I Heart the Bausch & Lomb! (match notes and pics)
Just got home from a 3 hour drive after seeing Maria become clay title-less no more! Tired, but here are my notes:
Saturday, I was all hyped when I got to the grounds at 11AM, and when I walked over to the south end of the stadium to scope out where I'd be sitting, I saw Masha out practicing with Michael, which I thought was weird, and hour before her match, but hey, I wasn't going to give up the opportunity to grab some pics and vids, so I did that. That's when I overheard some of the tourney volunteers say that Lindsay had withdrawn because she was sick--*&$(#&@!
One of them saw my distress and asked if I wanted to go down into the box seats to take some pics, so I took him up on that. But talk about disappointing--I had planned it as a day trip and was on pins and needles all week during the Medina-Garrigues and Bondarenko matches hoping she'd make it to the weekend. A 3 hour drive and then that news--arrrrggghhh!
Anyway, as I realized it was only Saturday and I could stay over since I had brought a change of gear, I hurried to the ticket office and was amazed that I was able to get a ticket right behind the box seats on the "shady" side of the stadium (little did I know the temp would drop 20 degrees between Saturday and Sunday--LOL)
Then I relaxed and watched Cibulkova dismantle Cornet--those with ESPN2 missed out on a good match. They are both nice players and it was an entertaining match. But I knew ESPN wouldn't go Maria-less on Saturday. Anyway, Dominika won the crowd over with her amazing quickness and defense and as this was the second time in two weeks I had seen her play, I was impressed with her consistency and her precise groundies. I figured she's give Maria a tussle.
Sunday was a beautiful day. Cool, but after morning rain cleared, no clouds to be found. I staked out a spot right where the players come onto the court and was able to get some video of Maria and Dominika walking in, carrying bouquets of roses--Maria's red and Dominika's white. I was a foot from Maria as she entered the stadium, then hustled to my seat to watch her dismantle Cibulkova, who played really great both days I saw her. The crowd went nuts for her, and I got really close to her after the match by accident, and said "good playing--congrats!" and she smiled and said "thanks!" I will say, she's awfully pretty.
As for the match, Maria was in good form, opened strong with a break and a hold, and looked good until 3-2, when she was broken. They traded breaks and holds and Maria came from down 6-5 to force a tiebreaker. She trailed in the breaker most of the way but fired two big aces on critical points, wasted 1 or 2 set points, and finally clinched it on an UE in the net by Dominika.
Second set was a bit anticlimatic, after Maria broke back for a 2-2 tie, as Dominika called for the trainer and emerged from that with a bandage around her thigh. Maria saw that and started running Dominika side to side and forcing errors. Also serving better with more aces and service winners.
Funny moments: Maria lost a point because she touched the net, arguing it fruitlessly to Lynn Welch, and a slight delay was caused by a very fast lizard, which scurried out on the court before one of the ball boys chased it away.
My observations about Maria's game: the double faulting is overplayed IMO. It was windy, gusty. The ones I saw her hit were almost always after or while the wind was gusting. Dominika hit several, too, FWIW. Maria's serve was quite good, and she had a number of aces and lots of service winners that didn't show up in the stats on live T&S I'm sure. The biggest serve I saw was 115mph, but she had several over 110 (113, 111, 114 I remember clearly) and a number of aces in the 99-105 range, which shows that placement is more important than pure pace. She hit some great kickers out wide.
Maria was trying to kill the returns and hit an unnecessary number of UEs into the net, IMO, but hey, she won, so who am I to complain.
The biggest issue I saw in Maria's game came courtesy of my seat position--right on the net. Normally I like to sit behind the baseline, but this seat was right on the net, and from that vantage point I saw glaring inconsistencies in Maria's ball toss. It could have been the wind (she caught about a dozen tosses, at least), but I knew when she was going to DF, as each time she did that, her toss was WAAAAAAAAY out in front of her, and there was no way the ball was going anywhere but DOWN into the bottom of the net. Some of the tosses were straight up over her head, where she was standing alot taller, and those had no bite to them. She needs to work on becoming a robot on the toss and getting it consistent.
Well, that's about it. Maria was gracious in victory and let it slip that Bausch & Lomb isn't sponsoring next year...I wonder if Amelia Island will be on next year's schedule. I sure hope so--it's a beautiful court and a beautiful place to play tennis.