We all know by now that Maria lost 6-1 6-3 to a devastating Venus yesterday, and that she has suffered very lopsided losses (to say the least) in all of her GS encounters this year.
Yesterday, as I was watching Venus and Maria, I noticed a recurring pattern with Maria when playing these types of very powerful players. Venus was moving with such grace and style, and playing with such effortless power and precision that there was very little Maria could do. Ana and Serena played very much the same way in the other two grand slams. But I think that if Maria made adjustments and tried a few different things she could win/make things tight in such matches.
The first thing I noticed was that there is such a huge, huge discrepancy between Venus' and Maria's movement. I know that Maria is a very very tall lass, but Venus often hit winners or forceful shots off not-so-perfectly placed balls. These balls - JH, Momo and Serena could have got to, to play an offensive shots. Maria often looked stuck and her movement was exposed yesterday. With JH, Momo and Serena, they are able to play not only defensive shots off very hard balls, but are able to play them with force - they are able to turn defense around very quickly, into offence.
Also, Maria's transition game from baseline to the net isn't that good. She often found herself with the upper hand against Venus yesterday but never followed it up into the net where she could have had an easy volley, though some may say that no volley is an easy volley for Maria. But I think that Maria is trying to improve her net game and really, it can only get better from here.
Secondly, I think that Maria's game is not as big as before. Her serve's toss now is often quite wayward, and her second serve just sat up for Venus to take a crack at yesterday. Maria's forehand is not technically brilliant and put simply, she can't crack winners that ZOOM a la Venus/Serena/Ana. Sure, she can hit winners but often they're with a fair amount of topspin. And when she plays against Serena and Venus, shots that would go for winners against other players just come back, because they are quick, and secondly Sharapova doesn't have the "ZOOM" factor in her shots (take a look at Pierce and Venus). I think that Maria needs to take a few more risks when playing these types of players.
I found it very encouraging though, that Maria is a real thinker on court. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, Maria tries to employ strategies which can put herself in the ascendency. I think that I was made sort of a fan yesterday when I saw her try to find a way against Venus. For example, Maria had been feeding angled balls to Venus which Venus just ate for lunch. To take away all Venus' angles, or to restrict them at the very least, Maria directed all her shots to the middle of the court. But Venus was just too good.
In order for Maria to challenge these players (and I hate to say this but because of Venus' and Serena's ranks, their encounters will be like in the 4th/QF stage at the majors), she needs to improve her mobility around the court, her serve (which had once been such a powerful, powerful weapon) and her transition + net game. I think that her slice can definitely be better and employed to better use, and well she is a fighter which is the encouraging thing about her game, always. Sometimes she needs to go for broke - sometimes I feel like while she is ultra consistent, she just needs to go for it, because she has it in her. Pierce, Venus, Serena and Ana play low-percentage tennis but once they get into the groove...
But I think with little minor adjustments and improvements in her game, she'll get further and add onto her already glittering career. I'm sorry to the haters but Maria will be in the top five for a veeeeery long time.
to the drama queens out there who think that her career's over because she lost to a five-time slam champ. But it's scary to think that Maria has carved up a HOF tennis career by age 20 (even 17!) and the only way she can go with her game is UP!
What are your thoughts?