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andrewbroad
Sep 26th, 2005, 10:50 PM
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CHINA OPEN (Beijing, China; hard; WTA Tier II)
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Photos of Maria (and recent opponents):
http://news.search.yahoo.com/search/news/?c=news_photos&p=sharapova (http://news.search.yahoo.com/search/news/?c=news_photos&p=sharapova)
http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=99305&page=87 (http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=99305&page=87)
http://sports.sina.com.cn/tennis/chinaopen05/photo/19692/ (http://sports.sina.com.cn/tennis/chinaopen05/photo/19692/) (off-court)
http://sports.sina.com.cn/tennis/chinaopen05/photo/19688/ (http://sports.sina.com.cn/tennis/chinaopen05/photo/19688/) (on-court)
Search Getty Images for "sharapova"

Online video of Super Maria Sisters' match:
http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=195047 (http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=195047)

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Pre-tournament quotes
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"It's been a good year so far. I reached number one in the world at 18. But my most successful year was 2004 because I won my first Grand Slam at Wimbledon.

"I look forward to the challenge of doing well here. I want to protect my number one ranking."

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Second round
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Super Maria Sisters:
+ Maria d. Aiko Nakamura [Q], 6-1 7-6 (7/3)
+ Maria d. Shahar Peer, 6-0 5-7 6-2

If you hadn't been following this tournament, you wouldn't know which was Sharapova's result and which was Kirilenko's, would you?

Big Maria won the first set in 28 minutes, sealed with a "vicious forehand down the line", but suffered a mental lapse in the second, as the strangely attractive Israeli girl punished Maria's sloppy play, presumably with relentless retrieving (from what I saw of Peer at Wimbledon). Maria was broken three times in the second set, but quickly recovered her composure in the third.

Maria: "I played really well in the first set, but then I just got too comfortable. I wasn't physically tired, but mentally I was coasting. I just had to get myself together mentally and fight for it.

"I got off to a great start and then maybe I wasn't aggressive enough and let her into the match in the second set. I don't know exactly what happened, I just lost my concentration a bit, but was able to get back on track in the final set.

"I focused in the third set and won it. Obviously I'll need to improve for my next rounds, but I'm pretty sure I'll get better."

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Quarter-finals
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Super Maria Sisters:
+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [1] d. Shinobu Asagoe, 6-4 6-1
+ Maria Kirilenko d. Sun,Tiantian [WC], 6-1 6-3

Once again, Little Maria got a better scoreline than Big Maria.

www.wtatour.com (http://www.wtatour.com/): "Sharapova, the top seed in Beijing, struggled early against unseeded Shinobu Asagoe but pounced at the Japanese player's first sign of weakness and took complete control, posting a 64 61 win. The two traded breaks early and were on serve through the ninth game of the match, but Asagoe faltered while serving at 4-5, double-faulting on set point to hand Sharapova the first set. The Russian teenager stormed through the first five games of the second set, dropping the sixth game before closing out the victory in just over an hour."

Maria: "I played well today. I started off strong, but then I made a few mistakes and she capitalised. I overcame some serving difficulties in the first set, and then in the second set I played really aggressively. She's a good player and has a strong return. I just tried to play my game, and in the end I got the win."

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Semi-final
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- MARIA SHARAPOVA [1] lt. Maria Kirilenko, 6-4 *2-1 retired

A semi-final between the Super Maria Sisters is something I never dared dream of when I saw the first-round draw (which had Serena Williams as Little Maria's likely quarter-final opponent).

But the dream turned into a nightmare as Big Maria's right pectoral muscle strain flared up again. It's very sad and upsetting that this mouthwatering match should have been marred by injury.

This is the third time that this particular injury has forced Big Maria to withdraw from a tournament once play was underway: Philadelphia 2004, Los Angeles 2005 and now Beijing 2005.

Semi-finals have been Big Maria's unlucky round this year.

I fear that Big Maria's right pectoral muscle is going to be an ongoing problem for her throughout her career (just as Monica Seles is plagued by a recurring stress-fracture in her left foot, which would keep her out of action for six months at a time - currently 28 months and counting).

Well I don't think Big Maria's injury is that serious, but I do fear that it is worse than first feared, and it's not a good feeling that it could flare up again at any time.


Little Maria
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But I don't want to take too much away from Little Maria, who played very well throughout the week to reach her first-ever WTA Tier II (or higher) final, even though she benefited from some incredible luck along the way.

I have a new respect for Little Maria as a player after this week (so far). I've known for 15 months that she has tremendous innate all-court talent (not to mention how extremely cute, pretty and sweet she is), but before this week I believed that she was too inconsistent and physically weak to thrive in an era where other players in the top 128 are more powerful and athletic than ever before.

Now, however, I believe that if Little Maria is injury-free and plays her attacking, all-court best, she has a fighting chance of being competitive against players who sometimes take her to the woodshed - perhaps even beating them.

Perhaps, even, of one day being inducted into my eternal fanship (right now I see six candidates for the next place in my fanship: Little Maria, Tatiana Golovin, Nicole Vaidišová, Sania Mirza, Anna Chakvetadze and Ana Ivanovic - every week I have a different idea of who it's most likely to be, so I'm nowhere near my next eternal vow of fanship yet).

Originally, Little Maria was drawn to play Anna-Lena Grönefeld in the first round, before Grönefeld was moved to the bottom of the draw to replace the injured Lindsay Davenport (which I thought was a change for the worse as it pitted Little Maria against her nemesis Jamea Jackson instead).

Now that Little Maria was playing Grönefeld in the final, it was like a tale from a parallel universe; like a dream I once had in which the Super Maria Sisters were interchangeable.


My Preview as I wrote it before the match
-----------------------------------------

A most intriguing semi-final showdown between the Super Maria Sisters. In their only previous professional singles meeting in 2r Los Angeles 2005, Big Maria beat Little Maria 7-6 (9/7) 6-2 - a closer scoreline than many expected.

I think Little Maria can do even better this time. Her last two scorelines have been better than Big Maria's, and Little Maria has added new attacking options to her game: now serve-and-volleying, and being more aggressive with her returns of serve. The more Little Maria can get to the net against Big Maria, the more successful Little Maria will be.

I definitely think Little Maria can break Big Maria's serve at least once in the match, and although it would be a stunning upset if Little Maria were actually to win the match, I wouldn't be surprised if she got a set.


Big Maria: "I don't think I have more of an advantage now that there are only two seeds remaining. Whoever I'm playing against, if it's in the quarter-final or semi-final, has obviously played well enough to get there and deserves to be there.

"It's difficult to play someone you know very well, but any semi-final is competitive. Maria Kirilenko is an up-and-coming player, and she has played very well this week."


I wish Little Maria a good performance, but my loyalty is with Big Maria and I hope for a repeat of the Seoul 2004 final: Sharapova v Domachowska.

Big Maria hasn't actually won a Tier II or higher title (Birmingham is Tier III) since Doha in February, so I would be very disappointed if she were to blow this golden opportunity with the Williams sisters and Lindsay Davenport all beaten or withdrawn.

Ranking-wise, it's important for Big Maria to build up a rich buffer of points before last year's WTA Tour Championships come off, otherwise she's very likely to lose the #1 ranking at the end of the 2005 season and miss out on the coveted year-end #1 spot.


The Match
---------

I haven't seen the match myself (yet?). I distilled the following information from the WTAworld scores-thread:

http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=194744&page=5 (http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=194744&page=5)

(thanks to LostGlory for point-by-point scores, and to chopen for details of play)


First Set
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SHARAPOVA 1___* * *_ 4
KIRILENKO 1@*@ * * * 6

The match started at 19:12 Chinese time. Here are my notes as I wrote them at the time:

Sharapova serving 1-1: 15/30, 15/40 (2 BPs), 30/40, broken!

LostGlory: "Kir is playing out of her mind, she is playing on the mobility of sharapova and she is getting her....."

Kirilenko serving 2-1: 30/0 -> 30/30, 40/30, held.
Sharapova serving 1-3: 0/15, 15/15, 15/40 (2 BPs), 30/40, broken.

I heard that Big Maria had her right thigh taped yesterday. I do hope it isn't bothering her - it would be such a shame if this mouthwatering match were ruined by Big Maria retiring.

Kirilenko serving 4-1: 0/40 (3 BPs), 15/40, broken.
Sharapova serving 2-4: 40/30, held.
Kirilenko serving 4-3: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, held.

Sharapova serving to stay in the first set at 3-5: 15/0, 15/15, 30/15, double fault, 30/30, 30/40 (SP), MK forehand wide, 40/40, MK netted a forehand, ad MS, MK backhand return wide.

Big Maria plays the big points so well, especially when she's break-point (in this case set-point) down.

Kirilenko serving for the first set at 5-4: MS forehand long off a second serve, 15/0, MS backhand return long, 30/0, MK "very good serve,Big BH", 40/0 (3 SPs), service-winner (according to other sources, "a pummelling forehand"). Little Maria won the first set 6-4 at 19:56!


Second Set
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SHARAPOVA __* 1 retired
KIRILENKO @*_ 2

Sharapova serving 0-0: 0/15, MS netted a backhand, 0/30, MK netted a forehand (unforced), 15/30, second serve, MK netted a backhand return, 30/30, MK backhand return wide, 40/30, MS forehand wide, 40/40, MS backhand pass-winner, ad MS, MK forehand return winner, Deuce #2, MS netted a backhand, ad MK (BP), MS netted another backhand - broken!

TheBoiledEgg: "little Masha playing really good, keeping her off balance, serving great, smart"

Kirilenko serving 1-0: ace, 15/0, MS netted a forehand return, 30/0, MS forehand return wide, 40/0, MS backhand wide, held.

Sharapova serving 0-2: MK forehand return long, 15/0, MK backhand return long, 30/0, MK backhand return wide, 40/0, MS netted two backhands, 40/30, MS backhand wide, 40/40, MS backhand volley-winner, ad MS, MK forehand long.

Phew! The last thing Big Maria needed was an attack of Alexandra Stevenson's syndrome (dropping serve from 40/0 up) when she's already a set and a break down!

But my relief was short-lived as Big Maria retired at 20:12. :sad:


Big Maria quotes
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"Even if I couldn't walk, I'd want to finish the match. It's something that I can't control. It's a very mysterious injury. It was getting worse and worse with every shot.

"It was really sore in practice, and when I was playing, every forehand and every serve it got worse and worse.

"In reality, yes it hurts and it's very painful. I had an MRI in L.A. and they said it was just a muscle-problem or inflammation. It's kind of up and down and it comes unexpectedly. I took a week and half off to get ready for the US Open, and after all that it was still not better, so that's a concern.

"It comes on unexpectedly from day to day and I can't control it. I'm not a player who goes on court without intending to finish a match. It's bad enough to have to withdraw before you play, but to retire during a match is even more disappointing.

"At the same time I want to congratulate [Little] Maria. She's a great player and a great person, and we had a nice conversation after the match. I'd like to wish her all the best for the final."


Little Maria quotes
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"I didn't see that she had a problem. It was a surprise for me when she called for the trainer.

"I will just play my normal game, I will try not to think of it as a final. The only other time I reached a final, I was only 17 and I was very nervous. Tomorrow I won't be afraid."

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The Final
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+ Maria Kirilenko d. ANNA-LENA GRÖNEFELD [9], 6-3 6-4

For those who are interested, my review of the final can be found at:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeldani/message/2826 (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeldani/message/2826)
(and I'll be sharing it with the Maria Kirilenko community in a few hours' time)

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

!!!--Duiz™--!!!
Sep 27th, 2005, 03:02 AM
Thanks! Dr. Broad is definetly very dedicated!