View Full Version : Andrew's Miami review: the Nazgūl Open

Mar 30th, 2004, 11:31 PM
Miami was a good tournament for Maria as she avenged one of last year's defeats, upset a higher-ranked seed, and got a respectable scoreline against top seed and defending champion Serena Williams.

Shinobu Asagoe was the unseeded player who defeated Maria in the semi-finals of Birmingham last June, after Maria had come through qualifying and upset seeds Nathalie Dechy [5], Marie-Gaļané Mikaelian [11] and Elena Dementieva [1]. Birmingham 2003 was the tournament that changed Maria from a player who had to play ITF tournaments and qualifying, to the regular direct entry into WTA tournaments that she is today.

Maria avenged her Birmingham defeat by beating Shinobu Asagoe 6-2 3-6 6-0 in the second round of Miami on Saturday.

This set up a third round against Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi, seeded 13 to Maria's 17. Smashnova-Pistolesi is a solid counter-hitter, which makes her a very popular hitting-partner, but she is easily thrashable by one of Maria's golden talent!

Although I didn't have time to follow the live scores of this match, I had one look and it was 5-5. This made me rather worried - was Maria being too complacent, or getting frustrated by Smashnova-Pistolesi's counter-hitting?

But the next time I checked, Maria had won 7-5 6-2 - dropping just two more games.

This set up an intriguing fourth round against the fearsome Serena Williams on Monday. Prior to meeting Maria, Williams had won 14 matches in a row at Miami, where she has a 29-4 win/loss record overall - the last player to beat her there was Jennifer Capriati in the 2001 quarter-finals.

At her best, Williams is like an unsinkable buoy, as she combines very powerful hitting with supreme athleticism (apparently she did move very well against Maria) and an awesome running forehand.

But this was Williams's first tournament after left-knee surgery which had kept her off the tour since Wimbledon 2003. She had played one sharp match to crush Marta Marrero 6-1 6-0, but then a rusty match to edge past Elena Likhovtseva 6-1 4-6 6-3 (with Maria watching from the stands).

Win or lose, it was a great opportunity for Maria to experience playing one of the very top players - a very necessary part of becoming a better player.

I followed live score-updates at www.nasdaq-100open.com (http://www.nasdaq-100open.com). The match started at 16:00 EST, with a long opening game in which Maria, serving first, saved two break-points (30/40 and Ad), then held serve on her second game-point. Williams quickly held to 15 to make it 1-1.

Maria had a 30/0 lead while serving at 1-1, but lost four points in a row as Williams broke for 2-1. But Maria, like all great champions, broke back immediately: Williams recovered from 0/30 to 40/30, but Maria saved that game-point and one more, and broke after the second deuce to level up at 2-2!

One might have been forgiven for thinking that it was Maria who had won six Grand-Slam singles titles, as she consolidated the break by holding to love for 3-2, and winning the first point on Williams's next service-game (seven points in a row to Maria!). Williams went 30/15 up, Maria pegged her back to 30/30, but Williams held to 30 for 3-3.

In the vital seventh - Maria serving at 3-3 - she recovered from 0/30 to hold game-point at 40/30, which must surely have made the Serena fans rather anxious. But Williams broke for 4-3 after two deuces and break-points.

With Williams serving at 4-3 30/0, Maria won three points in a row to hold a break-back point. Three points later, however, Williams held for 5-3. Then Maria went 40/0 up and held to 15, forcing Williams to serve for the set.

When Williams served for the first set at 5-4, Maria won the first point, and also had 15/30 and break-points at 30/40 and after the first deuce. But after the second deuce, Williams converted her first set-point to win the first set 6-4 at 16:45.

Sadly for us, as so often happens when a talented young player has pushed a great champion to a tight first set, Maria got broken (to 15) in the first game of the second, and the writing was on the wall as Williams held to love for 2-0.

But Maria refused to be intimidated by the scoreline, holding to 15 for 1-2. Williams held to 30 for 3-1, and Maria to 15 for 2-3. In fact the next three games were holds to 15: Williams for 4-2, Maria for 3-4, and Williams for 5-3.

Serving to stay in the match at 3-5, Maria won the first point, but lost the next four. Williams converted her first match-point at 15/40 to seal a 6-4 6-3 victory at 17:15 - after an hour and fifteen minutes.

In terms of the match-statistics [ http://www.nasdaq100open.com/stats/Match13379.html ], Williams outclassed Maria in every department except points won on second serve and unforced errors (15 to 12). Williams hit 26 winners to 10 by Maria (not just _two_ winners by Maria, as falsely reported in the media!).

It was a very respectable performance for Maria to take seven games off a player as great as Serena Williams, and to give the former world number one quite a scare in the first set! Unfortunately the media chose to use less flattering terms to describe the match, such as "breezed", "dismissed", "light work" and "eased past". :fiery:

Maria (1): "Even though she has been out so long, she still has many of the qualities of a champion. She has so much power. She's very strong. No matter how much she was gone, she's back."

Maria (2): "She played very well considering how long she has been gone. It doesn't matter how long she was out for. You have to expect the best from her. She's not number one right now but she's still a champion. Of course she's going to go out there and fight."

Serena: "Confidence-wise it's getting better every day. Physically I'm getting better every day. Mentally I feel I can play three or four days and be feeling pretty good. There's a little stiffness but it's normal."

The following article appeared in Tuesday's The Daily Telegraph (British newspaper):
Serena gets back to bare essentials
By Alix Ramsay in Miami

THE Serena Williams comeback tour continues to roll, taking her into the quarter-finals of the Nasdaq-100 Open following her 6-4, 6-3 win over Maria Sharapova yesterday.

She may still be far from her best but, so far, it does not matter. There is no one left in the draw, with the possible exception of her sister Venus, who has either the game or the nerve to beat her.

Given that Nike have secured Williams's services in a contract worth up to $40 million, it seemed remarkable that they could not afford just a little more Lycra to cover their client. Gone was the billowing white silk dress - her Greek goddess look - and in its place was a skin-tight number consisting of shorts, top and an expanse of bare midriff. Sharapova, in contrast, was far more workmanlike in what appeared to be a red string vest.

The Russian was the talk of Wimbledon last year. Her forceful tennis took her past Jelena Dokic and into the fourth round while her startling grunt could be heard as far away as Hammersmith Broadway. But, at only 16, she still has a long way to go to establish herself among the elite.

No matter, Sharapova is a work in progress and, so far, she is heading in the right direction. If her serve had been a little more reliable, she could have given Williams a run for her money. The former world No 1 was spraying the unforced errors around the court as usual but was still too strong when it mattered.

Williams now plays Jill Craybas, the surprise quarter-finalist who survived two lengthy rain-delays and three lengthy sets against Paola Suįrez, the No 9 seed, to win 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.

In terms of this being Serena's first tournament in eight months, the true merit of Maria's performance can be judged to a large extent by whether Serena goes on to win the title, bearing in mind that there's no Justine Henin-Hardenne, Lindsay Davenport or Kim Clijsters to stop her. On Tuesday she blasted Jill Craybas off court 6-0 6-1 in the quarter-finals.


http://www.nasdaq-100open.com/ (live scores + news)

Dr. Andrew Broad


Mar 30th, 2004, 11:40 PM
S. WILLIAMS/M. Sharapova
6-4, 6-3

An interview with:


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. Can you talk about the match today. What was the difference?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, the experience. I mean, there are many big differences, you know. I mean, even though she's been out for so long, you know, she still has many qualities of a champion out there, you know, no matter how long she's been out.

You know, I went out there and I thought I played a pretty decent match. I was pretty much in control in the first set until she broke me, and I felt really good. I felt that I had a few breakpoints, but she just managed just to make a good serve. That was the difference.

Just little things here and there that I still need to improve.

Q. Is it the first time you played her?


Q. How does her power stack up against some of the other top players even though she's been out for a while?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, definitely, I mean, she has so much power. She's very strong, as you can see. No matter how long she was gone, she's still back. I think she really played well today considering that she's been gone for so long.

Q. How did you like your chances going into the match? How did you feel?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I felt pretty good. I had nothing to lose in the match; I knew that. She's been out for eight months. I was just going to go out there and play my game and enjoy it and have fun, and I did.

I thought, I mean, there were very positive things that I found in my game against a top player like her. So I definitely enjoyed it.

Q. Such as...?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I mean, those things about the game I just like to keep to myself.

But, you know, just looking ahead in my career and just thinking of what I need to improve and then what I needed to improve and now that I'm improving it, it makes me feel more confident.

Q. Do you feel that it's a lost opportunity, that this was a good chance to beat Serena?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no, it's not a lost opportunity. I'm going to have many more opportunities in my life.

Q. You never really know until you're out there hitting against her, but how impressed were you with the power of her game?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I mean, you know, she's a very strong lady. Definitely she has a lot of power. I mean, yes, she looks like she's powerful, you know, but there are many other things in tennis except power. I mean, tennis is not all about power. You can take spectators, they'll have a lot of power, but they don't know how to play the game. You need a lot more to play the game. She definitely has those good qualities.

Q. Did she seem rusty to you at all?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I thought that yesterday she played -- I mean, today I thought she played a much better match than she did yesterday. But I was on the court, you know; yesterday I was just watching from the stands.

But, I mean, I didn't feel -- I mean, yes, she made a few errors on the return and stuff, but, you know, hey, maybe my serve was good, I don't know (laughing).

Q. What did you think of her outfit today, the crop top and short shorts?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think that it's great. I mean, fashion these days in tennis definitely has been something that players can work with.

I definitely think that fashion can express the way you feel and the way you look, and I definitely think that it's very good for the sport. We don't have to wear uniforms, we don't have to kind of be in what everybody else is in, and I think this is a very good way just to show your personality when you go on court. I definitely think that, you know, everybody has their own unique opinion about what to wear and I think that's very good for tennis.

Q. Do you think Serena has a particular flair that way?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: What do you mean by "flair"?

Q. She has a unique eye for that sort of thing. She's involved in the designs of her outfits.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely. I think every player wants to feel good on the court. Nobody wants to go out and feel, you know, uncomfortable in what we're wearing. I mean, they want to be satisfied.

This is a sport where you can go on the court, you can choose what you wear. I mean, you don't design it, you know, sometimes, but definitely if you don't feel comfortable wearing a skirt, you can wear shorts. It's not like you have to wear these big pads, this big uniform, this big jersey, and these big socks, hey, so...

You can just express more.

Q. You wore all those pads in a photo shoot, didn't you?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I did. It wasn't very comfortable (smiling).

Q. Is there any intimidation factor going out there against Serena even though she has been out this long?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I mean, like I said, it doesn't matter how long she was out. You just always have to focus on today and the way you're going to play and, I mean, no, you have to expect the best from her.

Q. So there is a little bit of an intimidation factor still?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I mean, she's not No. 1 in the world right now. But, you know, she's still a champion out there. Of course you just got to go out and fight.

Q. What's next for you?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm pretty sure Berlin.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports...

Serena Williams's interview is at...
...if anyone wants to read her ranting pre-questions statement about how the media misinterpreted her as planning to boycott the Olympics over terrorist-fears, her self-centred discussion of her own game without once mentioning Maria, and a lengthy dialogue about her latest outfit. :rolleyes:

Dr. Andrew Broad