Commonwealth Games WS final: Andrew's TV-report
Commonwealth Games (Delhi, India; outdoor hard)
Women's Singles: Gold-medal match (Saturday 9th October 2010)
- SANIA MIRZA [2,DF] lt. ANASTASIA RODIONOVA , 3-6 6-2 6-7 (3/7)
I watched this match on BBC Red Button. After a low-quality first set, it turned into a real thriller.
Sania was my Commonwealth-Games favourite from the start. With her groundstrokes of flairsome power, I've been a demi-fan of her since 2005. She has struggled this year with a right-wrist injury, not playing between mid-February and early June, but she's had some encouraging results since then, and came through a very weak draw to reach the final here.
In the first set, Sania looked like a shadow of her former self, making lots of unforced errors, and failing to hold serve even once (she broke Rodionova's first two service-games, and again at 2-5*). Time and again, Rodionova's deep, low-bouncing groundshots forced Sania to net hers.
In the second set, Sania played much better, and her big forehand began to do some serious damage. I remember one point in particular where she was pinned deep in her left corner, but ran around her backhand to hit a booming forehand winner down that line. She broke for *2-1, and again for *5-2 before serving it out.
At the start of the third set, the crowd became very loud and very rude, cheering Rodionova's double faults. Rodionova has exactly the kind of temperament to let that get to her – she was defaulted from Cincinnati 2007 for whacking a ball in the direction of some fans who annoyed her – but it didn't seem to bother her that much here, as she fought from *0-2 to *4-2.
Sania broke back for *3-4, then blew a 30/0 lead; Rodionova saved 40/30 with an error-forcing dropshot, and broke for *5-3.
Serving for the match, it was Rodionova's turn to blow a 30/0 lead and 40/30 – her first match-point; Sania saved it with a crosscourt forehand winner, set up break-point with a wonderful spreading rally ending with an error-forcing smash down the middle, and converted it when Rodionova hit a forehand just long: 5-4*.
Sania was two points from defeat at *4-5 (30/30), but survived that service-game with a service-winner and an off-forehand winner: 5-5*. Rodionova held to 15 for 6-5*.
Sania saved three more match-points in an epic service-game at *5-6, during which the back of the court was so full of flying insects that I was surprised not to see Sania choking on them!
In that *5-6 game, Rodionova hit a high crosscourt forehand volley-winner to make it 0/30. Sania won three points in a row for 40/30, but squandered that game-point with a wild down-the-line forehand error. Rodionova then had her second match-point, but Sania bravely saved it with a crosscourt forehand smash-winner deep into the corner.
The rally of the match occurred at *5-6 (Deuce #2). Sania hit a booming first serve down the middle, but Rodionova lunged to hit a backhand return that clipped the netcord and bounced very short and low; somehow Sania ran it down and got it back with a one-handed backhand flick, but Rodionova was there with a backhand volley-winner into the wide-open court. Sania dropped her racket in disbelief, and Rodionova apologised for the netcord.
That set up Rodionova's third match-point (6-5* Ad), but she dumped a one-handed backhand into the bottom of the net after a good spreading rally by Sania. Rodionova squandered her fourth match-point by netting a very makeable forehand return. Then Sania wasted a game-point by netting a forehand after a long, nail-biting rally in which she had to hit a couple of lobs to keep Rodionova at bay. But, after five deuces, she escaped from that service-game with an ace out wide for 6-6.
The Gold medal was decided by a third-set tiebreak. Unfortunately this was a poor sequel to that *5-6 game. Rodionova broke for *2/1 with a raking crosscourt forehand deep into the corner, and held for *3/1. Rodionova went to the net, but her drop-volley sat up nicely for Sania to hit a down-the-line backhand pass-winner: 3/2*. Rodionova hit a deep forehand onto the baseline, forcing Sania to net a forehand: 4/2*.
Two errors later, Rodionova led *5/3. Her second serve caught the back edge of the service-line; Sania was rather tentative in the long baseline-rally that ensued, Rodionova's short-angled crosscourt backhand forcing her to hit a backhand lob long. That gave Rodionova her fifth Gold-medal point at 6/3*, and a loud shout of "Sania" between first and second serves probably contributed to her hitting her second serve long.
Sania looked sad when she lost, while Rodionova looked delighted to become the first-ever Gold-medallist in tennis at the Commonwealth Games. I'm sure that's what she must have dreamed of when she was growing up in Russia, and why she became an Australian citizen ten months ago.
Rodionova said: "I have been trying really hard, but now I feel I am a real Australian after winning the Commonwealth Games Gold medal."
Sania said: "I think what's important was that I gave my best, but I fell a bit short. It's an honour to play for my country."
Dr. Andrew Broad