Last night, Maria Sharapova took a 2-0 round-robin record with an exciting 6-4 7-5 win over the highly emotional Vera Zvonareva, who put up much stiffer resistance than Svetlana Kuznetsova had done, detaining Maria on the slow blue carpet-court for almost twice as long (119 minutes as opposed to 62) before Maria's awesome power finally got the better of Vera.
This was a mouthwatering match between my top two favourite Russians, and one that I badly wanted Maria to win. I knew that a win for Maria would all but book her place in the semi-finals. A loss would almost certainly have required Maria to beat Amélie Mauresmo to get there.
Vera's chances of reaching the semi-finals were basically over after a disappointing 6-2 6-4 loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova (Vera fought back three games from 1-5 in the second) followed by a tearful 6-1 6-0 meltdown against Amélie Mauresmo.
Vera's fourth meeting with Maria was her last chance to restore some pride before leaving the Championships. She responded by playing her best match of the week. I am a demi-fan of Vera so I didn't want to see her humiliated again, but her resistance at times had me worried as a faithful Maria fan! ;-)
From what I've read about the match , and what I already know about Maria and Vera, it seems to have been a classic case of the irresistable force narrowly overcoming the immovable object, Vera living with Maria's awesome power by running everything down, and Maria hitting harder and harder with her recently-improved forehand. It was a super-high-quality match from both players according to fans who were lucky enough to watch it .
I followed live scores at http://www.wtachamps.com/event_schedule_singles.asp
They appeared on the scoreboard at 20:14 PST (28:14 GMT).
Play started at 20:19 PST.
(BP = break-point, SP = set-point, MP = match-point)
Maria won the first set 6-4, on the strength of a single break in the first game. She had to save three break-points (at 2-1 and 3-2), while taking Vera to deuce on three of Vera's other service-games.
Vera had a nasty-looking fall at 4-2, but she was alright .
Vezvona 0-0: 0/30, broken
Mashara 1-0: 0/15, 40/15, held
Vezvona 0-2: 40/0, 40/15, 40/40, ad V, held
Mashara 2-1: 15/0, 30/15, 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad M, held
Vezvona 1-3: 0/15, 15/15, 15/30, 30/30, 40/30, held
Mashara 3-2: 15/0, 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad M, 40/40, ad V (BP #2), 40/40, ad M, held
Vezvona 2-4: 0/15, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30, 40/40, ad V, held
Mashara 4-3: 0/30, 40/30, ad M, held
Vezvona 3-5: 15/15, 40/15, 40/40, ad V, held
Mashara 5-4: 40/0 (3 SPs)
Maria won the first set 6-4 at 21:11 PST (52 minutes).
The pair traded breaks in the first three games, leaving Maria 2-1 up and Vera in tears . Maria squandered two points for a double break with Vera serving at 1-3, and Maria threw her racket after losing that game . As soon as Maria, serving at 3-2, went 0/15 down I sensed danger.
Vera broke back for 3-3, and held for 4-3 after a fierce game in which Maria had seven break-points including 0/40. Maria overcame that psychological blow to hold for 4-4, and wasted another break-point as Vera held for 5-4. Maria was getting tight .
Vera had two set-points on Maria's serve at 4-5 15/40, but Maria won four points in a row to save them (with two solid first serves ) and hold for 5-5. Maria had a single break-point on Vera's serve at 5-5, and took it to serve for the match at 6-5.
At 0/15 and 15/30, it looked like we were in for a tiebreak which would have been the ultimate game of Russian Roulette. But Maria sealed victory three points later.
Vezvona 0-0: 0/15, 15/15, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken
Mashara 1-0: 0/40 (3 BPs), broken
Vezvona 1-1: 0/30, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken
Mashara 2-1: 30/0, 40/15, held
Vezvona 1-3: 0/30, 15/30, 15/40 (2 BPs), 40/40, ad V, 40/40, ad V, held
Mashara 3-2: 0/30, 15/30, 15/40 (2 BPs), 40/40, ad V (BP #3), broken
Vezvona 3-3: 0/40 (3 BPs), 40/40, ad M (BP #4), 40/40, ad M (BP #5), 40/40, ad M (BP #6), 40/40, ad M (BP #7), ad V, held
Mashara 3-4: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, 40/30, held
Vezvona 4-4: 0/30, 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad V, 40/40, ad V, 40/40, ad V, held
Mashara 4-5: 15/0, 15/15, 15/40 (2 SPs), 40/40, ad M, held
Vezvona 5-5: 15/0, 15/30, 30/30, 40/30, 40/40, ad M (BP), broken
Mashara 6-5: 0/15, 15/15, 15/30, 30/30, 40/30 (MP)
Maria won 6-4 7-5 at 22:18 PST (1 hour 59 minutes).
WINNERS: Maria 58, Vera 12
UNFORCED ERRORS: Maria 36, Vera 13
ACES: Vera 4, Maria 2
DOUBLE FAULTS: Maria 7, Vera 3
FIRST SERVES IN: Maria 60%, Vera 53%
POINTS WON ON FIRST SERVE: Maria 65%, Vera 56%
POINTS WON ON SECOND SERVE: Maria 52%, Vera 48%
AVERAGE SERVE-SPEED: Maria 101mph, Vera 99mph
FASTEST SERVE: 110mph for both girls
POINTS WON AT THE NET: Maria 26 of 33, Vera 2 of 5
BREAK-POINTS CONVERTED: Maria 4 of 17, Vera 2 of 9
TOTAL POINTS WON: Maria 92, Vera 81
What a spectacular match this must have been! Despite Maria's numerous high-pitched yelps , a 58:36 winner:UE ratio is very healthy... 58 winners against Vera's amazing retrieval-skills! Maria was able to put Vera on the defensive early in the rallies, hence Vera's much lower number of winners .
My main concern for Maria is all the wasted
break-points, like when she nearly lost to Ai Sugiyama at Wimbledon.
Although Maria was described as playing "a bashing baseline game" , it's also interesting to see that she went to the net a lot more than she usually does.
Maria: "I didn't come in as much as I would have liked to, I should have ended the points a lot quicker. But a win is a win. I did the best I could. It feels good to be in the championships and beating some of the tops girls.
"It's a good revenge. I got my whole game together."
Amélie Mauresmo beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-2, which means that she and Maria have both reached the semi-finals! Maria and Mauresmo have both won two matches, eliminating Kuznetsova who finished 1-2 and Vera 0-3.
Had Kuznetsova beaten Mauresmo, and Maria lost to Mauresmo, that would have given each of these three players 2-1 records in the Black Group, and they would have had to use the following criteria to decide who would have qualified for the semi-finals:
"The official rules state that if a 3-way tie in W-L record exists after the conclusion of round robin play, the tie is first broken with the player(s) with the highest percentage of sets won. If a tie still exists, the player(s) with the highest percentage of games won will move on." 
Dr. Andrew Broad