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andrewbroad
Nov 7th, 2006, 01:50 AM
===========================
SONY ERICSSON CHAMPIONSHIPS
(Madrid, Spain; indoor hard; WTA season-ending championships)
===========================
http://www.sonyericsson-championships.com/ (http://www.sonyericsson-championships.com/)

----------------------------
Pretournament photos & video
----------------------------

Photos:
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.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/photogallery/?Event=madrid (http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/photogallery/?Event=madrid)
http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=99305&page=497 (http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=99305&page=497) (to 502)
http://www.mariasharapova.com/ (http://www.mariasharapova.com/)
Search Getty Images for "sharapova"

Video:
http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/multimedia/ (http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/multimedia/)

--------------------
Pretournament quotes
--------------------

[Transcribed from the above video]
"It would be incredible to end the year number one, but it's not something I'm going to be going into every match thinking about. If I keep winning, it's going to happen on its own sooner or later - if it's not at the end of the year, I still have a good year to be proud of. Of course everyone's looking forward to their vacations, but this is the last one, and we've all gotta give it all we have."


[Maria at Linz]
"I'm looking forward to it. This is the road to that, and that's the important one.

"It is my dream to end the year on the number one spot again."


[Maria on Monday]
"This has been one of the best years for me. I've won a second major and I've been very consistent. Being consistent throughout the year has been great. I was very proud to win a second major, and to beat Amélie and Justine in back-to-back matches when I did it.

"The championships are going to be interesting. You've got different personalities and different playing styles competing out there.

"It's definitely good to be at the last tournament of the year. I'm tired, excited, but really looking forward to it. I figure if I keep winning my matches, then the ranking will take care of itself.

"I don't set myself goals, I prefer to go with the flow. If you do and get injured, then you get really down. You just have to live life by the day.

"I feel strongly that the tennis-season needs to be made shorter, with more breaks for players to rest, in order to be in peak-condition when we do play."


[Kim Clijsters re. male models as ballboys]
"I was talking to Maria in the taxi, and she said they looked nice."

--------------------
Final Race-standings (as of 6th November 2006)
--------------------

1. JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE (3473)
2. MARIA SHARAPOVA (3297)
3. AMÉLIE MAURESMO (3022)
4. SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA (2668)
5. NADIA PETROVA (2166)
6. KIM CLIJSTERS (1980)
7. ELENA DEMENTIEVA (1944)
8. MARTINA HINGIS (1926)
9. patty schnyder (1704)
10. dinara safina (1442)
11. nicole vaidišová (1393)
12. jelena jankovic (1290)
13. anna chakvetadze (1149)
14. daniela hantuchová (1066)
15. ana ivanovic (1055)
16. francesca schiavone (1053)
...
<http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/rankings/race/singles.asp (http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/rankings/race/singles.asp)>

I liked it much better when the WTA Tour Championships were a straight knockout with 16 players. It would have been so cool if Maria could have been joined by Nicole, Daniela, Anna and Ana.

----------------
Round-robin draw (seedings based on Rankings, not Race-standings)
----------------

Red Group {
[2] MARIA SHARAPOVA
[4] SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA
[6] KIM CLIJSTERS
[7] ELENA DEMENTIEVA
}

Yellow Group {
[1] AMÉLIE MAURESMO
[3] JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE
[5] NADIA PETROVA
[8] MARTINA HINGIS
}

-----
Rules
-----

The round-robin stage will be played from Tuesday to Friday. Each player will play the other three players in her group (and have one day off), with the top two players from each group advancing to the semi-finals.

For each group, there are four possible scenarios:

1. Player A finishes 3-0, Player B 2-1, Player C 1-2, Player D 0-3. Players A+B qualify for semis.

2. Players A+B finish 2-1, Players C+D 1-2. Players A+B qualify for semis.

3. Players A-C finish 2-1, Player D 0-3. The two players with the best percentages of sets won* qualify for semis.

4. Player A finishes 3-0, Players B-D 1-2. Player A qualifies for semis along with the player with the best percentage of sets won.*
---
* If "best percentage of sets won" doesn't break the tie, then it's determined by "best percentage of games won", and then (I think) by who beat whom.

In Saturday's semi-finals, the winner of the Red Group will play the runner-up of the Yellow Group, and the winner of the Yellow Group will play the runner-up of the Red Group. The final will be played on Sunday.

-------------------------------------------------------
How this tournament will decide the year-end #1 ranking
-------------------------------------------------------

Amélie Mauresmo is still #1, but is struggling with a right-shoulder injury, and will be under severe pressure as she defends her Sony Ericsson Championships title. Maria and Justine Henin-Hardenne both have a chance to take the #1 spot from Mauresmo at the end of the SEC - especially Henin, who has nothing to defend. It's the first time ever that the SEC comes down to a three-way battle for year-end #1!

According to www.mariasharapova.com (http://www.mariasharapova.com), there are three possible scenarios for Maria to become #1 at the end of the SEC:
1. Maria wins the SEC, and Henin fails to reach the final.
2. Maria reaches the final, and Henin fails to reach the semi-finals.
3. Maria reaches the semi-finals, Mauresmo fails to win the tournament, and Henin finishes 4th in the Yellow Group (or pulls out having played no more than one match).

--------------------------------------
Preview of Maria's round-robin matches
--------------------------------------

My overall opinion is that Maria's draw is 67% as tough as it could have been. I would have preferred her to avoid Kuznetsova and Clijsters; on the other hand, I'm glad Hingis is in the other group because that 6-3 6-1 loss at Tokyo in February still smarts (even though Maria has avenged it twice).

Looking briefly at the other players in the Yellow Group, I wouldn't mind Maria having to play Mauresmo or Henin-Hardenne right now, because they're just coming back from injury. And as dangerous as Petrova is, Maria just owns her mentally.


Maria v Dementieva
------------------

This will be Maria's first match, and should be her banker-win. She leads Dementieva 5-2 head-to-head, and when you compare their serving-ability, it's easy to see why.

To lose to Dementieva, Maria would have to have a pretty serious injury-problem (perhaps a recurrence of the right-foot strain with which she withdrew from Moscow), or be very tired (as she was when she lost to Dementieva at Los Angeles - immediately before embarking on her current 16-match winning-streak).

I'm pretty confident of Maria beating Dementieva, who comes into this tournament on a 2-match losing-streak (Anna Chakvetadze in sf Moscow, and Katarina Srebotnik in 2r Zürich). Were she to lose, it would be nothing short of a disaster, as her other two opponents will be much tougher than Dementieva.


Maria v Clijsters
-----------------

Clijsters was Maria's nemesis until San Diego 2006, when Maria snapped a 0-4 head-to-head to beat Clijsters 7-5 7-5 in the final.

Clijsters absolutely dominated the hard-court tournaments of 2005 - except at the SEC, where she surprisingly failed to qualify for the semi-finals.

Ironically, Maria has been the best hard-court player of 2006, with titles at Indian Wells, San Diego, Zürich, Linz, and of course the US Open. I find it surprising that hard has been her best surface because in 2004, Maria was 17-0 on grass (including the Super Maria Sisters' Birmingham doubles-title), but struggled on hard courts because more balls came back.

Clijsters retired from Montréal with a serious left-wrist injury which prevented her from defending her US Open 2005 title, but came back last week and won Hasselt! Granted, Hasselt is only a Tier III, but Clijsters proved once again that a lack of match-play is no handicap to her, so it would be dangerous for anyone to underestimate her at the SEC.

On the other hand, Clijsters may be tired after playing back-to-back three-setters against Vera Zvonarëva and Kaia Kanepi in the semi-final and final at Hasselt.


Maria v Kuznetsova
------------------

Kuznetsova is one of Maria's toughest opponents, leading their head-to-head 3-2. Kuznetsova won their first two meetings in 4r Wimbledon 2003 (6-1 2-6 7-5) and sf Beijing 2004 (6-2 6-2).

Maria got her first win over Kuznetsova at the 2004 WTA Tour Championships, also at the round-robin stage (6-1 6-4), then repeated the feat in qf Australian Open 2005 (4-6 6-2 6-2).

Kuznetsova won their only meeting this year: the Miami final (6-4 6-3). Maria was extremely fatigued after a busy four weeks in which she won Indian Wells, and reached the Miami final with a 2h43m marathon against Tatiana Golovin (which would have been even longer if Tatiana hadn't suffered that infamous ankle-sprain with Maria leading *4-3 in the third).

Following a fourth-round loss to Jelena Jankovic at the US Open, Kuznetsova was very impressive, beating Lindsay Davenport and Marion Bartoli to win the Bali title, and thrashing Amélie Mauresmo 6-4 6-0 in the Beijing final.

But I actually saw Kuznetsova's 6-1 6-3 loss to Vera Zvonarëva in 2r Moscow - Kuznetsova looked so weary, and she looked little better in her 6-4 6-2 loss to Daniela Hantuchová in sf Zürich (of which I saw highlights). I hasten to add that I obtained those videos under exceptional circumstances - without access to Eurosport myself, I won't get to watch any of the SEC. :(

-------------------------
Order of play for Tuesday
-------------------------

(start 18:00 CET = 17:00 GMT)
1. Yellow: AMÉLIE MAURESMO [1] v NADIA PETROVA [5]

(not before 20:00 CET = 19:00 GMT)
2. Red: MARIA SHARAPOVA [2] v ELENA DEMENTIEVA [6]
3. Yellow: JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE [3] v MARTINA HINGIS [7]

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

andrewbroad
Nov 8th, 2006, 03:25 PM
===========================
SONY ERICSSON CHAMPIONSHIPS
(Madrid, Spain; indoor hard; WTA season-ending championships)
===========================
http://www.sonyericsson-championships.com/ (http://www.sonyericsson-championships.com/)

------
Photos
------

http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/photogallery/?Event=madridtuesday (http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/photogallery/?Event=madridtuesday)
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=503 (http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=99305&page=503) (HQs)
http://www.mariasharapova.com/ (http://www.mariasharapova.com/)
Search Getty Images for "sharapova"

Maria's dress matches the colour of the hoardings so well! :)

Maria's career in pictures (UK Daily Telegraph):
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?menuId=47&menuItemId=-1&view=SUMMARY&grid=F2&targetRule= (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?menuId=47&menuItemId=-1&view=SUMMARY&grid=F2&targetRule=)

------
Videos
------

www.wtatour.com Tuesday highlights:
http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/multimedia/ (http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/multimedia/)

French Eurosport highlights:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=-HiJi-dkkOc (http://youtube.com/watch?v=-HiJi-dkkOc)

----------------------
Round robin: Red Group
----------------------

+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [2] d. ELENA DEMENTIEVA [6], 6-1 6-4

Dementieva had a terrible day at the office, especially on her serve (15 double faults!). Maria cruised through the first set easily, but her own serve let her down a bit in the second, and she got very tight trying to serve it out at 5-3 (losing one match-point in that game). An ugly match with more breaks than holds!

Rennae Stubbs' www.wtatour.com (http://www.wtatour.com) blog: "Maria was up next and showed her recent good form is continuing against fellow Russian Elena Dementieva, with a comfortable win. She has certainly put herself in the driver's seat by winning her first match; she has to be the favourite here after her recent form."

Kim Clijsters: "Obviously Maria is playing very well and has dominated the last part of the season from the US Open onwards. She looks confident and motivated, and will be very hard to beat."

Simon Baskett (Reuters):
>>>
US Open champion Sharapova, who came into Madrid on a three-tournament winning streak, hit top gear almost immediately in her match against Dementieva, racing into a 3-0 lead in the opening set.

She hit the lines consistently as she worked her compatriot around the court and punished her with a succession of powerful two-handed drives as she took the set 6-1.

Dementieva, the only player to have competed in every end-of-season championship since 2000, rallied at the start of the second, holding serve in a marathon third game.

She broke as Sharapova was serving for the match at 5-3 but the 25-year-old, who was plagued by problems on her service throughout, finally crumbled in the next.
<<<


First set
---------

SHARAPOVA @*@ @*@ 6
DEMENTIEV ___@___ 1

The match started at 20:05 CET. I followed live scores on the Internet, and also used the live-scoring thread at http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=272926&page=30 (http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=272926&page=30)

Dementieva serving 0-0: 0/15, 15/15, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken on a double fault.

Just the start for Maria! :)

Maria serving 0-1: 0/15, 15/15, 15/30, 40/30, held.

Good girl! Same sequence of scores as Dementieva up to 15/30, but Maria is so determined to hold, whereas Dementieva relies on being a prolific breaker.

Dementieva serving 0-2: 0/15, 30/15, 30/40 (BP), broken on a double fault (again - this time a foot-fault).

Double break! Dementieva led 30/15! Maria must be really up for this match, but Dementieva has served four double faults already.

Sharapova serving 3-0: 0/15, 15/15, 15/30, 30/30, 30/40 (BP) - Maria saved it with a forehand winner - 40/40, ad D (BP #2), Deuce #2, ad D (BP #3), broken.

Aww - no double bagel! ;) There are a lot of them going around at the moment. Obviously Dementieva has to be determined to fight for every game here. She is a top-eight player, after all.

Dementieva serving 1-3: 15/0, 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 30/40 (BP), broken.

All too easily, Maria reestablishes the double break.

Maria serving 4-1: held to love.
Dementieva serving to stay in the first set at 1-5: 0/40 (3 SPs), Maria won the first set 6-1 at 20:33 (28 minutes).

I'm now listening to live Eurosport commentary at http://www.eurosport.com/allsports/mc_vid20993.shtml (http://www.eurosport.com/allsports/mc_vid20993.shtml)

They say Dementieva can serve really well at times, but obviously this is not one of them. She's served 7 double faults so far. "It's a mental thing."

We can't get too complacent just because Maria's won the first set, though. She won the first set 6-1 against Daniela Hantuchová in the Zürich final, but Daniela won the second!

Jo Durie: "Dementieva is such a fighter... but Maria Sharapova has really got her number at the moment."

I Heart Masha: "Maybe Dementieva is too busy looking at the ballboys."


Second set
----------

SHARAPOVA * * *@ @ @ 6
DEMENTIEV _* *__@ @_ 4

Maria serving 0-0: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, held.

Jo Durie: "[Maria] is coming to the net - she's being very clever about it."

Dementieva serving 0-1: 0/15, 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30, held.

First hold of the match for Dementieva! Eight double faults now.

Maria serving 1-1: 40/0, 40/30 (two return-winners), held.

Phew! I actually had visions of things turning nasty if Maria had dropped serve from 40/0 up. Still plenty of scope for this second set to be competitive.

Chris Bradnam: "Just look at Maria's attitude here - the clenched fist - knows she's got Dementieva on the ropes. Get a break here, and even her back will be strained."

Dementieva serving 1-2: 30/0 -> 30/30, 40/30, 40/40 - ace - ad D, Deuce #2, ad M (BP), Deuce #3, ad M (BP #2), Deuce #4, ad D(?), Deuce #5, ad D, Deuce #6, ad M (BP #4), Deuce #7, ad D, Deuce #8, ad D, held.

11 double faults from Dementieva now, including some foot-faults. Chris Bradnam: "I'd love to see a close-up of her feet... A mini-victory - Miss Resilient does it again."

It could be tough for Maria to serve after such a long game with four missed break-points. She doesn't want to get bogged down here - she wants to get back in the locker-room ASAP, and conserve her energy for the tougher opponents ahead.

Maria serving 2-2: 30/0 -> 30/30, 40/30, 40/40, ad M, held.

That hold was a great relief to me, after getting pegged back from 30/0 and 40/30. This match would have had a very different complexion if Maria had been broken there.

Jo Durie: "I don't think it's the time for Maria to be extravagant - just be consistent and see if Dementieva can stay with her."

jamatthews: "Dementieva is a cunning genius. She's decided to disrupt Sharapova's concentration by hitting either unreturnable serves, double faults, return winners or return errors."

Dementieva serving 2-3: 0/40 (3 BPs), 30/40, broken.

That should do it for Maria! :D Jo Durie: "It's such a strain for Dementieva to raise her game at the moment - you can't really see any other winner."

Maria serving 4-2: First double fault. 0/15. Chris Bradnam: "Missed it! She couldn't miss those in the first set." 0/30, 0/40 (3 BPs), broken!

The commentators praised Dementieva for finding away back into the match, despite not finding her rhythm today. How heavily will Maria have to pay for this slip-up?

Dementieva serving 3-4: 0/40 (3 BPs), broken. Two more double faults in that game - 15 altogether.

Jo Durie: "It is such a shame that with all her fight, this one stroke lets her down."
Chris Bradnam: "She is so tight. Her shoulder's almost cramping!"

Maria serving for the match at 5-3: 30/0 -> 30/30, 40/30 (MP #1), 40/40, ad D (BP), broken.

Chris Bradnam: "It's terrific serving - as if to rub salt in... Wow! She's getting tight!"

I'm getting increasingly worried about this match. Dementieva has played so badly, but Maria has now let two breaks slip in this set, and Chris Bradnam says she's really tight now. What if Dementieva suddenly starts playing well? There's nothing worse than when you've been strolling towards an easy victory, and all of a sudden it becomes a desperate fight for survival.

Dementieva serving to stay in the match at 4-5: 0/15, 15/15, 15/40 (MP #2), 30/40 (MP #3). What a point! I could hear a long rally, with Dementieva answering Maria's grunts with increasingly loud screams! Maria won 6-1 6-4 at 21:33 (second set 60m, match 1h28m).


Statistics
----------

Maria didn't serve a single ace, while Dementieva served two. But Dementieva served a horrendous 15 double faults - almost four free games for Maria, who served just one DF.

Maria got 53% of first serves in, winning 67% of the points when she did so, and 42% on second (Dementieva 43%, 43% and 35%). Maria's percentage of first serves in dropped dramatically from 70% in the first set to 42% in the second. The big difference for Dementieva was 11% of points on on first serve in the first set, 58% in the second set.

Well might Maria want to improve her serve for her next matches - these percentages wouldn't cut it against Kuznetsova and Clijsters.

Maria broke 7 times from 13 break-points, Dementieva 3 times from 5 BPs. Allowing Dementieva to convert both break-points she held in the second set is particularly worrying. I don't think Maria can afford to be broken three times against Kuznetsova or Clijsters, but you play to the level of your opponent sometimes, and Maria's definitely going to have to step it up from here on in.

In points, Maria won 68-48 (first set 28-13, second set 40-35).


Maria quotes
------------

[On-court interview]
"Yeah definitely. Just started thinking a little too much, played a sloppy game, but with the help of a couple of double faults, I won the match.

"I need to serve a lot better than I did today - my first-serve percentage was low. But I'm happy to get through today."

[Re. the model ballboys]
"They were a bit slow. I was trying to concentrate - I know it's difficult! Practice makes perfect."


[Press-conference]
"I don't think I played my best tennis. The first game at any tournament is never easy. I hope it is going to get better, as things will only get tougher from here on."


[Transcribed from video highlights]
"I think I'm gonna have to be a bit more steadier than I was today - I mean not letting my opponent get back into the match, especially after serving for it. I've still gotta come in a little bit more - put some pressure on my opponents. But I think as the week goes on, I will learn."


{more pretournament quotes}

"I'm glad that this is the last tournament of the year, and I'm over-tired, but I'm also excited about this one and looking forward to getting out to play.

"Sometimes you set yourself goals and, hey, you get injured, and what are you going to do then? Are you going to cry all day because you set yourself a goal and you didn't make it? No, I've got real confidence after winning the US Open this year. I'm 19 years old, I've already won two Grand Slam titles, I'm just going to go out there and enjoy myself. I know that I can carry on improving as a player."



"I would like it if people spoke more about my tennis than about my looks, but I can't control what people say and think. That's part of my career [mind-control is part of her career?]. I don't think I have to prove anything to anybody. I do my job and I know my priorities. I just live with that, and the other things that can go with it are out of my control. But tennis is my first priority. I'm a tennis-player.

"I think it's going to be interesting having the models [as ballboys]. I think it will definitely provide extra entertainment."


Dementieva quotes
-----------------

"It was very hard to play against her, as she is so focused. She is playing like a number one now, and I don't think anyone else at the moment can play close to her game."

---------------------------------
Red Group standings after Tuesday
---------------------------------

1. MARIA SHARAPOVA [2].......... 1-0 (sets: 2-0 = 100%)
2. ELENA DEMENTIEVA [7]......... 0-1 (sets: 0-2 = 0%)
=3. SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA [4]..... 0-0 (sets: 0-0 = indeterminate)
=3. KIM CLIJSTERS [6]........... 0-0 (sets: 0-0 = indeterminate)

------------------------------------
Yellow Group standings after Tuesday
------------------------------------

1. NADIA PETROVA [5]............ 1-0 (sets: 2-0 = 100%)
2. JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE [3]... 1-0 (sets: 2-1 = 67%)
3. MARTINA HINGIS [8]........... 0-1 (sets: 1-2 = 33%)
4. AMÉLIE MAURESMO [1].......... 0-1 (sets: 0-2 = 0%)

Henin's win over Hingis means that Mauresmo's chances of holding onto the #1 ranking now hang by a horsehair - and that Maria will almost certainly have to reach the final to keep alive her own hopes of becoming #1. It's still [I]possible that Henin could finish 4th in the Yellow Group if she drops her next two matches.

---------------------------
Order of play for Wednesday
---------------------------

(start 18:00 CET = 17:00 GMT)
1. Red: SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA [4] v ELENA DEMENTIEVA [7]

(not before 20:00 CET = 19:00 GMT)
2. Red: MARIA SHARAPOVA [2] v KIM CLIJSTERS [6]
3. Yellow: NADIA PETROVA [5] v MARTINA HINGIS [8]

It is not yet known whether Maria will play Kuznetsova on Thursday or on Friday.

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

andrewbroad
Nov 10th, 2006, 02:18 AM
===========================
SONY ERICSSON CHAMPIONSHIPS
(Madrid, Spain; indoor hard; WTA season-ending championships)
=========================== http://www.sonyericsson-championships.com/ (http://www.sonyericsson-championships.com/)

As I will prove below, Maria only needs to win 5 games against Kuznetsova on Friday to ensure that her game-winning percentage will be higher than Kuznetsova's, thus securing her place in the semi-finals.

------
Photos
------

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=504 (http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=99305&page=504) (and 505)
Search Getty Images for "sharapova"
http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/photogallery/?Event=madridwednesday (http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/photogallery/?Event=madridwednesday)

I love purple! And those bird's-eye views - which you very rarely see in tennis-photos - are most intriguing.

-----
Video
-----

www.wtatour.com (http://www.wtatour.com) Wednesday highlights:
http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/multimedia/ (http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/multimedia/)

----------------------
Round robin: Red Group
----------------------

+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [2] d. KIM CLIJSTERS [6], 6-4 6-4

The first set was very comfortable for Maria, as she broke Clijsters in the fifth game, and faced no break-points herself.

But the second set was much tighter, despite the identical score. Maria survived two long, deucy service-games at the start of the set, saving three break-points. She then surged to a *5-2 lead, but had to serve for it again at 5-4, saving two break-points at 15/40. Thank God she closed it out when she did, because she was getting tight, and the momentum was swinging to Clijsters.

Maria has now won 18 matches in a row since that loss to Elena Dementieva at Los Angeles in August.


Articles
--------

Paul Logothetis (Associated Press Writer):
>>>
Sharapova, the US Open champion, kept Clijsters deep behind the baseline and on the run throughout, hitting crosscourt winners from both sides.
<<<

Simon Baskett (Reuters):
>>>
Former world number one Clijsters made an impressive return to action after a two-month lay-off with a wrist injury by winning in Hasselt at the weekend, but there was little the Belgian could do to counter Sharapova's power play at the Madrid Arena.

Backed by her heavy serve and pin-point ground strokes, Sharapova kept Clijsters under pressure to take the opening set 6-4.

The teenager turned the screw to break once again in the fifth and seventh games of the second set, but Clijsters, who won back-to-back Championship titles in 2002 and 2003, refused to give up without a fight.

She broke back in the eighth game and had two more break points in the 10th, but the determined Sharapova held firm and won through with an ace.

Although Clijsters was victorious in the first four clashes between the players, the Russian has now won their last two meetings.
<<<

Barry Millns (SportsTicker Contributing Writer):
>>>
The 2004 champion in this eight-woman year-end event, Sharapova needed no more than 90 minutes to improve to 2-0 in the Red Group. Her performance was much improved compared to her opening victory against fellow Russian Elena Dementieva on Tuesday.

Serving and returning strongly throughout, Sharapova took advantage of being in better shape than Clijsters, who only returned to the WTA Tour last week after missing a couple of months with a left wrist injury.

A tight first set hinged on the fifth game in which Sharapova broke with a fiercely driven forehand volley. Although Clijsters saved the first set point in the ninth game with a successful challenge off a line call, Sharapova held at love in the next game to clinch it.

Overall, the Russian made only nine unforced errors and dropped only five points on her serve.

Entering this $3 million event after winning the title at Hasselt, Belgium, Clijsters attempted to rally in the second set, but Sharapova saved all three break points early with a couple of long service games.

Despite the setback, Clijsters continued to go for her shots and work as hard as she could to make life tough for Sharapova. During one rally, Clijsters made three of her trademark splits in succession to reach the ball. Although she eventually lost the point, the popular Belgian received a prolonged applause from the large crowd for her efforts.

Sharapova, who finished 3-of-7 on break chances, broke Clijsters twice in succession in the second set to grab a 5-2 lead before stumbling down the stretch like she did against Dementieva the night before.

Serving for the match, Sharapova was broken when she double-faulted on the penultimate point and netted a backhand drive volley with the court wide open. Two games later, she saved two more break points and won the match with her sixth ace right down the center line.

It was Sharapova's second career win over Clijsters in six all-time meetings, having first beaten her back in August in the final at San Diego. The win also extended the U.S. Open champion's match-winning streak to 18 since the start of her successful campaign at Flushing Meadows.
<<<

www.wtatour.com (http://www.wtatour.com):
>>>
2004 champion Sharapova collected her second victory over Clijsters this year. She finally defeated the Belgian this summer in the San Diego final after losing the first four encounters.

The mental toughness that helped her win the US Open this year, came through again Wednesday. Facing two break-points in the second set at 5-4, 15/40, she answered with a ferocious serve straight at Clijsters' body, and followed up with a powerful net approach that sent the game to deuce. On match-point, she sent a blistering ace down the middle, only to raise her arms in victory.

Sharapova managed the only break of the first set at 2-2 when one of her forehand topspin volleys spun out of Clijsters' reach. The 19-year-old stayed focused throughout the set, and claimed it on a laser sharp backhand down the line.

But Clijsters found her rhythm in the second, and pressured Sharapova's serve right away. The Russian saved three break-points in her first two service games.
<<<

Rennae Stubbs' www.wtatour.com (http://www.wtatour.com) blog:
>>>
Speaking of Russians, another impressive match for Sharapova, beating Kimmy Clijsters. Sure, Kim is coming off a long lay-off, but still, Kim is always a tough match-up and after winning in Hasselt last week, she is still one to watch. Let's face it, about two months ago, she was the favourite for the US Open, until that horrible wrist injury at the Canadian - anytime you can beat Kim it's impressive, especially in straight sets.
<<<

My match-report
---------------

I followed live scores on the Internet, and also used the live-scoring thread at http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=273198&page=39 (http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=273198&page=39) and listened to Eurosport's audio commentary at http://www.eurosport.com/allsports/mc_vid20993.shtml (http://www.eurosport.com/allsports/mc_vid20993.shtml)

Sam Smith said that Maria doesn't enjoy playing Clijsters, and still fears her. Apparently Clijsters thinks of Hasselt as the first week of a Grand Slam...

The match started at 20:15 CET. Apparently this attracts the biggest audience of the three slots on the order of play.


First set
---------

SHARAPOVA _* *@* * * 6
CLIJSTERS * *___* *_ 4

Clijsters serving 0-0: 30/0 -> 30/40 (BP) - saved with an ace - 40/40, ad C, held.

Well pegged back from 30/0 by Maria, but I hope wasting break-points isn't going to be the story of the day for her.

Simon Reed: "Although she won Hasselt, her form there wasn't of the kind that would trouble Sharapova."

Maria serving 0-1: 30/0 -> 30/30, 40/30, held.

Maria's turn to get pegged back from 30/0, but she still holds more efficiently than Clijsters.

Clijsters serving 1-1: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, 40/30, held.
Maria serving 1-2: held to love.

They're both holding more and more efficiently...

Sam Smith: "Yuri Sharapov, every minute of every day is spent taking care of his daughter and her tennis-career - just unbelievable commitment."

Clijsters serving 2-2: 0/40 (3 BPs), 30/40, broken.

YES!! :D

Simon Reed: "Awesome volley - she deserves a break just for that!"

Maria serving 3-2: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, 40/30, held.

Eurosport: "Sharapova looks to confirm this break, but she drops the ball on her foot while attempting to bounce it.. just to clear up, that doesn't lose her any points, but she just looks a bit silly as she trots over to pick it up."

Sam Smith praised Maria's combinations of a couple of groundstrokes to set up a volley-winner on so many of the points. And her detractors still accuse her of being one-dimensional!"

It's a sweet match so far. Clijsters isn't doing anything to make me feel uncomfortable right now.

Clijsters serving 2-4: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, held.

A couple of "horrible volleys" by Maria in that game.

Simon Reed: "Clijsters is still in contention in this set, but just hanging on you feel."

Simon Reed: "Sharapova may have her detractors, but one thing she does do, all around the world, is put bums on seats!"
Sam Smith: "I've been thinking about who's going to lead women's tennis in 2007, because it seems a bit leaderless at the moment,

Maria serving 4-3: 40/0, 40/15, held.

Sam Smith: "Clijsters at her best would beat Sharapova on this court, but I don't think she's got enough tennis behind her."

Clijsters serving to stay in the first set at 3-5: 0/15, 30/15, 30/40 (SP). Clijsters made a correct Hawkeye-challenge. 40/40, ad C, Deuce #2, ad C, held.

Rusik: "Clijsters is firing down aces like crazy."

A bit of baggage there for Maria - a wasted set-point - and she did get tight serving for the match yesterday...

Maria serving for the first set at 5-4: 40/0 (SP #2), Maria won the first set 6-4 at 20:52 (37 minutes).

Simon Reed: "Just about her best shot of the set to finish it off!"


Second set
----------

SHARAPOVA _* *@*@__* 6
CLIJSTERS * *____@*_ 4

Clijsters serving 0-0: held to love.

Maria serving 0-1: 0/15, 30/15 - Clijsters "exquisite lob" - 30/30, 40/30, 40/40 - double fault - ad C (BP) - saved with an ace - Deuce #2 - Maria "very strange error" - ad C (BP #2), Deuce #3, ad M, held.

Phew! For the first time in this match, I do feel a bit uncomfortable. Lately, Maria's had a tendency to play a brilliant first set followed by a sloppy second.

Simon Reed (30/15): "It wasn't her worst dropshot, but Sharapova just milked it up..."
Sam Smith: "The feel is coming now. There's plenty of capacity in this match for Clijsters if she gets something going."
Simon Reed: "The essence of Sharapova there - two break-points saved with clutch serving - unbeatable."

Clijsters serving 1-1: 15/0, 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30, held.

It's funny how the Clijsters-supporters - or are they just Maria-haters - keep saying that Clijsters is suddenly going to start dominating this match. Methinks they're clutching at straws...

Simon Reed: "You sense that Clijsters is right up against the ropes; Sharapova is looking to find another big punch."

Maria serving 1-2: 30/0 -> 30/30, 40/30, 40/40, ad C (BP), Deuce #2, ad M, Deuce #3, ad M, held.

Phew! That break-point just seemed to come out of nowhere after 30/0 and 40/30. And it would have radically changed the complexion of this match if Clijsters had gone up *3-1, with Maria having broken only once so far this match.

Clijsters serving 2-2: 0/15, 15/15, 15/30, 30/30, 30/40 (BP), held.

YES!!! So sweet to convert a break-point having just saved one! :D

Simon Reed: "Calls are going wrong here. It's not good enough for the end-of-year championships! But Maria Sharapova is looking very pretty at a set and a break up."

Sam Smith: "Clijsters is very frustrated - just looking for her tennis, rather than it being automatically there."

Maria serving 3-2: 40/0, 40/15, held.

Maria's grunt sounds strangely subdued in this match.

Clijsters serving 2-4: 15/0, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken.

Double break!! :D

Simon Reed: "It'll be the last rites for Clijsters, you sense, when we come back after this break. She may have won Hasselt, but this is a 'welcome back to the big time, and this is what it's like.'"

Maria serving for the match at 5-2: Simon Reed: "Magnificent shot - thought she was off-balance!" 15/0, 15/30, 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad C (BP #2), broken with "a shocking miss".

Maria couldn't serve out the match yesterday, and she couldn't do it today either! :( At least she has the cushion of another break, should she fail to break for the match as she did against Dementieva.

Clijsters serving to stay in the match at 5-3: 0/30 -> 40/30, held.

What a wasted window at 0/30! :mad:

It's often said that if you fail to serve out a match at 5-2, whatever problems you had will be doubled at 5-4. So the next game may tell us a lot about Maria, because for all her legendary mental strength and her current 17-match winning-streak, she has choked twice now when serving for the match at these championships.

Maria serving for the match at 5-4: 15/0, 15/40 (2 BPs) -> 40/40, ad M (MP #1), Maria won 6-4 6-4 with an ace at 21:45 (second set 53 minutes, match 1h30m).

Phew! At 15/40, I was having horrible visions of Maria's loss from 5-1 up in the third against Dinara Safina at the French Open! Of course Maria was seriously lacking match-play back then, but who knows what would have happened if this match had gone from *5-2 to 5-5.

Simon Reed: "Fabulous finish. Sharapova is the class-act in this field so far, and she's beaten her toughest opponent in this group relatively easily. Kim Clijsters played pretty well, but Maria Sharapova was magnificent - perhaps the best match of the tournament so far."

Sam Smith: "That's what she does when she's under threat - she goes on the attack."


Statistics
----------

Maria hit 24 winners, Clijsters 13.

They each served 6 aces and 3 double faults. Maria hit 3 aces in each set, while Clijsters served all 6 of hers in the second. All but one of their DFs came in the second set.

Maria got 59% of her first serves in, winning 75% of the points when she did so, and 54% on second serve (Clijsters 65%, 68% and 41%). This would seem to suggest that getting first serves in was important, but although they both upped their first-serves-in percentage in the second set, they both sacrificed their percentages of points won on both serves.

They had 7 break-points each, but while Maria broke 3 times, Clijsters broke once - so it was a much tougher match than the scoreline implies, and could so easily have been a different story. But great champions play the big points against them so well, and Maria is certainly one of them!

All of Clijsters' break-points came in the second set, but what's curious is that Maria had a BP-conversion rate of 1/5 in the first set, 2/2 in the second! Both sets may have been 6-4, but the second set was much, much tighter than the first.

In points, Maria won 71-59 (first set 34-26, second set 37-33 - again we see that the second set was much tighter).


Maria quotes
------------

[Prematch on-court interview]
"Yeah, I think also consistency's gonna play a big part in it, but I'm sure it's gonna be a good match. It's always good to get a match in, in a new circumstance, new stadium. This is a new day, new match - we'll see what happens. I beat her in San Diego - she beat me four times before that, so it was good for me to win that."

[Postmatch on-court interview]
"Yeah, I mean it's tough when you feel you have the match in your hands, and it slips away in a couple of seconds. It's good that I've been in this situation yesterday - unfortunately I couldn't learn from it and serve out the match today to make my life a lot easier, but it happens. I guess I am tough in that way - I play better when I'm down, but I hope I can win when I'm two breaks up, because the match could have gone the other way very quickly. But one more win and I'll be there!"

[Transcribed from video highlights]
"Actually I think she played a good game to get back to 5-3, and at 0/30 at 5-3, I went for all my shots, and she came up with a winner; I got a little bit tired. She took that game, and at 5-4, made a few sloppy errors, and after that, the match could have gone either way, but I was glad I could serve it out at that point."

[Press-conference]
"I'm definitely playing some really good tennis. I think the quality of my tennis today was quite high. I know that I've played a lot of matches, and I feel good about my game.

"I felt like I was moving really well: no matter how big and deep her shots were, I still felt like I was in position for them. And that just comes from playing a lot of matches.

"I was lucky I could serve it out. I wasn't making any first serves at the beginning of that game."


Clijsters quotes
----------------

"She was very accurate - especially on her serve - and kept putting me under pressure.

"I never really had a chance to get into the match. Both, I think, because she was playing well, and in that first set I wasn't feeling the ball at all.

"In the second set, I was a little more comfortable, but on important points she came up with the serves. It shows that she's the player who is hot at the moment."

----------------------------------
Red Group standings after Thursday
----------------------------------

1. MARIA SHARAPOVA [2].......... 2-0 (sets: 4-0 = 100%)
2. SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA [4]...... 1-1 (sets: 2-2 = 50%)
3. KIM CLIJSTERS [6]............ 1-1 (sets: 2-2 = 50%)
4. ELENA DEMENTIEVA [7]......... 0-2 (sets: 0-4 = 0%)

Maria's grip on the semi-finals may look secure from the above, but Clijsters' 6-1 6-1 thrashing of Kuznetsova has made her position precarious.

It's important for Maria to secure her semi-final place 3-0 by beating Kuznetsova, because if Kuznetsova beats Maria - followed by Clijsters beating Dementieva which looks almost certain - then Maria, Kuznetsova and Clijsters will all finish 2-1, and the two players with the best percentage of sets won will qualify.

Let's examine the worst-case scenario. If Maria loses to Kuznetsova in straight sets, they will both have a set-winning percentage of 67%. If Clijsters beats Dementieva in straight sets (which she will), she too will have a set-winning percentage of 67%, and the three players will then have to be separated by percentage of games won.

Worst-case game-winning percentage for Maria = 24/49 = 49%:
+ Dementieva 6-1 6-4
+ Clijsters 6-4 6-4
- Kuznetsova 0-6 0-6

Best-case game-winning percentage for Kuznetsova = 27/47 = 57%:
+ Dementieva 7-5 6-3
- Clijsters 1-6 1-6
+ Maria 6-0 6-0

Best-case game-winning percentage for Clijsters = 32/46 = 70%:
- Maria 4-6 4-6
+ Kuznetsova 6-1 6-1
+ Dementieva 6-0 6-0

Maria can secure her place in the semis just by taking a set off Kuznetsova - a three-set loss would give her an unassailable 71% set-winning percentage.

And if she loses in straight sets, she just needs a better game-winning percentage than Kuznetsova. Let x be the number of games won by Maria, and assume for the sake of simplicity that Kuznetsova wins 12 games (i.e. no 7-5 or 7-6 sets):

(24+x)/(49+x) = 27/(47+x)

This is a quadratic equation, which we can solve by rewriting it in the form a*(x^2) + b*x + c = 0:

x^2 + 44*x - 195 = 0 {a=1, b=44, c = -195}

...and applying the quadratic formula:
x = (-b + SQRT(b^2 - 4*a*c))/(2*a)
x = (-44 + SQRT(44^2 - 4*1*(-195)))/(2*1)
x = 4.057628442...

Thus, if Maria only wins 4 games against Kuznetsova, Kuznetsova will overtake her with a game-winning percentage of 52.9% to 52.8%. But if Maria can manage just 5 games, she will have a game-winning percentage of 54% to Kuznetsova's 52%.

-------------------------------------
Yellow Group standings after Thursday
-------------------------------------

1. JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE [3]... 2-0 (sets: 4-1 = 80%)
2. AMÉLIE MAURESMO [1].......... 1-1 (sets: 2-3 = 40%)
3. MARTINA HINGIS [8]........... 1-2 (sets: 4-5 = 44%)
4. NADIA PETROVA [5]............ 1-2 (sets: 3-4 = 43%)

Henin has already qualified for the semis, since neither Hingis nor Petrova can overtake her. Mauresmo can qualify by beating Henin on Friday; otherwise Mauresmo, Hingis and Petrova will all finish 1-2, and Hingis will qualify because Mauresmo cannot better her 44% of sets won with any kind of loss to Henin.

Henin's qualification for the semis means that Mauresmo won't be the year-end #1 even if she successfully defends her title.

And it means that Maria must win the title to become #1 - and Henin can still snatch #1 for herself just by reaching the final.

------------------------
Order of play for Friday
------------------------

(start 18:00 CET = 17:00 GMT)
1. Yellow: AMÉLIE MAURESMO [1] v JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE [3]

(not before 20:00 CET = 19:00 GMT)
2. Red: MARIA SHARAPOVA [2] v SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA [4]
3. Red: KIM CLIJSTERS [6] v ELENA DEMENTIEVA [7]

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

andrewbroad
Nov 10th, 2006, 12:50 PM
Worst-case game-winning percentage for Maria = 24/49 = 49%:
+ Dementieva 6-1 6-4
+ Clijsters 6-4 6-4
- Kuznetsova 0-6 0-6

Best-case game-winning percentage for Kuznetsova = 27/47 = 57%:
+ Dementieva 7-5 6-3
- Clijsters 1-6 1-6
+ Maria 6-0 6-0

Best-case game-winning percentage for Clijsters = 32/46 = 70%:
- Maria 4-6 4-6
+ Kuznetsova 6-1 6-1
+ Dementieva 6-0 6-0

If Maria loses in straight sets, she just needs a better game-winning percentage than Kuznetsova. Let x be the number of games won by Maria, and assume for the sake of simplicity that Kuznetsova wins 12 games (i.e. no 7-5 or 7-6 sets)...

This assumption does not err on the safe side! Kuznetsova could also surpass Maria's game-winning percentage by winning either 7-5 6-0 or 6-0 7-5. In this case:

Maria's game-winning percentage = 29/55 = 52.7%
Kuznetsova's game-winning percentage = 28/53 = 52.8%

Note that it is still safe for Maria to lose 7-5 6-1, 7-6 6-0, &c.

If Maria does lose to Kuznetsova 7-5 6-0, 6-0 7-5, or winning fewer than five games, then all Clijsters has to do to keep Maria out of the semi-finals is to beat Dementieva in straight sets - even a 7-6 7-6 victory would give Clijsters a game-winning percentage of 34/60 = 57%.

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

andrewbroad
Nov 11th, 2006, 11:45 AM
===========================
SONY ERICSSON CHAMPIONSHIPS
(Madrid, Spain; indoor hard; WTA season-ending championships)
=========================== http://www.sonyericsson-championships.com/ (http://www.sonyericsson-championships.com/)

Maria stormed into the semi-finals with a 3-0 record to finish top of the Red Group, extending her winning-streak to 19 matches. To come through against three top-eight players without losing more than 4 games in any set is just awesome! :D

------
Photos
------

http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/photogallery/?Event=madridfriday (http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/photogallery/?Event=madridfriday)
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=506 (http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=99305&page=506) (HQs)
Search Getty Images for "sharapova"
http://www.mariasharapova.com/ (http://www.mariasharapova.com/)

www.wtatour.com (http://www.wtatour.com) caption: "Maria Sharapova had to handle a ball that landed nearly on her shoelaces, and returned it for a winner during the second set against Svetlana Kuznetsova."

-----
Video
-----

Friday highlights/Maria wins Whirlpool 6th Sense Award:
http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/multimedia/ (http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/multimedia/)

----------------------
Round robin: Red Group
----------------------

+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [2] d. SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA [4], 6-1 6-4

Any ideas that Maria would tank once she had won the five games necessary to qualify for the semi-finals were dismissed with another superb performance, although the second set was, once again, much tighter than the first, as she allowed Kuznetsova to recoup an early break.

Technically, Maria sealed her place in the semi-finals the moment she won the first set, because at 5-1 up it was still possible that she could lose 7-5 6-0, giving Kuznetsova a higher game-winning percentage.

But she certainly didn't want it to turn into an energy-sapping three-setter, so she closed out the second set, which also levelled her career head-to-head against Kuznetsova at 3-3.


Barry Millns (PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer):
>>>
Kuznetsova looked like she was heading for another drubbing when she was broken three times by Sharapova in the first set. Once again, Kuznetsova seemed unable not only to deal with the brilliant accuracy of her opponent, but also to harness the power in her own game to greater effect - that she did in the second set was a credit to her and appreciated by another near-capacity crowd.

With Sharapova breaking to lead 2-0, Kuznetsova then broke straight back as the reigning US Open champion played her first wild game of the night. But that proved to be the only one, with Sharapova breaking Kuznetsova once more for the match with another ferocious forehand.
<<<

My match-report
---------------

I followed live scores on the Internet, and also used the live-scoring thread at http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=273568&page=50 (http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=273568&page=50) and listened to Eurosport's audio commentary at http://www.eurosport.com/allsports/mc_vid20993.shtml (http://www.eurosport.com/allsports/mc_vid20993.shtml)

Chris Bradnam said the players looked quite tense waiting to come on - especially Kuznetsova (who had to beat Maria for the loss of fewer than five games - or 7-5 6-0 or 6-0 7-5 - to secure a semi-final berth).

The match started at 20:36 CET. Here are my comments as I wrote them at the time:

On current form, Maria should win this match easily (Clijsters beat Kuznetsova 6-1 6-1 in 45 minutes), but it will be interesting to see whether she tanks at any stage, once she's got the requisite five games (and avoided the possibility of a 7-5 6-0 or 6-0 7-5 loss).

I guess her goal will be to keep this match short either way, because the last thing she needs is a three-set marathon as she prepares for her semi-final on Saturday and, hopefully, the final on Sunday.


First set
---------

SHARAPOVA @* *@*@ 6
KUZNETSOV __*____ 1

Kuznetsova serving 0-0: broken to love.
Maria serving 1-0: held to love.

Chris Bradnam accused Maria of winning a point unfairly - apparently Kuznetsova's return was going out, but no officials noticed that it touched Maria's racket, and Maria didn't own up, so it was called out and Maria won the point.

Kuznetsova serving 2-0: held to love.

Sam Smith said Maria attracts the fans to the court, but they didn't really pull for her during her matches. She blamed this on certain 'incidents' (like the one above) and Yuri's behaviour, but said you couldn't fault Maria's commitment - both on and off the court.

Maria serving 2-1: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, held.
Kuznetsova serving 1-3: 0/30 -> 30/30. Great return. 30/40 (BP), broken on a double fault.

Sam Smith: "I'm not feeling a lot of intensity from Kuznetsova - it's like she's just passing through. I know she's won a slam, but she's not a champion yet because she doesn't adjust to difficult situations on the court."

Maria serving 4-1: 15/0, 15/15, 30/15, 40/15, held.

Maria now has the five games that her official website says she needs to qualify for the semi-finals - but she could still be eliminated if she loses 7-5 6-0!

Kuznetsova serving to stay in the first set at 1-5: 15/0, 15/40 (2 SPs), Maria won the first set 6-1 on a double fault at 20:59 (23 minutes).

Woohoo - Maria's in the semis! :banana:

And she'll finish top of the Red Group, so she won't play Henin in the semi-finals. I wish she would play Henin in the semis, so that she herself could stop Henin taking the #1 ranking by reaching the final.


Second set
----------

SHARAPOVA *@__* * *@ 6
KUZNETSOV __@* * *__ 4

Chris Bradnam: "Kuznetsova at the set-break looked in a trance - and not a good one either."

Maria serving 0-0: 0/15, 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30, held.

Sam Smith: "Maria's game is very simple, but extremely well-executed, and she's adding to it with drive-volleys [and so on]."

Sam Smith: "For Kuznetsova it's a hangover from last night [the 6-1 6-1 loss to Clijsters] - she hasn't got over that, and she's left her brains in the locker-room."

Kuznetsova serving 0-1: 15/0, 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad M (BP #2), broken.

Sam Smith: "Kuznetsova is playing Sharapova in Sharapova's comfort-zone."

It's like a victory-lap for Maria now - she just wants to get back in the locker-room with a quick win.

Maria serving 2-0: broken to love.

Sam Smith: "Welcome Kuznetsova to the building!"

I guess Maria must be getting a bit carried away, resting on her laurels a bit. But it's still important to knuckle down and complete a straight-sets win, to conserve her energy for the semi-finals (and hopefully the final).

If this does go to a third set, then she should tank.

Sam Smith says Maria's trying to hit a winner off every ball now. Chris Bradnam says she's gone walkabout because she's winning too easily.

Kuznetsova serving 1-2: 0/30 -> 40/30, 40/40, ad K, held.

Chris Bradnam said Maria's simple game has the advantage of easy shot-selection, whereas Kuznetsova struggles with this because she's got so many shots to choose from.

Maria serving 2-2: 40/0, 40/15, held.

Chris Bradnam: "Looks like Kuznetsova's got to up her own level - the gifts, they've stopped coming."

Kuznetsova serving 2-3: 0/15, 15/15, 40/15, held.

Sam Smith: "Kuznetsova doesn't want to defend if she has to - like it's not worthy of her."

Maria serving 3-3: First ace of the match. 15/0, 40/0, 40/15, held.

Chris Bradnam: "She's clutching at her neck - whether that's a twinge, or?" I couldn't tell, from the audio commentary, to whom he was referring!

Sam Smith: "Boy has Sharapova improved in the last year - her movement, more variety on the backhand and the serve. And she's added to her strengths, coming forward when she can."

Kuznetsova serving 3-4: 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30, 40/40, ad K, held.
Maria serving 4-4: 15/0, 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30, held.

A big hold for Maria. She doesn't want to be taken to a third set, as Kuznetsova was threatening to do at 30/30!

Kuznetsova serving to stay in the match at 4-5: 0/15, 15/15, 15/40 (2 MPs), 30/40, Maria won 6-1 6-4 at 21:44 (second set 45 minutes, match 1h08m).

Sam Smith: "When you need a performance, you usually get it from this amazing young woman."


Statistics
----------

Maria got 57% of first serves in, which is a bit disappointing. She won 83% of the points when she did so, and 53% on second serve. The corresponding statistics for Kuznetsova were 59%, 50% and 45%.

Maria's three serve-percentages dropped dramatically in the second set, while Kuznetsova's improved dramatically, though she couldn't match Maria's first-serve percentages.

There was only one ace, and it was Maria who served it. Kuznetsova served four double faults (two in each set), Maria just one.

Maria broke 5 times from 7 break-points (3/3 in the first set), while Kuznetsova converted the only break-point she had (third game of the second).

In points, Maria won 56-38 (first set 24-9, second set 32-29).


Maria quotes
------------

[Prematch on-court interview]

"I don't remember , probably not, that's why it's so exciting to go out and play my third match. I played a lot of matches in the past couple of months, played good tennis, but this is a new day, and I look forward to it. After playing two days in a row, back to back, against top-eight girls, it's never easy, so it's nice to get one day off."


[Postmatch on-court interview]

"It was really good, 'specially to start off well against her. I knew I had to concentrate on my service-games because her serve is so big. Against top-eight players, you can't fool around at the beginning of matches, or you might as well not play the match - you have to be strong from the beginning of the match.

"I do love it here; it's been great playing matches; the atmosphere and the fans are great - it brings the best out in everyone."


[Press-conference]

"I definitely think I'm a much better tennis-player than I was a year or two ago, but I think I can get even better, and there are a lot of things to improve in my game.

"I feel physically stronger, my muscles are building a bit, and I feel as though I can play three-set matches and not worry about being fatigued afterwards.

"The US Open was a good example, as I was able to take back-to-back wins over the number one and two players in the world. I couldn't have done that a year ago.

"I'm more experienced too, and as you play more, you feel like you know what to do in certain situations."


[Transcribed from video highlights]
"I mean, it's always better not to wear yourself out too much, and not play extra sets - unneeded sets <laughing> - and it was also good to get a day off yesterday and kind of refresh a little bit; I thought I came out really fresh at the beginning of the match, which helped me a lot and got to put some pressure on her and, you know, took it from there."


Kuznetsova quotes
-----------------

{before the match}

"I hope to play better tomorrow. But Sharapova's in excellent shape. She hasn't lost a match still. It will all depend on my serve: if I can put pressure on her I will have chances, but I need to give my best."


{after the match}

"I had my chances. I didn't use them.

"I've enjoyed it. I'd like to play better, especially in Madrid. I'd like to achieve a better result next year. I've got many things to improve, especially for indoor matches. I need to work on that, and try to improve for next year."

--------------------------
Whirlpool 6th sense Player
--------------------------

On Thursday, Maria was named Whirlpool 6th sense Player. This award goes to the player who bests reflects "sharp intelligence, unbeatable performance and pinpoint precision". For more information and a photo, see:
http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/1/newsroom/stories/?ContentID=986 (http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/1/newsroom/stories/?ContentID=986)

Maria: "I'm thrilled to have won the Whirlpool 6th sense Player of the Year award for 2006. It completes a great year for me, and it is an honour to win such an award against the world's best players.

"At first I thought that 'intuition' meant I had some sort of psychic power!

"The significance of intuition in my game is that I try to anticipate my opponent so I can react faster and with greater precision. As the game gets faster and the competition stronger, intuition becomes even more important."

--------------------------------
Red Group standings after Friday
--------------------------------

1. MARIA SHARAPOVA [2].......... 3-0 (sets: 6-0 = 100%)
2. KIM CLIJSTERS [6]............ 2-1 (sets: 4-2 = 67%)
3. SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA [4]...... 1-2 (sets: 2-4 = 33%)
4. ELENA DEMENTIEVA [7]......... 0-3 (sets: 0-6 = 0%)

-------------------------------------
Yellow Group standings after Thursday
-------------------------------------

1. AMÉLIE MAURESMO [1].......... 2-1 (sets: 4-4 = 50%)
2. JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE [3]... 2-1 (sets: 5-2 = 71%)
3. MARTINA HINGIS [8]........... 1-2 (sets: 4-5 = 44%)
4. NADIA PETROVA [5]............ 1-2 (sets: 3-4 = 43%)

It may seem strange that Mauresmo is top of the Yellow Group when Henin-Hardenne has a much better set-winning percentage, but in the case of a two-way clash, who beat whom in the round robin takes precedence over set-winning percentages.

Who beat whom cannot be used to resolve a three-way clash, and thus cannot be used to decide who qualifies for the semis and who doesn't, since it's impossible to have only a two-way clash between second and third position. However, it does determine who plays whom in the semi-finals.

------------------
Semi-final preview
------------------

* MARIA SHARAPOVA [2] v JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE [3]
* AMÉLIE MAURESMO [1] v KIM CLIJSTERS [6]

The semi-finals feature an on-form Maria who has forgotten how to lose, and three players who are just returning from injury.

I am pleased that Maria plays Henin in the semis, as it means that Maria herself can stop Henin from finishing the year #1 (Henin has to lose in the semis, and Maria has to win the title to become #1 instead of Henin).

If the semi-finals had been the other way round, I think Henin would surely have beaten Clijsters, as she has done in all three of their meetings this year: French Open, Eastbourne and Wimbledon - all in the semi-finals.

Henin leads Maria 4-2 head-to-head, but Maria won their last meeting - the US Open 2006 final - 6-4 6-4, and Maria is on a 19-match winning-streak, while this is Henin's first tournament since the Fed Cup final in September, as she has been sidelined with a right-knee injury.

Henin's lack of match-play surfaced in her first round-robin match, when she dropped the second set to Martina Hingis after leading 6-2 5-2. And she lost to Mauresmo 4-6 7-6 6-2, although she may have tanked the third set to conserve her energy for the semis.

Quite a contrast to Maria, who hasn't dropped more than 4 games in any of her six sets here!

It would be foolish to underestimate someone as mentally strong as Henin, who also knows how to use the geometry of a tennis-court to exploit Maria's weaknesses, but Maria has to be the form-favourite.

What worries me is the way Maria has been letting her opponents back into second sets this week - not serving them out at the first opportunity, or at least allowing them to break back early in the set. Henin is exactly the type of competitor to make her opponents pay for such blunders, so Maria will have to be at her strongest mentally on Saturday.

I also hope Maria won't be adversely affected by having to play her semi-final less than 17 hours after finishing Kuznetsova! That's ridiculous for the season-ending championships - why can't they play the round robin from Monday to Thursday, and give everyone a day off on Friday?


Maria: "Tomorrow against Justine is going to be a good match. I beat her in the US Open and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. She's playing good tennis again after months of injuries, and I'll go out there and give my best, and do my best.

"I beat her at the US Open, which was good because I had a terrible head-to-head record against her. She's playing good tennis again after being off with injury. I'll be out there giving it my best.

"I'm just thankful I'm on a good winning-streak, but that can change tomorrow. Either way I've had a great year. So either way I'm not going to come out disappointed."

[Loser-talk or just gracious talk? I guess we'll find out tomorrow!]


I pick Clijsters for the other semi-final, as her two wins since losing to Maria have been ominous (6-1 6-1 and 6-4 6-0), and she has an 8-5 head-to-head over Mauresmo, whom I am surprised to even see in the semis after her opening 6-2 6-2 loss to Petrova.

Clijsters: "I just felt like after losing to Maria, I started to play a lot better - played my best tennis especially against Svetlana Kuznetsova, and today I played my important points as well."

--------------------------
Order of play for Saturday
--------------------------

(start 11:00 CET = 10:00 GMT)
1. Doubles sf: Cara Black/Rennae Stubbs v Yan,Zi/Zheng,Jie

(not before 14:00 CET = 13:00 GMT)
2. Singles sf: [B]MARIA SHARAPOVA [2] v JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE [3]

(not before 16:00 CET = 15:00 GMT)
3. Singles sf: AMÉLIE MAURESMO [1] v KIM CLIJSTERS [6]
4. Doubles sf: Lisa Raymond/Samantha Stosur v Kveta Peschke/Francesca Schiavone

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

andrewbroad
Nov 13th, 2006, 01:23 AM
===========================
SONY ERICSSON CHAMPIONSHIPS
(Madrid, Spain; indoor hard; WTA season-ending championships)
=========================== http://www.sonyericsson-championships.com/ (http://www.sonyericsson-championships.com/)

Maria's winning-streak was snapped at 19 matches as she lost to an inspired Justine Henin-Hardenne in the semi-finals. Now that her season is over, I can only look back positively on the last few months.

If an angel had proposed to me in August, after Maria's loss to Elena Dementieva at Los Angeles, that Maria would go on a winning-streak of 19 matches including her first Grand Slam title for over two years, but that she would lose in the semi-finals of the SEC, I would certainly have accepted that offer!

Given the chance
I'll die like a baby
On some faraway beach
When the season's over



------
Photos
------

http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/photogallery/?Event=madridsaturday (http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/photogallery/?Event=madridsaturday)
http://news.search.yahoo.com/search/news/?c=news_photos&p=sharapova (http://news.search.yahoo.com/search/news/?c=news_photos&p=sharapova)
Search Getty Images for "sharapova"
http://www.mariasharapova.com/ (http://www.mariasharapova.com/)

-----
Video
-----

Saturday highlights:
http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/multimedia/ (http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/2/multimedia/)

----------
Semi-final (Saturday 11th November)
----------

- MARIA SHARAPOVA [2] lt. JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE [3], 2-6 6-7 (5/7)

aller (to go):
* je vais
* tu vas
* il/elle va
* ils/elles vont
* nous allons
* vous allez

From what I've heard, Henin played a blinder - especially in the first set - taking Maria by surprise with net-rushing tactics, and returning Maria's serve superbly.

Maria for her part had a bad day at the office: she was "nervous" according to Henin, and "sluggish" by her own admission, which is not surprising since she started this match less than 17 hours after finishing her last round-robin match - although she refused to use fatigue as an excuse.

Henin broke Maria's serve three times in the first set, while the second was serve-dominated apart from Henin breaking to serve for the match at 5-3, and Maria fighting back to 5-5.

At that point Maria had a chance to turn the match around, but Henin was not to be denied the #1 ranking - and I must admit she's a worthy #1, from what I've heard about her performance in this match (not to mention the rest of the year - no one else won as many as six singles-titles).

So I have no regrets about Maria's missed opportunity to take the #1 ranking for herself - which she may well do after the Australian Open 2007 anyway, with Henin and Mauresmo defending a ton of points from the 2006 final there.


Articles
--------

Simon Baskett (Reuters):
>>>
Three-times French Open champion Henin-Hardenne, who reached the final of all four Grand Slams this year, produced a wonderful display full of guile and determination to overcome Sharapova and secure her place in a first Championships final.

The 19-year-old Russian, who had not dropped a set on the way to the semi-finals, looked bemused as the pint-sized Belgian returned everything she could throw at her, and was never able to get into her stride.

Henin-Hardenne, who returned to action this week following a two-month lay-off with a calf injury, took the game to Sharapova from the off, forcing her opponent into a series of uncharacteristic errors with her pinpoint backhand and astute serving.

She won the opening game with a cleverly disguised dropshot, and then broke serve after working her opponent around the court with some perfectly placed groundstrokes.

The Belgian manufactured three break-points in the sixth with a wonderful passing shot down the line, and went 5-1 up when Sharapova double-faulted.

Sharapova broke back in the seventh, but Henin-Hardenne stayed focused and broke again to take the set after a volley error.

The Russian tried to battle her way back into the match with her trademark lashing forehands, but Henin-Hardenne made her work for every point, and held her serve with authority.

It was level pegging until the Belgian turned the screw in the eighth game of the second set to earn herself five break-points and go 5-3 up.

Sharapova refused to give up without a fight however, and broke back when her opponent was serving for the match, but Henin-Hardenne kept her nerve to win the tiebreak 7/5 and gain some measure of revenge for her defeat in the final of the US Open.
<<<

www.wtatour.com (http://www.wtatour.com):
>>>
Henin-Hardenne and Sharapova were the first pair to do battle Saturday afternoon, and the conclusion of the 6-2 7-6(5) win was nothing short of high drama.

Henin-Hardenne blazed through the opening set in just 34 minutes and raced out to a 5-3 lead in the second set.

In those situations, Sharapova has been known to bring out her best, and this time was no different. She broke back and held for 5-all then rallied her way into a tiebreak.

There just wasn't enough gas left in the tank once there, however; she quickly fell behind 4/1, and although she managed to close in somewhat to 6/4, it was all over two points later.
<<<

Paul Logothetis (Associated Press Writer):
>>>
Henin-Hardenne, who had seven aces, had three service breaks in the first set while forcing Sharapova into 14 unforced errors. Henin-Hardenne converted her fourth break point in the eighth game of the second set to take a 5-3 lead when Sharapova hit a forehand into the net.

Sharapova rallied with her first break of the second set when Henin-Hardenne sent a forehand into the net. Both players then held serve to force the tiebreaker.

The Russian saved one match point at 6-4 in the tiebreaker, but Henin-Hardenne converted on her second try to give Sharapova only her second loss in 11 tiebreakers this year.
<<<

BBC Sport: "The Russian looked out of sorts from the start of their semi-final, failing to find any rhythm on her groundstrokes."

The Independent:
>>>
[B]Sharapova's appeal has never been higher - the likeable golden girl is back

By Ronald Atkin
Published: 12 November 2006

In Maria Sharapova, says the sport's chief executive, women's tennis has discovered a diamond. Larry Scott's happy thought, uttered at the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's season's-end championships here yesterday, is closer to the truth than he might imagine, for a diamond's value is matched by its durability and hardness.

As the best-rewarded season of her young life drew to a close yesterday with a semi-final defeat, the 19-year-old Sharapova has demonstrated beyond argument that the nice kid who won Wimbledon two summers ago has developed into an athlete of dazzling skills and commendable toughness not averse to the odd spot of intimidation or playing to the gallery.

For the photo shoot which preceded this eight-woman event, the 6ft 2in Sharapova thrust herself high above the other seven qualifiers by donning four-inch stilettos. And for her opening match Shazza turned out in a lavender number which uncannily mirrored the colour of the indoor court. It was, she asserted later, "a coincidence". The suspicion is that little in her dollar-laden life could be classified as coincidence any more, not since she captured her second Grand Slam, the US Open, in September and embarked on a 19-match winning streak, the longest of the year by any woman. New York was the career turning point, from promise to greatness.

"It seemed a huge burden was lifted off her back when she won the US Open," said a WTA insider. "She is so much more approachable now, once again the friendly girl we knew before she won Wimbledon in 2004. Now you see her walk into the players' lounge whistling, walking her jaunty walk, smiling most of the time. Before she always seemed to be preoccupied with something else."

This glittering emergence has succeeded in edging aside her obsessive father, Yuri. Maria's coach, the American Michael Joyce, now sits a row in front of Yuri Sharapov at her matches, and when the WTA experimented briefly with having coaches alongside players on court, Joyce took on that role. Nor is she any longer under the same roof as Yuri at the family home in Florida. Instead, she spends a lot of time on the other side of the US, at an apartment she bought in Manhattan Beach, California. Thus has independence been established.

Despite damaging her right foot early last month, Sharapova is hammering out exciting, winning tennis just when her leading rivals, exhausted and injured, are yearning for the playing season to end. "I'm healthy, not thinking about protecting some injury," she said on Friday. "My foot is still not perfect, but I'm able to keep it under control. I am a much better player than I was a year ago because I have finally stopped growing and my muscles are building a little bit.

"Because I've won so many matches I'm enjoying myself. I feel good about my game, and that compares well with the middle part of the year, when basically I wasn't playing at all."

Sharapova sells herself short there, since in 2006 she has won five tournaments, the last three in succession, has twice been runner-up and five times a semi-finalist, including Wimbledon and the Australian Open. She sums it up as "a really cool year" and promises: "There are a lot more cherries I'm gonna put on that cake." Named the world's richest female athlete by Forbes magazine a year ago, with total earnings estimated at $24 million (Ł12.5m), she has done even better this year. "More than any male tennis player," says Scott. "No one has reached that height. From a marketing perspective, Maria is the best female athlete in the world, and also the best known.

"She has had a huge impact on tennis and broken all kinds of barriers. We try to promote her as a successful tennis player first and then a glamorous person with interesting story lines around her beyond that." The combination of being stunningly beautiful and a winner has catapulted Sharapova ahead of everyone. These championships failed to attract the American public when they were staged in Los Angeles for the past three years but they have been pulling crowds in excess of 9,000 every night here. When she won in Linz last month the tournament took the unprecedented step of selling 1,500 standing tickets for her every match, so great was the demand.

Does Maria worry, someone asked her, that more people talk about her body than her tennis? The reply comes swiftly: "I can't really be worried about what people think, I can't control their opinions or their thoughts. That's the least of my worries." What part of your own body pleases you most then, Maria? "My brain," she smiles.

Dismissed as a "passport Russian" by the workaholic male player, Nikolay Davydenko, because she has made the US her home since the age of eight, Sharapova has stilled that sort of criticism by announcing she intends to make her début in Fed Cup, the international team event, for her homeland next year. So everybody should be pleased with Maria, especially Larry Scott, who has seen some bleak times since taking on the WTA Tour's top job three years ago. Due to announce today that Madrid will be awarded this event again next year, he smiles: "We are going through a golden period right now." The future is gold, the future is Sharapova.
<<<

My match-report
---------------

I followed live scores on the Internet, and also used the live-scoring thread at http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=273751&page=6 (http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=273751&page=6) and listened to Eurosport's audio commentary at http://www.eurosport.com/allsports/mc_vid20993.shtml (http://www.eurosport.com/allsports/mc_vid20993.shtml)

The match started at 14:07 CET.


First set
---------

SHARAPOVA ___*__@_ 2
HENIN-HAR *@* *@ @ 6

Sam Smith: "It's going to be a tremendous battle of wills. Both have incredible focus and discipline."

Henin serving 0-0: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, held.

Chris Bradnam: "Henin looks like she's going to try to get to the net at every opportunity; perhaps she feels that Sharapova will shade it from the back."

Sam Smith: "You really sense that Henin and her coach Carlos Rodríguez have put their heads together on how to play Sharapova. Henin wasn't aggressive enough in the US Open final, and she's not going to make that mistake again."

Maria serving 0-1: 0/30 -> 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad M, Deuce #2, ad H (BP #2), broken.

I hope Maria isn't tired after the short turnaround from last night's match! But she was also 0-2 down at the start of the US Open final.

One ace and two double faults in that game.

Chris Bradnam: "The ball toss is wayward - lost her rhythm... the slice to the backhand of Sharapova, she does not enjoy. But once she gets going on her serve, it's so tough to break."

Sam Smith: "Neither looks like they're going to give any ground here. You can almost feel the intensity - the court should be flaming red!"

Henin serving 2-0: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, held.

But she doesn't start her matches against Henin by going 0-3 down! I've got a bad feeling about this now.

According to Chris Bradnam, Henin is persisting with her net-rushing tactics, which have unsettled Maria.
Sam Smith: "She just wants to be aggressive on every single ball."

Maria serving 0-3: 30/0 -> 30/30, 40/30, 40/40, ad H (BP), Deuce #2, ad M, held.

Phew! It was so important for Maria to get on the scoreboard, and that was a very scary game after she was pegged back from 30/0 and had to save break-point!

Chris Bradnam: "She's all over the place, Sharapova at the moment."
Sam Smith: "Hasn't been able to get any early rhythm."

Chris Bradnam said Maria is one of the best players at working out a match as it unfolds. "It's like information going into a computer."

Henin serving 3-1: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, 40/30, held.
Maria serving 1-4: 0/40 (3 BPs), 15/40, broken.

Chris Bradnam: "[Henin's] backhand return has just been magnificent, the whole tournament. I think it's put the frighteners on the Sharapova serve too, the quality of these returns - third double already. This is just too good."

Looks like we're just going to have to accept that Henin played a blinder today, and is a worthy world #1! :(

But there's still the question of whether Henin can sustain this form to the finish-line, and whether Maria can adapt to Henin's unexpected serve & volley tactics in time to turn this match around.

Henin serving for the first set at 5-1: 0/15, 15/15, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken.

Sam Smith: "Soft hands from Sharapova."

Maria serving to stay in the first set at 2-5: 0/40 (3 SPs), 15/40. Maria long - Henin won the first set 6-2 at 14:41 (34 minutes).

Maria's going to have to find a reliable way of holding serve in the second set, because three breaks in a set is just not on.


Second set
----------

SHARAPOVA _* * *__@* * 6(5)
HENIN-HAR * * * *@__*_ 7(7)

Henin serving 0-0: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, held.

Sam Smith: "This match was going to be the Sharapova serve against the Henin-Hardenne return, but the Henin-Hardenne return has been the show! Is this sustainable? Surely there will be a game where she can't hold it together and Sharapova will have a chance."

Maria serving 0-1: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, 40/30, held.

Sam Smith: "Henin makes you overplay, because she gets so many balls back - great defence as well as offence."

Henin serving 1-1: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, held.

Chris Bradnam: "A pocket-sized dynamo, firing on all cylinders."

jack daniels: "Henin getting too many freebies on serve due to Masha's lack of commitment on return of serve
"Just looking flat out there at the moment"

Maria serving 1-2: 40/0, 40/15, held.

Chris Bradnam: "Sharapova won the US Open final with unbelievable determination, grit, desire... but today that's all coming from the Belgian."

Sam Smith: "I can't believe how aggressive she's being. It's almost like she couldn't wait to get out here today and put herself on the line against Sharapova... and get revenge for that US Open final which has been festering in her mind for the last couple of months."

Henin serving 2-2: held to love.

Sam Smith: "She's getting aced all over the park - different directions."

Maria serving 2-3: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, 40/30, held.

Sam Smith says Maria is serving too much to Henin's backhand, and not enough into the body.

At least Maria is holding serve reliably so far this set.

Sam Smith: "It only takes one poor game from Henin, and Sharapova is ready and waiting."

Henin serving 3-3: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, 40/30, held.

Sam Smith: "Henin has been so good at hiding the direction [of her serve] - not really able to get a read, the Russian."

This is where the disadvantage of serving second (perhaps Maria should have tanked the 1-5 game in the first set) begins to take its toll. If Maria gets broken here, Henin will be serving for the match and the #1 ranking.

Maria serving 3-4: 0/30, 15/30, 15/40 (2 BPs) -> 40/40, ad H (BP #3), Deuce #2, ad M, Deuce #3, ad H (BP #4), Deuce #4, ad H (BP #5), broken.

Sam Smith: "I don't think you could say that the match was in Sharapova's hands right now - it was taken out of her hands right from the word go! So far in this match, [Henin] hasn't played a single bad game - and barely a bad point."

Henin serving for the match at 5-3 (new balls): 0/30, 15/30, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken.

Yes!! Back on serve!! Make her pay for it, Maria!

Avoids a bit of an embarrassing scoreline too. ;)

Maria serving to stay in the match at 4-5: 15/15, 15/30, 30/30, 40/30, held.

Yes! Parity is restored! :)

Henin did lose the second set to Martina Hingis after leading 6-2 5-2, and also lost to Mauresmo after winning the first set comfortably.

Lack of match-play makes it extra difficult to close out matches - no matter how strong you are mentally - as we saw with Maria at the French Open.

Sam Smith: "You can see in the last couple of games that she is human, and she does get nervous."

Henin serving 5-5: held to love.
Maria serving to stay in the match at 5-6: held to love.

Sam Smith: "Sharapova doesn't do caving - there is just no quit about her at all."

6-6 tiebreak (all scores Sharapova/Henin): *0/2, 1/2*, *1/4, 4/4*, *4/6 (2 MPs), 5/6*, Henin won 6-2 7-6 (7/5) at 15:36 (second set 55 minutes, match 1h29m).

Chris Bradnam: "There's that vulnerability on the forehand - the lasso follow-through, the footwork lets her down."

Sam Smith: "I now know who is going to take women's tennis to the next level. It's Henin-Hardenne - if she can stay fit - with young Sharapova pushing her."


Statistics
----------

Maria got 73% of first serves in, but was not particularly successful, winning 63% of the points when she did so, and 33% on second serve. She upped these percentages significantly from the first set to the second - second serve from 9% to 60%!

Henin, on the other hand, put on a serving-masterclass: although she only got 60% of first serves in, she won 73% of the points when she did so, and an impressive 68% on second serve. And her first-serve percentages improved dramatically from the first set to the second.

Henin served 7 aces (6 in the second set) and 3 double faults, Maria 4 aces and 6 DFs (4 in the first set) - which is way too high at this level, but when Henin is returning so well, you have to go for a bit extra on your second serves.

Henin broke 4 times from 12 break-points, and only failed to win one game in which she had break-points. Maria had two break-points and converted them both.

In points, Henin won 74-58 (first set 31-20, second set 43-38).


Maria quotes
------------

"I just didn't feel like myself today. I felt a little sluggish. I don't know what it was. I didn't feel like I was concentrating out there.

"There are going to be days when you are not playing your best. Obviously today was one of them. There was a bit of fatigue, but it's not the key answer to the loss.

"You hope to find ways to break through that, but when you come up against someone like Justine, it is not easy. I felt like I was getting there at the end of the match, but I just couldn't put two or three good points together.

"And I tried. I mean from 5-3, I tried to find a way. I did feel like I was getting better towards the end of the match, but I still don't feel like my concentration was quite there. I could put two, three points together. And against someone like Justine, that's not good."

(Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try.)

"When you lose it's always disappointing, but at the end of the day I have a month and a half off. I'm happy with the way I've been playing lately, and I hope I can improve and take that into next year.

"Not to finish number one is not so disappointing, I'm disappointed because I lost a match, that's all."

[Re. Henin #1]
"Justine deserves it. She's been in the finals of all the Grand Slams this year. She's been very consistent. The wins take care of the rankings - they don't lie.

"I've had an amazing year, a very successful year. I don't know what I'll be, No. 2 or 3, but it's probably the highest I've finished in my career."

(Mauresmo could have overtaken Maria for the #2 ranking by winning the final, but she didn't, so Maria finishes 2006 at #2. Maria finished 2004 and 2005 ranked #4.)

"You always think about what went wrong and what could have gone better, but I'm happy with the way I played, and just look forward to what I can improve for next year."

From her latest Weekly Doodle at www.mariasharapova.com (http://www.mariasharapova.com):
>>>
I officially feel like a deflated balloon. On one hand, it was nice flying in the sky for a while, on the other, I couldn't be more happier to vanish.

I guess losing is never fun, but the best thing about it, in today's case, is that I get a whole extra 24 hours of rest! Vacation is currently music to my ears. I'm heading home for a couple of days, then off to a deserted island, which I will tell you about when I get back. As a precautionary, I am also going to take an MRI on my foot when I get back, just to see if everything is ok.

<snip>

I was sitting at Starbucks, enjoying my Chai Latte, when I saw three, ten-year old kids come into the store with a newspaper in their hand. One of the kids comes up to me, puts the newspaper on top of my phone, which was laying on the table, grabs my phone with his other hand, and starts sprinting out of the store. Let me tell you, I have never ran so fast in my life. I caught the kid, and with the help of a Starbucks worker, I got my phone back. My poor phone felt violated, but little did the kid know that he was messing with the wrong person....I'm no professional but they do call me Sherlock Holmes. Whatever happened to a nice, peaceful cup of coffee?
<<<

Henin quotes
------------

[Postmatch on-court interview]

"Yeah, it's amazing, I'm very happy with the way I handled the pressure today. I went a lot to the net. I don't want to make the mistake of thinking the tournament is over - there's still another match. I thought she was very nervous, but at the end I was a bit nervous."

[Press-conference]

"It's amazing. I'm very happy. I'm very happy with the way I handled the pressure today.

"I feel very happy with the way I coped with the pressure and with the aggressive way I played. I loved the match and felt confident throughout, and I thought she was nervous. I took my chances.

"I was a little bit nervous at the end to conclude the match, but I'm very happy the way I played. The key for me yesterday was that I came out of the court and said there were many positives, just take these and build something for tomorrow. I just turned the page very quickly. I knew what I had to improve if I wanted to win today. I'm a competitor. When I play for nothing, like yesterday, it's probably harder for me.

[Re. year-end #1]
"It's going to be me and I'm very happy about that. It's not easy to get to the finals of all four Grand Slams, and that's what I did. I've been very consistent, and I'm now in the final again. 2006 is almost done, and when I look back, I see only good things, even when I think about my tough matches in the Grand Slam finals. It's probably the best season of my career; I'll enjoy it in the next two months.

"To end the season as No. 1 in the world is very exciting, and an accomplishment I'm very proud of, especially because there were three players who could have been No. 1 at the end of the year. This season was full of great moments for me, and to get the top ranking back makes it even better.

"I had a great season and I know there are a few players who deserve it too, but it's not easy to go to the four finals of the Grand Slams, and I played very consistently all year. So I think I deserve [No. 1].

"I'm number one now, but my season is not over yet, and I want to win these Championships."

No, she is not #1 now. She will become #1 when the rankings are updated on Monday, and not a second before. ;)


=========================
Maria's schedule for 2007
=========================

www.mariasharapova.com (http://www.mariasharapova.com):
>>>
FIRST HALF OF MARIA'S 2007 SCHEDULE
11/2/2006 2:22:00 PM

Maria will play the following tournaments in the first half of 2007:

January 3-6
Watsons Water Challenge - Hong Kong
Exhibition - Hardcourts

January 15-28
Australian Open - Melbourne, Australia
Grand Slam - Rebound Ace

January 29-February 4
Toray Pan Pacific Open - Tokyo, Japan
Tier 1 - Indoors

February 19-25
Dubai Tennis Championships - Dubai, UAE
Tier 2 - Hardcourts

March 5-18
Pacific Life Open, Indian Wells, USA
Tier 1 - Hardcourts

March 21-April 1
Sony Ericsson Open - Miami, USA
Tier 1 - Hardcourts

April 21-22
Fed Cup vs Spain - Moscow, Russia

May 14-20
Internazionali d'Italia - Rome, Italy
Tier 1 - Clay

May 27-June 10
Roland Garros - Paris, France
Grand Slam - Clay

June 25-July 8
Wimbledon, London, Great Britain
Grand Slam - Grass

Please note that the schedule is subject to change.
<<<

Birmingham (week of 11th June) may not be listed above, but Maria usually makes a late entry as soon as her Roland Garros campaign is over. Having never gone beyond the quarter-finals at Roland Garros, she has played Birmingham every year since 2003, and it has been her perfect preparation for Wimbledon. I look forward to seeing her there again in 2007.

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