Interesting article (incl. Sharapova's 'ROAR', 'SHRIEKING' 'GROWL')
Amelie Pumps Up the Volume
©Reuters / K. Lamarque Thursday, 6 July, 2006
All good things come to those who wait and Amelie Mauresmo has waited a long time for this. She waited 12 years for her first Grand Slam title (the Australian Open earlier this year) and she has waited for six, long, exasperating months to prove that it was no fluke. On Saturday the world No.1 will play Justine Henin-Hardenne for the Venus Rosewater Dish.
Even when Mauresmo achieved her dearest wish and won her first major trophy, she did so by default. Playing Henin-Hardenne, she cruised through the first set of the final in Melbourne but was brought up short when the Belgian pulled out two games into the second set, complaining of a stomach ailment. Mauresmo’s great moment of victory, the one she had dreamed of for so long, had been taken away from her. She got the trophy, all right, but everyone went home disappointed.
Now Mauresmo has a second chance to show that she really can beat Henin-Hardenne and that she really can win a Grand Slam title – and do it without any help from her opponent. By beating Maria Sharapova 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, she just about kept her nerves under control – although bit was a bit hit and miss in the second set – to earn herself a place in her first Wimbledon final.
Sharapova is famous for many things, not the least of which, when she is on song, is her tennis. There is also the small matter of her looks and her posse of devoted, predominantly male, followers. And then, of course, there is her grunt. So great is the decibel level when she hits the ball – as loud as a pneumatic drill, according to one illustrious British tabloid newspaper – that the good men and women of the press room have dusted off their ‘gruntometers’.
This nifty little gadget was first invented to measure the noise levels when Monica Seles was on her way to the Wimbledon final in 1992. As Seles grunted, so the purists harrumphed and finally Miss S was persuaded to put a sock in it. Turning down the volume, she was absolutely walloped by Steffi Graf.
After Elena Dementieva had a little side-swipe at her compatriot after their semi-final showdown (Dementieva would have complained to the umpire about the grunting but thought it might look like sour grapes), Sharapova was considerably quieter as she began against Mauresmo. The grunt was still there in the background but it was uttered through clenched teeth and without letting her lips move. Perhaps she thought no one would notice that way.
The upshot was that Sharapova lost the first set. Against Dementieva, it had been simple. Dementieva tried to play Sharapova’s game but Sharapova was better at it. The former champion likes nothing better than someone belting the ball at her. Mauresmo was a different puzzle to solve – sometimes she hit the ball hard, sometimes she sliced it with finesse; sometimes she stayed back and sometimes she came thundering forward.
Desperate times, then, called for desperate measures and casting off all pretence of aural etiquette and social niceties, Sharapova began to roar. Shrieking on every point, she unsettled the Frenchwoman who, from 3-1, allowed the set to slip from her grasp. And letting Sharapova back into a match is a dangerous tactic.
There are few players quite as competitive as the Russian. Her every move is aggressive, from the battering groundstrokes to the clenched fist and the growl of “C’mon!” in between every point. When she wins the point, she shakes her fist at her support team; when she loses the point she glares at them as if it is their fault.
These days, though, Mauresmo has come to terms with her own temperament and she is an own-up, self-confessed bundle of nerves. And by admitting as much, she has become far more relaxed. Where once she might have flailed at the sight of Sharapova fighting back in the second set, this time she weathered the storm and went back to doing what she does best.
Attacking whenever she could, Mauresmo found her courage and raced to a 4-0 lead. This time she hung on like a limpet until the end. And in doing so, she cracked the conundrum of how to play Sharapova and her shriek – return the ball and not the grunt.
Written by Alix Ramsay