Thanks folks! Here's Sunday's report
On Sunday the matches started at 2.00pm, and Amélie and Nathalie were due on court first
. We were sitting further back than on Saturday, but as my seat was next to the aisle, it wasn't too difficult to go down to the front to take some photos during the warm-up! This time the match started punctually as RBTF were doing ‘live’ coverage, and there was also the benefit of seeing the T.V. coverage, including replays, on a large screen at the side of the court! Amélie seemed more relaxed playing against Nathalie than she had against Maria, and was playing really well and going for her shots!
There were some great rallies but it seemed from the beginning that there would only be one winner, (not that I was complaining!
) Nathalie played well but even though the scoreline was close, Amélie was in control of the match. There were quite a few good rallies and during one in which Nathalie hit an un-returnable shot, Amélie threw her racquet across the court at the ball in mock desperation, which amused everyone!
Amélie had to save a couple of break points in the final game of the match but it was over too quickly, 6/3, 6/4 to Amélie!
(I would liked to have seen a third set, with Amélie winning of course!
) The players then went to sign autographs again and sign tennis balls for the crowd. Amélie must have been asked if she would kick the balls into the stands, and did so very accurately; then they asked Nathalie if she would like to do the same, but she decided to throw hers! Amélie and Nathalie then collected their bags, signed a few more autographs at the other side of the court and left. There was then a gap of about half an hour, during which time RBTF showed some of the match again of the large T.V. screens!
A short while later Justine and Maria arrived on court and there was an air of anticipation in the Belgian crowd; the 'Henin-Hardenne.be' fan club were sitting just in front of us this time, and had dressed in their t’shirts again, ready for the anticipated festivities! Amélie and Nathalie arrived back at the corner of the court and were being interviewed for T.V. during the warm-up!
I don’t think anyone had imagined that Maria would come out and win the first set 6/1 against Justine, but she did!!
There were a few ‘mexican waves’ from the fan club trying to encourage Justine, but generally the crowd was, unsurprisingly, rather quiet. ‘Everyone’ was hoping that Justine would turn it around in the second set, but Maria broke for a 1/0 lead and then, after six deuces, held for 2/0!
The standard of tennis was excellent, superb rallies, Maria hitting hard and flat and Justine scrambling all over the court trying to keep pace, and coming up with some counterpunches of her own! Maria was serving really well again, whilst Justine was struggling with her serve on Sunday. Maria was 6/1, 5/3 up when Justine held serve, and at last managed to break Maria’s serve for 5/5! The second set went to a tie-break, with Justine saving about three match points before winning it 14/12!
Both girls were really giving it their all and the crowd was totally into the match. I had thought that Maria was the ‘real-deal’ when I saw her at Wimby last year, but by now I was convinced of it! Her game is so like Lindsay’s, and she’s incredibly intense about her tennis! (Apparently she requested that the tournament organise a ‘sparring-partner’ for her, and had been at Ciney practicing since Thursday!)
Justine was determined to win, after all, 99.9% of the public had come to see her do just that; whilst Maria was equally determined to score a surprise victory over the world number one! It made for a fabulous tennis match!
The third set was equally as close as the second, with Justine saving several match points at 4/5 down, and the match again headed into a tie-break. The final tie-break was shorter but no less hard fought! Justine just wasn’t going to allow Maria to win, and eventually closed out the match 7/5 on her second match point! The crowd went mad, probably with a mixture of happiness and relief
, and there was another huge stampede for autographs! However, Maria wasn’t going to be signing autographs for anyone; as soon as she had shaken Justine’s hand, she grabbed her things, leaving the two tennis balls she would usually have signed and hit into the crowd on her chair, and departed rapidly from the court! RBTF had overrun their schedule and the programme was finished hurridly, with an apology to the viewers that they didn’t have time to show the presentation ceremony!
I went down to the side of the court again, (cursing the fact that my camera battery had now run out!
Sorry folks, hopefully I’ll be better organised next time!
) Within five minutes the lights were lowered and the presentation ceremony began just as the opening ceremony had, with the players coming in behind their national flag; the only thing was, the Russian flag was there, but Maria wasn’t!
At first I thought maybe she was
there, because there were a lot of people on court for the ceremony, and I couldn’t actually see all the players at the same time. But no, she wasn’t; and I could see Amélie and Nathalie talking to each other, perhaps about Maria’s absence? Justine then joined Amélie and Nathalie and I could see Amélie smiling and congratulating Justine on her win! (I couldn’t see Nathalie at this point, but I’m sure she congratulated Justine too, most especially as in a Belgian newspaper interview, Justine said Nathalie was her best friend on the tour! She was at her wedding and they had spoken regularly during Nathalie’s convalescence from her wrist injury).
A few worried signals were being exchanged between some of the officials, who were obviously a little unsure as to whether to continue without Maria. I was surprised that she wasn’t there, but just kept thinking she’d turn up in a minute; but she didn’t!
It was decided to continue with the ceremony. The ‘results’ were announced and Nathalie was ‘interviewed’ first, presented with a trophy which was copy of something, (sorry, I can't tell you what!) from the Louvre, and congratulated on her engagement. After that, and my French is not good, so the following is a rough idea of what was said…!!, she was asked if her fiancé was in the crowd, and she said ‘yes’ and was asked to point out whereabouts he was sitting. Then she was asked how she had come to Ciney, by car? ‘Yes, she had come by car.’ Then they said they had a surprise present for her, and someone brought in a bicycle, which they gave to Nathalie!!
(Is there a French tradition that you give a bicycle when someone gets engaged or married??) Anyway, Nathalie was a really good sport; she was asked to do a ‘lap d’honneur’, and got onto the bicycle, rode it around the court, whilst waving to the crowd!! Everyone laughed!
Then Amélie was congratulated and presented with her trophy and they chatted to her a bit. I couldn’t understand all of it, I think it was mainly about her liking for wine! There were four huge bottles of champagne for the players, and I think they asked her if she liked champagne aswell as red wine. Then they asked her if she liked ‘Ciney Beer’, and she said, ‘Yes she liked it… but she preferred red wine!!’
, and people laughed! Then finally Justine was congratulated, not just on winning the ‘tournament’ but also on her fabulous year and getting to number one! They presented her with a full size tennis racquet, which I think was made of Belgian chocolate, and had a number ‘1’ on the strings, and also a huge cake! (If I remember correctly, it was suggested that she share it with her ‘copines’ Amélie, Nathalie and Maria, and then a joke was made to correct the ‘error’, as Maria wasn’t actually there to share it!
Next was the ‘Hommage to Justine’. Amélie went and stood to the left of Justine, so that she and Nathalie were standing either side of Justine to watch the ‘hommage’ on one of the large screens. Some famous Belgian people sent congratulation messages to Justine, and they re-showed a short clip of her winning Roland Garros and with the trophy; and her falling to her knees in New York, when she won the U S Open! Christian Bîmes, the president of the French Tennis Federation, sent a message, and lastly Michel Druker, the host of the French T.V. programme ‘Vivement Dimanche’ congratulated her and said he had a surprise for her. He asked her would she like to come on his ‘chat show’, next year just before Roland Garros, perhaps with Amélie?! (
) He said he had an invitation for her, and held it up to the camera, and said he hoped she would call him on the number on the invitation. After the ‘hommage’ someone brought in invitation in and presented it to Justine, and she was also presented with a Phillipe Geluck drawing. That was the end of the ceremony and gradually everyone left the court, including Nathalie, riding her bicycle!!
It was a great two days tennis but just a little sad, especially for the organisers I think, that Maria didn’t take part in the presentation ceremony. In the Belgian paper the next day it said: ‘Déterminée, Sharapova a d'ailleurs mis du temps à digérer ce revers puisqu'elle a quitté les lieux dès sa défaite, refusant d'assister à la cérémony de clôture et d'accorder la moindre déclaration à la presse. Sacré caractère…..’
that she spent time digesting the ‘reversal’ in the match of her defeat, refusing to attend to closing ceremony or to say anything to the press.
Photo's to follow......