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andrewbroad
Oct 9th, 2004, 06:43 PM
Maria successfully defended the first WTA singles title of her career, and extended her perfect win/loss record in WTA Tour and Grand Slam finals to 6-0.

1. AIG Japan Open (Tokyo, October 2003)
2. Bell Challenge (Québec City, November 2003)
3. DFS Classic (Birmingham, June 2004)
4. WIMBLEDON 2004
5. Hansol Korea Open (Seoul, October 2004)
6. AIG Japan Open (Tokyo, October 2004)

She has won one more title than Jelena Dokic so far, and only two fewer than 1997 French Open Iva Majoli won in her whole career. However, with the exception of Wimbledon, none of Maria's titles so far have been higher than Tier III.


As the top seed for the first time ever in a Tier III tournament (Seoul was Tier IV), Maria had a bye in the first round, as did second seed Tatiana Golovin (a Tier III tournament has 30 players in the main draw by definition).


Maria opened the first title-defence of her career in the second round on Wednesday, and perhaps this made her more nervous as battle-hardened qualifier Samantha Stosur - whom Maria had beaten 6-2 6-1 in Seoul last week - gave Maria a huge fright by leading 4-6 6-1 2-0! But Maria showed her fighting spirit to win 6-4 1-6 6-3.

"All in all, it was a very tough match. I came here to win and didn't want to lose early, so I'm relieved to have that first win.

"She was playing really great tennis, and obviously picked up her game in the second set and the beginning of the third, hitting unbelievable shots all over the court. I played her in Seoul last week, but the surface was slower, so on this surface, she did more damage with her serve. She has a very big serve, and I was happy I could break her in the end."


Tatiana Golovin was not so fortunate, as she lost her opening match to the dangerous 15-year-old Nicole Vaidišová in three sets. Tatiana confessed to not being aggressive enough, and that's what she needs to improve on if she wants a place in my fanship. I had been very excited when I looked down the draw and saw Tatiana as the second seed, so I was gutted at the lack of her survival.

I do think that if Golovin could have got past Vaidišová we would most likely have had a mouthwatering Sharapova v Golovin final, but I'm so glad that it did happen at Birmingham, when I was there! :D


The quarter-finals took me by surprise by being on Thursday, with Maria enjoying a 6-3 6-4 win over Youlia Fedossova, a 16-year-old French qualifier so obscure that I had to dig deep with Google just to find out what she looks like: http://www.fft.fr/news/octobre2004/1/atpwta0510.htm

"We had a lot of quick points. She's one of those players who if you give her a big point, she can return with a bigger point.

"I was a little tired today after playing two weeks in a row, and yesterday I had a tough match. I'll get a lot of rest tonight and hopefully be fresher than I was today. I definitely want to defend my title, but I have to take it one match at a time."


Maria lost the first two games of her semi-final on Friday, but recovered to beat Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-2 6-3. Every match in Tokyo had been tougher than every match she played in Seoul, where she had dropped just 15 games in five matches.

"I got off to a slow start against Tamarine. It's quite difficult when you don't have a proper warm-up [due to inclement weather]. I made a double fault, and she broke my serve right away. But I picked up my game and started to serve better as the match went on, and was able to return well, and that was the key.

"I really want to defend my title for the first time, so like I said on-court after my match, 'Just one more match.'


And her opponent in the final was none other than Mashona Washington (sister of 1996 Wimbledon runner-up Malivai Washington), who had inflicted Maria's most surprising defeat of 2004 in Maria's opening match at New Haven, the week before the US Open.

"She has a big serve, so I'll have to do something with my returns. She's a good runner, so I have to dictate the play a little better than I did last time, but I try not to worry too much about what my opponent will do, just focus on my game and what I have to do."


Mashona Washington, ranked #61 and playing her first-ever WTA Tour final at the age of 28, was thrashed 6-0 6-1 in 55 minutes (thus avoiding the approaching Typhoon Ma-on) in a packed Ariake Colosseum as Maria exacted her revenge for the New Haven upset with an array of "booming serves and solid groundstrokes".


Maria: "Everything came together and I served very well. I knew I had to dictate the pace this time, and was able to do that a lot better than the last time we played.

"I've been in the finals a few times and know you have to be tough. Mashona is a good player and I knew I had to be ready.

"Compared to the last time we played, I think I served much better and basically played very well. Last time, we played on a slower surface, and the points were very long. This time, I dictated the points much better. I knew I had to be extremely tough today because my opponent is also playing very well. I knew I had to be ready from the start.

"Last year was my first final so I was a bit nervous. It was a little more exciting last year because it [the 2003 final] went a full three sets, but it's also a great feeling to defend your title.

"They haven't updated this [the trophy]. The last name on it is Monica Seles in 2001. I mean, come on, it's the 21st century!

"I don't what it is [about Japan]. For some reason everything just seems to come together for me here, I don't know if it's the people, the surface or the rain."


Maria's successful title-defence will elevate her ranking from #10 to #7 (equalling her highest-ever ranking so far), and no doubt she can expect a similar boost in "Race to the Chase".

"It would be pretty amazing if I can make the Championships. It's a close race right now, but I still have Zurich and maybe Philadelphia. I definitely want to play the Championships."


Washington: "I couldn't play my normal aggressive game today because she was so good. She was playing out of her mind, and when someone is playing like that, you can't really beat her. This time was different than the last time we played. It was a final and the atmosphere was different. She was ready to come out and play, and was really aggressive.

"Maria is a good player but she doesn't have any 'Oh my God' shots, she just played very well and I didn't have any opportunity to get in the game. It was my first final, so I'm not that disappointed to have come this far."

If Mashona doesn't think Masha has any 'Oh my God' shots, she obviously wasn't watching those 'Our Father' serves and 'Hail Mary' crosscourt backhands in the grasscourt season! ;)


Photos:
http://search.news.yahoo.com/search/news?c=news_photos&p=sharapova
http://www.wtatour.com/photogallery/Default.asp (select "Tokyo [Japan Open]")
http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=99305&page=29&pp=40

--
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/sizzlingsharapova/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeldani/

Andy Mac
Oct 9th, 2004, 07:37 PM
thanks andrew...thats a real good report,.,.u know i alway love those repots fo yours! lol keep it up mate

Josh B.
Oct 9th, 2004, 07:41 PM
Great report Andrew.

Dan23
Oct 11th, 2004, 03:33 AM
Nice report as usual Andrew ;)
If Mashona doesn't think Masha has any 'Oh my God' shots, she obviously wasn't watching those 'Our Father' serves and 'Hail Mary' crosscourt backhands in the grasscourt season! ;) Yes thats right..."no 'Oh My God' shots" :unsure: :cuckoo:
Maria's backhand is one of the best going around...and lets not get started on the forehand with over the head finish..:D

mandy7
Oct 11th, 2004, 06:36 AM
thanks andrew...thats a real good report,.,.u know i alway love those repots fo yours! lol keep it up mate
wow andrew!
you found people who like your copy.. uhm, reports! :D
:yeah:

Andy Mac
Oct 11th, 2004, 01:13 PM
heheh mandy! dont expose the lad!~

lakan kildap
Oct 12th, 2004, 04:40 AM
A successful defense of the Japan Open makes for a nice bookend to a great year for Maria, which began with her first WTA title in the same tournament last year.

As for the fact that all but one of her titles are Tier 3, well, she's shown she can advance deep in bigger tournaments as she did in Beijing. It's just a matter of time.

If I may digress a little, the Asian TV commentators of the US Open were discussing basically the same thing during Maria's USO matches. After the inevitable Maria-Anna comparison and Anna's lack of WTA titles compared to Maria's four (at the time), Louise Fleming said to Vijay Amritraj that Anna was perhaps too proud in her prime to take on the lower tier tournaments. When she finally decided to play the minor leagues around 2002, she still couldn't win because that's when her body began to abandon her, with back, knee and other injuries.

I think Maria's approach will turn out to be the better one in the end. She's managed to build a trophy collection. And she has the biggest trophy of them all, Wimbledon, and no matter what Serena Williams said about her condition during that match (you know, that crap she said after the match that she was only 20%, after demolishing Capriati and outlasting Mauresmo), Maria earned it by dominating the final. She already has the tools for the game, she just needs to play smarter against top opponents and be patient.

Those Tier 2 and 1 victories are probably closer than we think.

~SunFlower~
Oct 12th, 2004, 04:52 AM
Very well said, lakan kildap :cat: