Match Report - Maria Sharapova vs. Daniela Hantuchova
To beging with, Daniela didn't play too much better than she did in her 1st round match. She actually played just as well against Molik but there's a difference between the two matches, a huge one: Daniela did NOT choke today! She really managed to stay calm and keep her conposure until she won the final point. Even when she was down a set point in the first set, she kept attacking and won the point playing agressive rather than waiting for her opponent to make an error. She went for the lines a lot including a lot of down-the-line shot attempts off of both wings and she was quite successful most of the time. Maria did the same but she made errors at crucial times. Overrall there was little between the two but the only difference which I believe destined them in opposite directions in the end was that Daniela played the key points better. In my opinion, Daniela was pressure free from the very beginning. I don't think she stepped on the court thinking she was the favorite for the match. It seemed she was just determined to play the best she could and didn't care much about who she was playing against. In fact, she played as if she were the underdog. Against Molik she was hitting the ball just as well and as many winners but didn't play well in tight situations (she could have closed the match out in the 2nd set and she really should have). I think that attitude and frame of mind really helped her go through those tight moments in the first set and early part of the second set. In the tie-break, Maria got a bit tight and made a few unforced errors which Daniela took advantage of. Daniela hardly missed anything in the tiebreak which I believe put a lot pressure on Maria mentally forcing her into uneccessary shots.
Maria was returning very well. She hit twice as many return aces as Danieal did. The irony is most of them came in the second set which means she played more agressive in the second yet went for her shots too much making her unforced errors heap up. I think it was a combination of Maria rushing and Daniela being consistent and solid. Maria started to think it wasn't wise to wait for errors from Daniela as it didn't work too well in the first set and decided to go for her shots more which resulted in more unforced errors. Daniela kept playing consistent yet agressive enough to force Maria into errors. She really didn't back off or get into her usual defensive mode today. She kept fighting and stayed determined to win.
Maria had her share of chances especially in the first set which was as close as their body types. She had a set point in the 10th game, which was saved by Daniela's agressive play. She had another chances in the tie-break. In a way she didn't play in a court friendly way. She shoulda played smarter with the court. I think this surface suits her groundies well since she hits very flat just like Lindsay does. but the thing is this court gives a big advantage to the player that takes the initiative first. She shoulda moved Daniela around more. She was letting Daniela controle too many points. Her first round match against Yoshida where she totally outplayed her opponent may have been a factor. Daniela was a player in a different league with more power and vareity. On the other hand, Danila was severely tested in her previous match. Daniela seemed more comfortable with the surface and more knowledgeble about it.
The second set went a bit onsided. I think Maria ran out of gas after the tight 1st set, mentally in particular. She just went for a lot of wild shots, most of which didn't do her a favor. Daniela grew in confidence after winning the tie-break and played pressure-free and near error-free tennis. She didn''t play any differently than she had in the first set but seemed more confident and comfortable. It was great to see her do a lot of fist-pumps towards the end of the match. She seemed real determined to win (well.. so did she against Molik but she choked!). The biggest step for her today was the fact that she didn't choke. I hope this win means a big confidence booster for her and turns out to be the start of her rejevenation.
Kudos to Maria. She fought very hard and never gave up until the match point went to Daniela. She was still shoting "C'mon" no matter how much she fell behind. She seems to have a lot of room to improve on in her game which is a great sign cuz that means she has a lot of potential. She hits the ball very clean and can run fast enough. Just needs to work on playing smart and get more experience under the belt.