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View Full Version : Maria's Year - what can help it get better?


xan
Jul 10th, 2007, 02:59 PM
Maria's year so far looks like a repeat of 2005, with frustrating injuries, disappointing losses (to the Williams and others,) and Maria missing out on the big titles.Once again, IF she could have got through a miraculously revived Venus Williams, the Wimby 2007 title could have been hers. Another similarity - Maria was World No 1 in 2005 too, and not healthy enough to defend it. On the plus side, despite injury, Maria has reached the Australian Open Final and the French Open Semis for the first time. The final slam is already Maria's - but will she defend? We can all hope so, but slam defences have been very rare in the women's game in recent years. I can only think of Justine who has successfully defended a slam title recently.

The main thing of course is to have her fully healthy again. Even so, to be on top of the world, she needs to make some improvements.

When Maria has lost badly this year, it has been to big-hitting power servers with consistency and aggression:

Serena at the Australian.
Ivanovic indoors and at RG
Venus at Wimbledon.

I see a big link between her major losses. She's generally been overwhelmed with power for long enough to be out of each set before she's got herself into the match. Serena, Ana and venus were all serving a high rate of unreturnables and dominating serves at 110mph plus, that allowed them to hold their service games easily and then attack Maria's serve with confidence. Maria was not serving at that level, and that put more pressure on her, fighting for every point on her own serve. Once she was broken there was little way back so long as her opponents continued to play at their top level.

So what can Maria do to win these types of matches? The idea that Maria could have won by adding a Hingis-style B game is laughable. Hingis would not have survived those matches. It is good to see Maria drop-shotting, and hopefully getting her volleys better. But I think what she needs even more is to get her serve up to a level where she can hold it with ease against anyone. A key factor against players like the Williams and similar big hitters who are very hard to break, is to be able to stay comfortably in charge of your own service games. Then you can hold out until your opponent finally cracks or goes off the boil, and win the set by a single break - or in the tiebreak. That sort of match is going to become a lot more like the men's game where a single break of serve makes all the difference.

The killer serve was nearly there at the US Open last year, but then came the injury. And now Maria faces the old problem of not getting enough cheap points with her serve. She gets broken too often. She says she's going to try to build her upper-body strength before the US Open. That's good. She also needs to develop a range of serves like Molik and others so that opponents don't get grooved on her serve - and so they never know what's coming. Ivanovic is good in that she serves big on first and second, but serves her second so that she rarely double faults. Maria please note!

What do people think about this? Could Maria use a professional coach?

penguinbw22
Jul 10th, 2007, 03:14 PM
I think MAria may need a pro coach if her father can in no way help her improve her game, but at the same time, that might cause hurt feeligns and off the court problems.

I don't see Maria's serve as so mcuh of a problem if she gets it to '06 U.S. Open level, but that's easier said than done. We must remember that injuries have derailed her and slowed progression, so let's give her a break for now.

Maria Croft
Jul 10th, 2007, 03:40 PM
Stay healthy.

sharapovarulz1
Jul 10th, 2007, 04:37 PM
I think MAria may need a pro coach if her father can in no way help her improve her game, but at the same time, that might cause hurt feeligns and off the court problems.

I don't see Maria's serve as so mcuh of a problem if she gets it to '06 U.S. Open level, but that's easier said than done. We must remember that injuries have derailed her and slowed progression, so let's give her a break for now.

Indeed :)

Aravanecaravan
Jul 10th, 2007, 04:47 PM
She needs to be healthy. She isn't going to beat anybody hitting as weak as that.

I've said this before--that shoulder is not going to get any better while she is playing. I have the same diagnosis--tendonitis in the right shoulder. I don't have to train that hard and play competitive tennis, and have been following my PT's advice to the letter, and doing all my therapy, but 7 weeks into it, my shoulder still hurts. i still can't do the things I want to with it. I imagine hers is worse. This is a long-term process.

She needs 6 months off to let that injury heal. Since that is not likely to happen, I'd say that she's going to keep losing to power players who will simply hit harder.

Steve-o
Jul 10th, 2007, 07:29 PM
Time, Maria has said the shoulder is improving.

Apart from that Maria could use a little more variety in her game. During Wimbledon I saw Maria hit one backhand slice from behind the baseline when she was in a position to hit a normal backhand. It wasn't a particularly well executed shot but it won her the point. The players are getting so used to just hitting against pace. You can imagine how excited I was just to see Maria hit one slice.

Maria could use the net more too, we seem to have been talking about this for years and nothing has really happened. I don't think Maria has great hands, she is never going to volley like Henin or Mauresmo but she is 6ft 2, net coverage wouldn't be a problem.

As for hiring a 'proper' coach- It could be a good idea but Maria seems to be pretty tight with Joyce so I don't see it happening anytime soon.

penguinbw22
Jul 10th, 2007, 08:17 PM
Stay healthy.

Easier said then done right there.

heytennis
Jul 10th, 2007, 08:31 PM
When her shoulder heals I think she will be fine.

As we have seen several times this year, she is trying to add some variety to her game. Slowly but surely.

I just hope she wins at least one notable title.

Natasc
Jul 10th, 2007, 08:55 PM
Time, Maria has said the shoulder is improving.

Apart from that Maria could use a little more variety in her game. During Wimbledon I saw Maria hit one backhand slice from behind the baseline when she was in a position to hit a normal backhand. It wasn't a particularly well executed shot but it won her the point. The players are getting so used to just hitting against pace. You can imagine how excited I was just to see Maria hit one slice.

Me too!!
I was like: A FOREHAND SLICE!!
even the commentator said that is so nice to watch someone making a beautiful forehand slice!!
besides her forehand dropshot
a là the spanish players!!

Maria could use the net more too, we seem to have been talking about this for years and nothing has really happened. I don't think Maria has great hands, she is never going to volley like Henin or Mauresmo but she is 6ft 2, net coverage wouldn't be a problem.

I beg to say diffrent...the big ones are the one who volley better, once there's their best option 'cause keep runing when you're tall doesn't look like a good idea for me...
KArlovic, Ivanesevic (I dont think that I write his name right), Ljubicic, Ancic and others from the past

so I see she has a shot at this point
As for hiring a 'proper' coach- It could be a good idea but Maria seems to be pretty tight with Joyce so I don't see it happening anytime soon.

exactly my same opnion
but she can always have 2 coaches

last year she was having some tips of someone from LA....
she didn't say who...

Il Primo!
Jul 10th, 2007, 11:13 PM
It's more mental than anything now. She double-faults way too much when she faces a top contender, it says a lot IMO.

So as I said, she should play and win some (mickey mouse) tournaments in order to gain confidence and some groove, like she did in 2004 (fall season).
A victory in Birmingham would have changed lots of things IMO.

She needs some variety, things she can do but she tends to forget when she's down in a match. I mean more moonball and then an agressive shot. You know like slowing down the game. She did it perfectly in New York, especially against Mauresmo. She change both the pace and the lenght/deepness of her balls.

And being an iota healthier, sure will help. But I have faith. Remember last year at the same period. She lost against Mauresmo in London and frankly, it was a worrying loss (at least to me) And she came out stronger than never a couple of weeks after in San Diego. It could be the same scenario.

And to conclude, I just hope she doesn't read and pay attention to all the BS in teh media like she's done yadayadayada cause it's false!In term of ame she's not that far. She just lacks that litlle something she's about to figure out.

EDIT: dding a other brain to her team could be a good idea too ;)

Andy.
Jul 10th, 2007, 11:14 PM
She has just had some really bad luck and injuires this year. It may just be one of those years like 2005 where things just didnt go her way. I mean the way Venus and Serena played against her in the big matches this year was just unreal, they were just too good. It's all about getting through these bad times and looking for better things to come.

~lollipop_girl~
Jul 11th, 2007, 10:19 AM
I don't know but from the matches I have seen of hers she seems to be doing well for the most part but its all just so unpredictable, up and down and I kinda feel like its unfair and I want to pout :sad:
it just feels like no matter what she tries and how she is going, everything seems to be against her :shrug:
Poor Maria :awww:

Doc
Jul 11th, 2007, 12:16 PM
I don't know but from the matches I have seen of hers she seems to be doing well for the most part but its all just so unpredictable, up and down and I kinda feel like its unfair and I want to pout :sad:
it just feels like no matter what she tries and how she is going, everything seems to be against her :shrug:
Poor Maria :awww:

I sometimes feel that way too. She always seems to get the tougher draw, suffer from rain delays - or meet the player on the form of their year.

I feel she is adding to her game - but she hasn't got the rewards yet. An extra expert coach would be a good idea though.

JimM
Jul 11th, 2007, 12:17 PM
She needs to take control of her life. Regardless of what she says, other people are pulling her strings.

This shoulder injury will NEVER heal unless she takes serious time out from the tour. Venus took 6 months out too heal her wrist injury and look how its turned out for her.

No wonder the Russians are pissed at her. She is fit enough to play tournies but not the Cup. She would rather be at the ESPY awards. And if the rumours are true, and I think they are, she will never be asked to represent Russia again.

She has to make up her mind to either a glamour girl or a tennis player. Simple as that. Maybe now she realises that on vacation some things are bad for tennis players arms. Like swinging through the jungle in Nicaragua. That was not such a good idea.

She has a truck load of points to defend now, and her US open crown. With this injury as it is, I dont think she will. I hope she just says she is out for the rest of the season. Next year (injury healed please) she will soon be back to her true form.

Doc
Jul 11th, 2007, 12:22 PM
This shoulder injury will NEVER heal unless she takes serious time out from the tour. Venus took 6 months out too heal her wrist injury and look how its turned out for her.

No wonder the Russians are pissed at her. She is fit enough to play tournies but not the Cup. She would rather be at the ESPY awards. And if the rumours are true, and I think they are, she will never be asked to represent Russia again.
You seem to be contradicting yourself.

Maria will always play the slams if she can - like most top players, but is not going to risk her health by playing a routine Fed Cup match. What the ESPY awards have to do with that, I have no idea. :(

If Maria is Russia's best player, a couple of loudmouths in the Moscow tennis establishment won't stop her playing for her country.

JimM
Jul 11th, 2007, 01:13 PM
Doc

I'm not contradicting myself in the least. Maria said "if there's a chance for me to be 100% healthy by the US Open that would not include playing Fed Cup this week because a smart person would assume that a break is necessary after playing tournaments for 7 weeks." She also added she was committed too being at the ESPY Awards which clash with the Fed Cup.

ESPY AWARDS PREVIEW
"Maria will be attending the 15th ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 11th at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California.

The only important point in all of this hooha over the Fed Cup is the Russians want her too play asap so she can play in the next Olympics.

You said "but is not going to risk her health by playing a routine Fed Cup match" I agree but why is she still playing when the injury is as serious as it is?

"All the scans and test show improvement in my shoulder but I still have a tremendous amount of swelling in the area."

Maybe I'm worrying too much.

:)

Dan23
Jul 11th, 2007, 01:41 PM
Hi Jim :cool:
I wouldnt think the ESPY awards would affect the Fed Cup either way....but maybe Maria knew deep down all along that she wouldnt be able to play.
I agree with her and others that FedCup isnt as important as her being fit for the other tournaments and slams. There will still be many occasions for Maria to represent her country in FedCup and I think she will when the situation is right. As Doc said I dont think the loudmouths at the RTF will have final say.

~lollipop_girl~
Jul 11th, 2007, 02:02 PM
I sometimes feel that way too. She always seems to get the tougher draw, suffer from rain delays - or meet the player on the form of their year.

I feel she is adding to her game - but she hasn't got the rewards yet. An extra expert coach would be a good idea though.
Yeah but if u asked anyone who is biassed against her and really doesn't like her (aka my boyfriend :mad: ) they will tell u that she gets all the easy draws and everything is on her side :rolleye:
I don't think its just that, but also things during matches as well were everything seems great and then suddenly her opponent (even crappy ones now) just suddenly step up and play the best tennis and Masha still does little wrong :shrug:

I don't know... I just feel so sorry for Masha :awww:

Dan23
Jul 11th, 2007, 02:26 PM
Those people are simply biased ;) Maria lives by the same draw rules that every other player does. The Wimby 4R was a joke, never seen a day of bad fortune like that, everything that could go against her did.
Recently she hasnt been hitting as deep and accurately as she has in the past, she would never get pushed around easily by players such as Ivanovic and in the past Pierce, Davenport etc unless she isnt hitting the ball well herself. Her serve has been well down obviously but its getting better with each tournament. Her use of variations has improved and thats a positive. She needs to feel fully comfortable and fit, that is when she will find top form.

JimM
Jul 11th, 2007, 02:30 PM
Hi Jim :cool:
I wouldnt think the ESPY awards would affect the Fed Cup either way....but maybe Maria knew deep down all along that she wouldnt be able to play.
I agree with her and others that FedCup isnt as important as her being fit for the other tournaments and slams. There will still be many occasions for Maria to represent her country in FedCup and I think she will when the situation is right. As Doc said I dont think the loudmouths at the RTF will have final say.

Hi Dan :cool:

I know where you and lottie are coming from, and I agree. But what I cannot understand is why she is still playing with the injury as bad as it is. Its great that she still plays on despite this, we know what a fighter she is. But its the possibility of long term damage thats a concern. She will go out to do battle as always at the USO, I just hope the shoulder is ready for it. Even better if she wins it again :)

:wavey:

xan
Jul 11th, 2007, 03:56 PM
Those people are simply biased ;) Maria lives by the same draw rules that every other player does. The Wimby 4R was a joke, never seen a day of bad fortune like that, everything that could go against her did.
Recently she hasnt been hitting as deep and accurately as she has in the past, she would never get pushed around easily by players such as Ivanovic and in the past Pierce, Davenport etc unless she isnt hitting the ball well herself. Her serve has been well down obviously but its getting better with each tournament. Her use of variations has improved and thats a positive. She needs to feel fully comfortable and fit, that is when she will find top form.
Maria's serve is certainly better than it was in the early part of the year. She's been hitting it better and stronger. But she's still not getting a huge numbr of Aces or unreturnables. And you need that to make your serve games easy.

As far as fitness goes, I hope the shoulder injury really is getting better. She needs to see a sport science export to see if her serve action or forehand are what is causing the trouble. She obviously doesn't want to take several months off and miss one or more of the majors, and then have to climb back up the rankings. A long break certainly hasn't helped Alicia Molik. The best thing would be for her to sort her serve action and hopefully put less strain on the shoulder. Maybe the nunchucks will help. ;)

Maria Croft
Jul 11th, 2007, 04:24 PM
I'm probably the only one who has seen many improvements in her game this year, this will only help her once her serve and confidence are back and she can play healthy again.

nelsondan
Jul 11th, 2007, 04:52 PM
I would still like to see her talk to former baseball pitcher Mike marshall. If he thinks there is something fundamentally destructive in her serving motion, she should consider that information.

http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=300573

Steve-o
Jul 11th, 2007, 07:04 PM
All the uncertainty with Maria's health is draining. Listening to Navratilova talk about Maria and her future for a few minutes last week didn't do me much good either.

Surely Maria has already consulted with someone familiar with biomechanics, that's if it's necessary at all.

xan
Jul 13th, 2007, 02:54 PM
I would still like to see her talk to former baseball pitcher Mike marshall. If he thinks there is something fundamentally destructive in her serving motion, she should consider that information.

http://www.wtaworld.com/showthread.php?t=300573

Hopefully she'll take this sort of advice. She needs to get her shoulder problems sorted. If that means remodelling some of her strokes, it needs to be done.

beecharmer
Jul 14th, 2007, 07:11 PM
I'm at 6's and 7's with Maria.

On the one hand, I honestly think she has added great subtlety to her game; her improvisation and retrieval on the clay and even in Australia was hugely impressed with. She hasn't been able to make it all come together but I still think she can. I guess I am still obsessed with the way she took Serena apart at Wimbers 04. Serena didn't play badly but Maria's variety was astonishing.

Her shoulder is definitely getting better and her serve was more like the real thing til the pressure of an amazon like Venus. But this year I will be pleased for her to retain a top 5 or 6 ranking, and to get healthy and really go for it next year. Journo's are too obsessed with B games - Sampras couldn't win Roland Garros with all of his so what does that say? You need to do one game well.

Shimizu Amon
Jul 14th, 2007, 08:26 PM
I must say that Masha improved her game a lot this year. For once she is more patient then before. She's hitting more balls with effect.
The trouble is just that her health is getting in her way this year, not only does it drain energy it also drains confidence. Something she will only get back by playing healthy. I'm confident once she feels her body is up to the task 100% she will gain confidence and if she does I'm also confident we will see the best Masha yet.