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andrewbroad
May 21st, 2004, 09:24 PM
My analysis of the draw

Maria's sector (17-24):

VERA ZVONAREVA (10) v qualifier
Magüi Serna v Akiko Morigami
Rita Grande v Henrieta Nagyová
Barbara Schwartz v MARIA SHARAPOVA (18)

Barbara Schwartz could be a very dangerous opponent. As a qualifier at the French Open 1999, she beat fifth seed Venus Williams to reach the quarter-finals! But she has dropped to #441 in the rankings after an absence of 13 months (January 2003 to February 2004), and her only victims this year have been Julia Schruff and L'udmila Cervanová. She lost 6-3 6-2 to Maria's gorgeous but somewhat less accomplished compatriot Alina Jidkova in Vienna this week.

Rita Grande is a moderately dangerous player who doesn't have many wins this year apart from reaching the semi-finals of Casablanca in April. The same could be said of Henrieta Nagyová, who has only won one match in the main draw of a WTA tournament so far this year. So Maria should have no problems in the second round.

It's a shame Maria and Vera Zvonareva would have to play each other in the third round, as I was hoping that they would both go much further at the French Open 2004. I am a demi-fan of Vera, whose stunning upset of Venus Williams in the fourth round last year is one of my most abiding memories of tennis in 2003. Although Vera isn't a brilliant player like Maria, she does have flairsome strokes and good power, combined with excellent hustling abilities and a tremendous fighting spirit.

My loyalty is firmly with Maria for this intriguing potential third-round match, although Vera is the one I'd expect to win as she beat Maria in two sets in the semi-finals of Memphis (Vera went on to take the title). That was on a hard court, and I would expect clay to favour Vera even more over Maria, as it will enable Vera to use her "slide and smack" approach to retrieving wide balls that was the undoing of Venus Williams at the French Open 2003.

Vera is currently ranked #11 to Maria's #19, but then Vera is two-and-a-half years older than Maria. I do expect Maria to have the better career (except perhaps on clay) - Maria is simply a brilliant talent, and hits so many awesome winners out of nowhere!

The winner of Maria v Vera could be facing another Russian, Nadia Petrova, in the fourth round - who beat Vera in the quarter-finals last year (after beating Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati), and has a 14-8 win/loss record in 2004 so far. I just hope that the brilliance of Maria or the flair of Vera would overcome the brute power of the very masculine Petrova this time.

--
Dr. Andrew Broad
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/shara/

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/maria_sharapova/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeldani/

Epigone
May 22nd, 2004, 10:05 AM
My loyalty is firmly with Maria for this intriguing potential third-round match, although Vera is the one I'd expect to win as she beat Maria in three sets in the semi-finals of Memphis (Vera went on to take the title). Vera won in straight sets, 7-6(5) 6-2.

andrewbroad
May 22nd, 2004, 12:29 PM
Vera won in straight sets, 7-6(5) 6-2.
Aargh! :o I have a rather rose-coloured memory of that match I'm afraid! ;)

I've corrected my original post accordingly.

--
Dr. Andrew Broad
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/ (http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/)
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/ (http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/)
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/shara/ (http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/shara/)

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/maria_sharapova/ (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/maria_sharapova/)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeldani/ (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeldani/)

andrewbroad
May 24th, 2004, 01:25 PM
Maria was the first player to reach the second round, as she cruised past Barbara Schwartz 6-3 6-0 in 57 minutes out on Court 6 this morning.

The main concerns are that Maria only got 57% of first serves in, and that she failed to serve out the first set at 5-2, despite having a set-point in that game. She might have got away with these against a weakened Barbara Schwartz, but against Vera Zvonareva in the third round it could be a very different story...


I didn't get to see this match myself, but I followed live-score updates at www.rolandgarros.com (http://www.rolandgarros.com). The match started at 11:13 CEST.

Schwartz held serve to 15 in the opening game after 40/0. Maria held for 1-1 with exactly the same sequence of points. Maria broke to 15 (Schwartz's sole point coming at 0/30) to lead 2-1.

Maria held to 30 for 3-1, then broke to love to lead 4-1. She led 30/0 on serve, then lost three points in a row to face break-point at 30/40. But three points later, Maria held for 5-1. It's a good sign that she managed to come through that mini-crisis - good preparation for when she finds herself in a major crisis against Vera Zvonareva, for example.

Schwartz held to 15, making Maria have to serve for the first set at 5-2. Maria went down 0/15, up 30/15, then 30/30, then Maria had her first set-point at 40/30. But three points later, Schwartz broke back to make it 5-3.

Maria responded by breaking to love to take the first set 6-3 at 11:43 CEST. However, her percentage of first serves in was a rather unhealthy 52%, and both players hit 8 winners to 3 unforced errors.


The second set was another story as Maria got 63% of first serves in, and hit 16 winners to only one unforced error (Schwartz 5 winners to 2 UEs).

Maria fought off another mini-crisis in her opening service-game of the second set: she led 30/0, then lost three points in a row to face break-point at 30/40, then won the game three points later. Déjà vu!

Schwartz won her first point on serve of the second set, but Maria won four points in a row to break to 15 for 2-0. Maria came through another tough service-game - one deuce but no break-points - to hold for 3-0.

It looked like Schwartz was going to avoid the bagel when she led 30/0 and 40/15 on serve, but a determined Maria won four points in a row to break for 4-0.

Maria was 0/30 down on serve, fought back to 30/30, saved one break-point at 30/40, and, after one deuce, held for 5-0.

Maria had three match-points with Schwartz serving at 0-5 0/40. Schwartz saved the first one, but Maria won the match 6-3 6-0 at 12:10.


Maria hit a total of 24 winners (and 4 aces) to only 4 unforced errors - a very healthy ratio, especially for clay (Schwartz hit 13 winners and 5 unforced errors).

Maria won 69% of points when she got her first serve in, but only 50% on second serve, which underlines her need for a high percentage of first serves in. Schwartz won 41% on first serve, 26% on second serve.

Maria broke serve 6 times from 7 break-points, and was broken once from 4 break-points - encouraging signs of her playing the big points well, which is going to be so crucial against Zvonareva in the third round.


Maria's second-round opponent will be decided when Rita Grande and Henrieta Nagyová play each other later today. Both these players are in really poor form, so I can't see Maria having any problems here (unless, God forbid, she gets injured again). Everything seems to be leading up to that fascinating third-round match with Vera Zvonareva...


Maria's French Open page:
http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/bios/ws/wtas961.html
(includes profile, match-statistics and photo)

--
Dr. Andrew Broad
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/shara/

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/maria_sharapova/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeldani/

- L i n a -
May 24th, 2004, 02:09 PM
Poor Babsi... those injuries hurt her so much.

andrewbroad
May 26th, 2004, 05:41 PM
"I'm not the biggest fan of playing on clay, but I am learning and that's another challenge for me. I think I can develop so many things with my game."

This was quoted after Maria's first-round victory. Today she won her second-round match, easing past an off-form Rita Grande 6-2 6-0 in 52 minutes out on Court 7. It felt especially sweet to me for Maria to inflict such a scoreline on the player who knocked Iva Majoli out of the French Open 2001 in the first round. ;)

Maria impressed the crowd with "supersonic strokes and winners" [paulhc at www.wtaworld.com (http://www.wtaworld.com)], but with all due respect to Grande, Maria's going to have to get more than 54% of her first serves in against Vera Zvonareva on Friday!


I followed live score-updates at www.rolandgarros.com (http://www.rolandgarros.com). The match began at 14:02 CEST, and Maria got off to a flying start, winning the first two points and breaking Grande's serve to 15 in the opening game.

However, despite winning the first point on her own serve, Maria found herself facing three break-points at 15/40 in the second game. She saved the first, but was broken back for 1-1.

With the unforced errors mounting for Maria, she managed to restore her break in the third game, as Grande trailed 0/15, 15/30, 30/40 (break-point), and was broken after one deuce, giving Maria a 2-1 lead. This was an important game for Maria to win after her sloppy opening service-game.

Maria made no such mistake in her second service-game: she held to 15 (after 40/0) for 3-1. Grande held to love for 2-3, but Maria responded in kind, holding to love for 4-2.

Maria fought to impose more authority on the contest as Grande served at 2-4: despite leads of 15/0, 30/15 and 40/30 for the server, Maria broke after one deuce, and thus served for the first set at 5-2.

Maria led 30/0 serving for the set, but was pegged back to 30/30. She had her first set-point at 40/30, but needed a second (after one deuce). Maria won the first set 6-2 at 14:34 CEST.

However, Maria's statistics left a lot to be desired after the first set, with only 43% of first serves in, and 14 unforced errors to 15 winners (most of the errors came early in the set, though).


As against Barbara Schwartz in the first round, Maria upped her level in the second set to win it 6-0.

Grande was broken to love in the first game, and Maria held to 30 to make it 2-0. Maria broke to 15 (converting the second of three break-points at 0/40), and won ten points in a row to lead 5-0 15/0.

With Maria serving for the match at 5-0, Grande stopped the rot to make it 15/15, then Maria had two match-points at 40/15. Grande saved the first, but Maria won 6-2 6-0 at 14:54 CEST.


Maria's statistics were much improved in the second set, with 69% of first serves in in the second set (54% of first serves in overall - Grande only managed 45%). She hit 16 winners and only one unforced error in the second set for an overall winner:UE ratio of 31:15, compared with 2:8 for Grande.

Maria won 81% of points when she got her first serve in, and 56% on second serve (Grande 35% on first serve, 29% on second serve). She broke 6 times from 8 break-points, whereas Grande broke once from two break-points. Another interesting statistic is that Maria went to the net 19 times, winning 17 of those points (Grande came in once and lost the point).


This sets up a most intriguing third-round match against the rather lovely Vera Zvonareva (of whom I'm a demi-fan), who thrashed Zuzana Kucová 6-0 6-2 in her first-round, but was way below her best and showed signs of mental frailty as she struggled past an off-form Magüi Serna 5-7 6-1 6-4 today (Vera led 5-1 in the third, and was lucky to serve it out at 5-4).

Vera's form today is no reason for us to be overly optimistic about Maria's chances on Friday, however. Just because Vera had one bad match doesn't mean she's going to carry that form into their third-round match - indeed, it might serve as a wake-up call for Vera, who is known for her tremendous fighting spirit.

On the other hand, Vera is also known for letting frustration and anger ruin her game, so if Maria can get under Vera's skin, there's a possibility that Vera might self-destruct! ;)

On yet another hand, while Maria is known for her extreme intensity, Vera's supporters will be hoping that their girl will win the first set on a tiebreak so that Maria might fade in the second, as she did against Daniela Hantuchová at Tokyo (7-6 6-1), against Vera herself at Memphis (7-6 6-2), and against Silvia Farina Elia at Rome (7-6 6-0).

That's why it's important for Maria to get off to a better start than she did against Schwartz and Grande. Our brilliant Maria will have to be firing on all cylinders to overcome the "slide and smack" claycourt hustling abilities of Vera, who will fight to the bitter end of this sweet match.

Maria seems to have lost some speed on her serve since last year's Wimbledon. Her average first-serve speed has been 92mph in both French Open matches so far, compared with 96mph at Wimbledon 2003. Whereas Vera, who didn't strike me as having a big serve when I saw her play last year, is serving at 97mph at this French Open! I think it's an underrated fact that Vera has considerable power as well as flairsome strokes and resourceful retrieval abilities.

I hope they show great tennis on Friday, and may the right girl win!

Maria's French Open page:
http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/bios/ws/wtas961.html

Maria photos:
http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=99305&page=3
http://news.search.yahoo.com/search/news/?c=news_photos&p=sharapova

--
Dr. Andrew Broad
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/shara/

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/maria_sharapova/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeldani/

Erdinger
May 26th, 2004, 09:43 PM
Thanks a lot for your detailed analysis, andrewbroad! :cool:

andrewbroad
May 28th, 2004, 10:26 PM
One year ago, a blonde Russian teenager scored a sensational upset at Roland Garros, showing tremendous fighting spirit and nerves of steel to send Venus Williams packing 2-6 6-2 6-4 in the fourth round. Her name was Vera Zvonareva, and I was most impressed.

Eleven months ago, another blonde Russian teenager shrieked her way to the fourth round of Wimbledon, showing amazing intensity and a dazzling array of brilliant winners to upset Ashley Harkleroad 6-2 6-1, Elena Bovina 6-3 6-1 and Jelena Dokic 6-4 6-4. Her name was Maria Sharapova, and she is the seventh (and latest) player I have inducted into my fanship.

In the intervening months, I have followed Maria's career with fanship-interest, seeing her rise from #91 to #19 (her highest to date) in the rankings, winning two Tier III WTA tournaments along the way.

I have also noted Vera's progress with considerable interest, albeit without the vow of fanship that I took for Maria. Vera too has won two Tier III tournaments, and was looking to defend a career-high ranking of #11 at this French Open.

Their win-loss records this year are pretty similar, Maria 17-7 (71%), Vera 25-11 (69%). Of course Vera, being two-and-a-half years older, is allowed to play more tournaments and has more experience (roughly one year more experience than Maria in my estimation). The two girls are friends according to www.rolandgarros.com (http://www.rolandgarros.com).

Quotes from Maria after her second-round win over Rita Grande:

"I felt really good today about my game. I felt confident and pretty solid except at the beginning was a little sloppy. But other than that, I made a few good shots. Physically, I felt great. You know, she did give me a little hard time with the slice, but I thought I pretty much handled that well.

"I'm just looking forward to the next round right now against Vera. I know it's gonna be a tough match, but I'm ready. I'm very confident. So it will be very interesting."

Their first meeting was in the semi-finals of Memphis in February, Vera winning 7-6 (7/5) 6-2. Today, Maria took revenge in almost symmetrical fashion, the 18th seed beating the 10th seed 6-3 7-6 (7/3) with a powerful performance in the third round of the French Open. It's one of the most significant victories of Maria's young career to date.


Fittingly for such a mouthwatering match, it was first on Court Philippe Chatrier (the French Open equivalent of Centre Court), starting at 11:12 CEST. If only it could have been on Saturday, so that the BBC might have televised it in Grandstand! :mad:

I followed live score-updates at www.rolandgarros.com (http://www.rolandgarros.com), which started at 30/30 in the first game - Maria serving. She immediately had to save a break-point at 30/40, but after two deuces she held serve with her second game-point.

"Sharapova took the action to the nails-tough Zvonareva from the opening bell, blowtorching her long groundstrokes to the corners and attacking her opponent's second serves." [www.rolandgarros.com]

Maria broke Vera to love to lead 2-0. She then led 40/0 on serve, but when it got to 40/30, I - with the utmost respect for Vera's fighting qualities - feared that Maria was going to do an Alexandra Stevenson and drop serve from 40/0 up! But she held to 30 for 3-0.

When Vera was broken to love - just as she was in her first service-game - to trail 0-4, I actually began to feel quite sorry for her. But the complexion of the match changed immediately as Maria went 0/40 down on serve and was broken to 15 to reduce her lead to 4-1.

The struggle intensified in the next game, with Vera serving 15/0 up, 15/30 down, 40/30 up, break-point to Maria after the first deuce, and Vera holding after the second deuce to make it 4-2 to Maria. Maria recovered from 0/15 for an important hold (to 30) to put herself one game away from winning the first set at 5-2.

The longest game of the match took place with Vera serving to stay in the first set. Vera led 15/0 and 40/15, but Maria's will appeared to be as strong as Vera's as she fought back to 40/40 and had three set-points after the first three deuces. But it was Advantage Zvonareva after the fourth and fifth deuces, and she held to make Maria have to serve for the first set at 5-3.

The next game would teach us a lot about Maria's character. After a long previous game with missed set-points, it's very common in tennis for the loser of that game to drop serve in the next game, especially in such a pressure-situation as serving for a set. But to Maria's credit, she served it out to love, winning the first set 6-3 at 11:50 CEST.


The struggle for dominance continued in the second set, with Vera serving at 0/15, 30/15, 30/40 (break-point), advantage Maria, advantage Vera, advantage Maria, advantage Maria, and Maria broke after the fourth deuce.

It then degenerated into a set of break and counter-break, as Maria was broken to 30 (despite leads of 15/0 and 30/15) for 1-1. Maria broke to love to lead 2-1.

Maria was down 0/30 and faced two break-points at 15/40. She saved them both, saved another after deuce, but was broken after the second deuce for 2-2. Always one step ahead of Vera, Maria broke to 30 for 3-2.

Maria was in trouble on her own serve again as she dropped the first point and was taken to deuce (no break-points). But two points later she became the first to hold serve in the second set, and her path to the fourth round looked clear at a set and 4-2 up.

But Vera always fights to the bitter end, and now, playing with more depth and consistency on her groundstrokes, it was her turn to hold serve - to 30 (after 30/0 became 30/30). Maria, serving at 4-3 with a break, dropped the first point, found herself facing two break-points at 15/40, saved the first, but Vera converted the second to level up at 4-4.

Vera held to love to give herself her only lead in either set, and she could not have done so at a more crucial time, as Maria was now serving to stay in the second set at 4-5. I didn't fancy Maria's chances if it went to a third set, as I feel that Vera plays better when she's tired than Maria does.

So Maria's victory appeared to be in great danger as she dropped the first point when serving at 4-5... but she won four points in a row to hold to 15. At 5-5 she broke Vera to 15 (Vera got nervous and double-faulted), and thus served for the match at 6-5.

Maria dropped the first point - which is always such an important one when you're serving for the match - and although she made it 15/15, Vera won the next three points (Maria was nervous and made two double faults in this game) to break back and force a tiebreak at 6-6.

A tiebreak is like Russian Roulette - you never know what's going to happen, and it can often be a case of luck separating two equal players. If the player who's serving on the first point (i.e. Vera) loses it, it sets her right back on her heels, and that is what happened to Vera. Maria used her own serve to make it 3/0, and the writing was on the wall when Maria scored a second mini-break to make it 4/0.

The second half of the tiebreak was competitive as Vera held for 1/4, Maria for 5/1 (she hit four winners in the first six points), and Vera recovered one of the mini-breaks to make it 5/2. Vera held for 3/5 (Maria made unforced errors at 5/1 and 5/2), but Maria broke to give herself three match-points at 6/3. She hit a service-winner, "then emitted one final shriek and hopped with glee" [Yahoo! Sports]. Maria won 6-3 7-6 (7/3) at 12:46 CEST.

"Basking in her latest victory Friday, Maria Sharapova grabbed a pinch of red clay at Roland Garros and gave it a rub. She'll be back for more." [Yahoo! Sports]


Maria: "It was a real breakthrough win for me. I beat a great player who I have a lot of respect for. The joy comes out of knowing that you played solid, that you're at Roland Garros playing on Philippe Chatrier Court and you've just won. I want to savour these moments.

"The only thing that can stop me now is a loss. <laughing> So far, I couldn't be more confident. Winning against Vera is definitely going to be a confidence boost for me.

"I've had a few matches in the past where I was in that kind of situation [against a top player] and didn't finish the match off when I needed to. I need to win those kind of matches."


The statistics weren't too impressive from either player, to be honest. I wouldn't have said that Maria could beat Vera with only 53% of first serves in, but Vera herself only got 54% in. The difference was that Maria won 68% of points when she did get her first serve in, and 39% of points on second serve - for Vera it was 52% and 33%.

Maria made 8 double faults and only two aces, Vera 6 doubles and one ace. Maria upped her average first-serve speed from 148 km/h in her first two rounds to 156 km/h (Vera 155 km/h), her fastest serve being 172 km/h (Vera 164 km/h), and her average second-serve speed 139 km/h (Vera 132 km/h).

Maria hit 28 winners, but 34 unforced errors. For Vera the ratio was much worse: 12 winners and 22 unforced errors (although not in the second set, where it was 14:21 for Maria and 9:11 for Vera). Maria broke 6 times from 13 break-points, Vera 5 times from 11. Vera "wasn't aggressive or mentally strong enough on the big points." [www.rolandgarros.com]


Maria's serve is a tremendous asset, as I saw at Wimbledon last year, but it has been shaky so far this tournament, and Maria needs to work on it if she is to take advantage of one of the most open draws she's ever likely to see at a Grand Slam.

With the Williams sisters and Jennifer Capriati safely tucked away in the bottom half of the draw, the top half of the fourth-round draw looks like this:

Jie Zheng v PAOLA SUÁREZ [14]
MARIA SHARAPOVA [18] v Marlene Weingärtner
AMÉLIE MAURESMO [3] v MAGDALENA MALEEVA [21]
ELENA DEMENTIEVA [9] v LINDSAY DAVENPORT [5]

I don't know much about Marlene Weingärtner, and I fully expected Maria's fourth-round opponent to be the hard-hitting, masculine Nadia Petrova, who reached the semi-finals here last year. But today Petrova crashed out 6-3 6-2 to Weingärtner, which certainly increases Maria's chances of reaching her first Grand Slam quarter-final from about 30% to about 80%.

Petrova said the following about Weingärtner: "She's the type of player who can play unbelievable, and the next day she can play the worst."

Weingärtner upset 27th seed Eleni Daniilidou 6-3 6-3 in the first round, then struggled past the gorgeous Maria Elena Camerin 4-6 6-4 6-4 in the second. Her three results so far suggest that she may be a big match-player, but inconsistent. She suffered four first-round losses in a row (starting with the Australian Open) before reaching the quarter-finals of Vienna the week before the French Open.

Maria is the clear favourite against Weingärtner, but of course that puts pressure on her with her first Grand Slam quarter-final at stake!

Paola Suárez would be a tough quarter-final opponent, as by then she will have won fifteen singles matches on clay this year, and she took a set off Venus Williams at Berlin. It would be a bonus if Maria were to beat Suárez in the quarters.

And in the semi-finals her likely opponents would be Amélie Mauresmo, who is the form-player going into the French Open but tends to buckle under pressure in Grand Slams - especially the French - or Lindsay Davenport, who is still a very formidable opponent, but clay is her worst surface and if Claudine Schaul could beat her in the Strasbourg final, why couldn't Maria?

Some experts are even predicting that Maria could get to the final! But Maria has had a few disappointing anticlimaxes in her career so far - e.g. losing to Shinobu Asagoe in the semi-finals of Birmingham 2003, to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round of Wimbledon, and to Silvia Farina Elia in the third round of Rome two weeks ago after destroying Elena Dementieva 6-1 6-4 in the second round. So she and we need to forget about the open draw and take it one match at a time.


RolandGarros.com match-report:
http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/news/articles/2004-05-28/200405281085747601261.html
(who has a hand-fetish then? ;))

Maria's French Open page:
http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/bios/ws/wtas961.html

Maria photos:
http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=115652&page=1&pp=40 (2 pages)
http://news.search.yahoo.com/search/news/?c=news_photos&p=sharapova

--
Dr. Andrew Broad
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/shara/

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/maria_sharapova/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeldani/

andrewbroad
May 30th, 2004, 10:39 PM
Belated quotes from Maria's third-round win over Vera Zvonareva:

"I'm very happy to be in the fourth round of the French Open this year. This match was definitely a little breakthrough for me. She's definitely a great player, and I have so much respect for her. And the fact that I played her at the beginning of the year and lost made me want to go out there and challenge myself and beat her. So I did that, and I was quite successful at it.

"The first set I was totally in control. I felt great. And in the second set, expecting something great from a top player, she all of a sudden came up and hit some, you know, amazing shots, started hitting deep, and I just kept myself cool. And throughout the match I was just thinking positive."


Today Maria capitalised on her win over Vera to reach her first-ever Grand Slam quarter-final! As in her first and second rounds, she overcame a shaky start to see off the unseeded 24-year-old Marlene Weingärtner 6-3 6-1 in a 67-minute fourth-round encounter on Court 1 (the third-highest court at the French Open).

Maria played a solid - yet spectacular - backcourt game in heavy conditions, while Weingärtner was inconsistent. Maria hit 34 winners, and her powerful serve was crucial to winning the first set in particular. Maria's movement was "much improved" according to www.rolandgarros.com (http://www.rolandgarros.com/), but I'm not sure what their basis for comparison is because Maria was moving great when I saw her at Wimbledon 2003!

I didn't get to see it, of course, as the BBC showed nothing but Tim Henman v Michael Llodra in Sunday Grandstand! :fiery: Henman could easily have bowed out at two sets to love down, but oh no, he had to come back and win in five! At least this meant that the tennis-coverage extended an hour into the time scheduled for golf - who wants to watch a boring ball-game with no rallies anyway? ;)

I followed live score-updates at www.rolandgarros.com (http://www.rolandgarros.com/). The match started at 11:18 CEST. Maria was broken to love in the first game!

But Maria, like all great champions broke back immediately, jumping out to 0/30 and 15/40 (two break-points) on Weingärtner's serve and breaking to 30 to make it 1-1. Maria then fell 0/30 behind on her own serve, but with her unforced errors turning into winners she won three points in a row for 40/30, then held after one deuce for 2-1. It was then Weingärtner's turn to be broken to love as Maria took a 3-1 lead.

However, Maria was in trouble on serve again as she trailed 15/30 and 30/40 (break-point), had a point for 4-1 after the first deuce, but was broken back after the second deuce. Then Weingärtner held to 15 to level up at 3-3!

Maria held to 30 for 4-3. Weingärtner was 40/15 up on serve, but Maria fought back and broke after one deuce, and thus served for the first set at 5-3. Maria was down 0/15 and 15/30, but won three points in a row to take the first set 6-3 at 11:54 CEST.


Maria won the first point of the second set on Weingärtner's serve, but the advantage swung back and forth between the two girls as Weingärtner led 30/15, Maria had break-point at 30/40; advantage Weingärtner after the first deuce; advantage Maria after the second and third deuces - Maria converted the latter to break for 1-0.

Maria held to 15 for 2-0. Weingärtner had another tough game on her serve: she led 30/0 and 40/15, Maria had a break-point after the first deuce, but Weingärtner held after the second deuce to reduce Maria's lead to 2-1. It was to be the last game Weingärtner would win.

Maria recovered from 15/30, winning three points in a row to hold for 3-1. Weingärtner was broken to 15 to make it 4-1. Maria held to 15, and thus Weingärtner served to stay in the match at 1-5.

Weingärtner won the first point, but found herself facing two match-points at 15/40. She saved them both, but after one deuce it was third time lucky for Maria as she completed the 6-3 6-1 thrashing at 12:25 CEST.


Maria's percentage of first serves in was much better at 72% (and 88% for the second set) than in any of her previous rounds. She won 64% of points when she got her first serve in, and only 43% on second serve. Weingärtner got 66% of first serves in, winning 47% on first serve and 30% on second serve - statistics which emphasise just how heavily she was beaten.

Maria hit 34 winners (20 of them in the second set!! :eek: ), so her 25 unforced errors are easily forgiven. Weingärtner only made 11 unforced errors, but then she only hit 9 winners - statistics which emphasise how much Maria dictated the play.

Maria broke 6 times from 13 break-points (46%), which was her least impressive statistic today; Weingärtner broke twice from 3 break-points (67% for what it's worth).

Maria came to the net quite a lot today, winning 16 points there from 21 approaches (Weingärtner 5 from 8).

Maria's average first-serve speed was 150 km/h (Weingärtner 139 km/h), which is slower than against Vera Zvonareva but faster than in her first two rounds. Her fastest serve was 172 km/h (Weingärtner 164 km/h).


Quotes from Maria:

"I never expected to go this far. It's an amazing accomplishment. I'm really looking forward to playing some great tennis in the next round, just like I've been doing this whole week.

"Nothing is out of reach for me. Every tournament I come into, I want to win and know I can do it, especially the way I've been playing the last week. I have been playing very good and I'm very confident. As long as I'm feeling good and confident, and feeling I can hit every ball without missing, then I don't think anything can stop me - unless I lose!"


Quarter-final draw:

PAOLA SUÁREZ [14] v MARIA SHARAPOVA [18]
AMÉLIE MAURESMO [3] v ELENA DEMENTIEVA [9]
ANASTASIA MYSKINA [6] v VENUS WILLIAMS [4]
JENNIFER CAPRIATI [7] v SERENA WILLIAMS [2]

Paola Suárez may seem like a light opponent for a Grand Slam quarter-final, but she's already won fifteen singles matches on clay this year so we shouldn't underestimate her at all. But if Maria keeps playing like she did in the second set today, I really like her chances! :-)


Maria's French Open page:
http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/bios/ws/wtas961.html
("Related News, Interviews and Photos" updated)

Maria photos:
http://news.search.yahoo.com/search/news/?c=news_photos&p=sharapova
http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=115652&page=2&pp=40

Maria looked exceptionally beautiful today if I may say so. :hearts:

I'm feeling very happy and excited for her right now! :D

--
Dr. Andrew Broad
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/shara/

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/maria_sharapova/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeldani/

andrewbroad
Jun 3rd, 2004, 05:42 PM
"We're still very young, and we're going to be doing this for many years to come."

So said Maria after a fourth round involving four Russian women (a Grand Slam record), with a record three making it to the quarter-finals - including Maria herself, who dropped no sets and just 18 games in her first four matches. It was her best tournament of the year so far - in no other 2004 tournament has she won four singles matches - and her first-ever Grand Slam quarter-final (and, I'm sure, the first of many).


Sadly, the quarter-final match itself was an abysmal anticlimax to Maria's superb run to get there, as she bombed out 6-1 6-3 to Paola Suárez (seeded 14th to Maria's 18th, and the world number one doubles-player) in 58 minutes (not including a nine-minute rain-delay at 1-6 1-0 30/40).

I blame the rain above all else. It was a nasty wet day at Roland Garros - Maria's match was scheduled first on Court Suzanne Lenglen, but the start was delayed by an hour - and this seemed to extinguish Maria's usual fighting spirit as she struggled to come to terms with the sluggish conditions on a wet court, hitting 40 unforced errors (often just long or just wide [Frits Burghardt at the maria_sharapova Yahoo! Group]). Maria never found her range, she served poorly (only holding serve once in the match), while Suárez executed a tactically sound game-plan and chased everything down [www.rolandgarros.com].

Direct quote from www.rolandgarros.com (http://www.rolandgarros.com):
>>>
Unable to keep the ball in play, or to engage in long rallies, the out-of-sorts Sharapova dumped an inexplicable number of forehands into the bottom of the net, floated balls long and missed sitters from the middle of the court.

"Yeah I think she was a little bit tight, and very nervous," said Suárez, who played most of her balls straight down the middle today, instead of opening up the angles for her opponent to smash winners off. "But I think the conditions were better for me because the court was heavy, and she doesn’t like to play many balls."
<<<


The match started at 13:17 CEST, and I followed live score-updates at www.rolandgarros.com (http://www.rolandgarros.com) (not one single point of women's tennis did the BBC show on Tuesday).

Maria made a nervous start to her first-ever Grand Slam quarter-final, going down 0/30 on serve in the opening game. She recovered to 30/30, saved one break-point at 30/40, had game-point after the first deuce, and was broken after the second deuce. But she had made shaky starts to three of her four previous matches (with the exception of her third-round win over Vera Zvonareva), so I wasn't too worried at this stage.

Suárez held to 15 to make it 2-0, and Maria's problems continued as she went down 0/30 and 15/40 in the third game, and was broken to 30 for 0-3. Suárez held to 30 for 4-0, Maria was broken to love for 0-5, and I had visions of the dreaded double bagel (which Maria has yet to taste in her career).

At least that fear was dispelled as Suárez got nervous serving for the first set, making three errors to give Maria three break-points at 0/40. Maria broke to 15 to open her account at 1-5.

Serving to stay in the first set, with more rain starting to fall, Maria went 0/30 down - as she did in every single one of her service-games in the first set - and was broken to 15 as Suárez won the first set 6-1 on her first set-point (Maria double-faulted) at 13:43 CEST.


Maria showed flashes of brilliance early in the second set, attacking anything short from Suárez as she broke to 15 in the opening game.

And for the first time in the match, she didn't go 0/30 down on serve, but was up 15/0 and 30/15 before a rain-delay with Maria facing break-point at 30/40. Play was suspended at 13:52 CEST, resumed at 14:01 CEST, and Suárez converted the break-point to make it 1-1.

Suárez held to 30 for 2-1 and it was ironic that Maria, facing 0/30 on her serve for the fifth time in the match, recovered to win four points in a row and hold for 2-2. It was the only time Maria held serve in the entire match, which is very disappointing - especially considering how amazing her serve can be.

It looked like Maria might well be turning the match around as she broke to 15 to lead 3-2.

But the momentum was short-lived as Maria won only one point in the rest of the match. This was when she was serving at 3-2 0/15; from 15/15 Suárez won fifteen points in a row to break to 15 (Maria floated a forehand long), hold to love for 4-3, break to love for 5-3, and she served it out to love when Maria hit a crosscourt forehand wide. Suárez won the match 6-1 6-3 at 14:25 CEST.

Within a few minutes of Maria's loss, play was suspended on all courts at Roland Garros. It seems very much as though Maria was distracted by the rain, and rushing to get the match finished before it was rained off. It sounds strange that Maria would want to rush her own defeat, but this is exactly what Justine Henin did against Venus Williams in the Wimbledon 2001 final.


The match-statistics are, of course, pretty woeful, with Maria making 40 unforced errors to only 11 winners (Suárez 10 UEs, 5 winners). Maria got only 50% of first serves in (Suárez 53%), won 35% of points on first serve, 26% on second serve (Suárez 67% and 47%), and committed 6 double faults.


Maria: "I'm not disappointed at all. I’ve had an amazing week. I never expected to get so far."

Insightful excerpts from the `expert' on this match:
>>>
Q. Were you surprised that your opponent didn't do that many winners today?

PAOLA SUÁREZ: Yeah. Yeah, I think she was a little bit tight, you know, and nervous. I don't know. I mean, I didn't play like angles, you know. I play most of the balls to the middle of the court because she likes when I play angles, you know. And I think she couldn't get the key to try to play winners from there, you know.

I think the most important thing, I think she was tight, like really tight, you know, like tough for her, too much nervous.

Q. Do you think the conditions were much better for you than her? The court was slippery, and she's very tall with long legs. Maybe it's not that easy for her, for her footwork. Do you think it was easier for you to get into that match?

PAOLA SUÁREZ: I mean, I think because of this reason, it's tough for both of us, you know, because she hit very fast and I have to run, you know. I mean, she doesn't move a lot, you know, because already aggressive. And me, I have to run.

But I think the conditions was better for me because the court was heavy, you know, and she doesn't like to play many balls. That's why, I think, that's more -- it was better for me, you know, because is slippery, because was heavy the court.


Q. In her press conference, Sharapova congratulated you and said that she thinks that you really stand a good chance. She also said that the weather was easier for you than for her because she felt that the court was very heavy.

PAOLA SUÁREZ: Yeah, that's exactly what I said. I thought the weather really helped me because she is an aggressive player. The ball was very heavy. That made things harder for her. Well, that's the weather, isn't it? It helped me.
<<<
[www.rolandgarros.com]

Suárez's 6-0 7-5 loss to Elena Dementieva in today's semi-finals makes Maria's loss look even worse. :sad:

So after eight consecutive Grand Slam finals which were either all-Williams or all-Belgian, we now have an all-Russian one! It's a shame Maria couldn't have been the first Russian woman ever to win a Grand Slam singles title. But hopefully we'll now have a series of all-Russian Grand Slam finals, like Maria v Vera Zvonareva! :lick:


Maria's French Open page:
http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/bios/ws/wtas961.html (new photos)

Maria photos:
http://news.search.yahoo.com/search/news/?c=news_photos&p=sharapova
http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=115652&page=3&pp=40

Maria needs our help in a poll:
http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/interactive/

--
Dr. Andrew Broad
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/
http://www.geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/shara/

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/maria_sharapova/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeldani/

the cat
Jun 3rd, 2004, 08:03 PM
Thanks for the detailed reports.