. Lee-Waters in effort, Sharapova in horror.
The Russian's game was slightly out of rhythm and she belted 19 unforced errors in 30 minutes. She tried to work Lee-Waters left and right, but the American fossicked frenetically, digging the ball back and was rewarded with the first set.
She was not so successful in the second set when her serve was less potent and Sharapova found ways to attack off it. She found a deep length on her drives and Lee-Waters returned the ball but to no great effect. Suddenly she looked tired and a victim of the hot sun.
Lee-Waters changed tactics and mindset in the third set, taking the pace off the ball and slicing from both sides of the court. Where possible she moved towards the net, but on reflection after the match she said not nearly enough. Nevertheless the match hung in the balance and Sharapova would do a little jig after securing a vital point.
She was devastated when she drove a volley wide on one match point. It seemed to sap the last of her energies and her preparation for each serve after that was protracted, almost anguished. Like Safina before her, it was the younger woman who was feeling the heat.
Afterwards Sharapova said: "Well, it was an amazing match. I think both of us gave it all we've got. In the third set we just fought for every single ball. You know, in the end, it was just a matter of a few points. But she definitely gave it all, all she had, out there."
This had been the mother of all battles.
Inspiration is for amateurs
Faves: Mona Barthel / Samantha Stosur / Roberta Vinci