It's going to be at least a week before my proper report on Maria's Wimbledon campaign is ready, but I can't let today pass without posting my congratulations!
I have no adequate words to express what it means to me for Maria to win Wimbledon. No player of whom I'm a fan has ever won Wimbledon before, and none has won any Grand Slam singles title since the French Open 1997. It's fitting that as Iva Majoli has just announced her retirement, Maria should end my seven-year Grand Slam drought. Avi Maria!
And to beat Serena Williams - who had looked as invincible as the Mayor of Sunnydale en route to the final - 6-1 6-4 is just sensational, even if I do have to admit that Serena was a shadow of her best today. No doubt Williams succumbed to the "young upstart" syndrome, putting too much pressure on herself to win. Maria is the lowest-ranked woman (at #15) ever to win Wimbledon, and the third-youngest after Lottie Dodd (1887) and Martina Hingis (1997).
I picked Maria to win before the final. There was just a sense of destiny about her after her emotional recovery against the amazing retrieving of Ai Sugiyama in the quarter-finals (5-7 7-5 6-1), and her unbelievable miracle against Lindsay Davenport in the semi-finals (2-6 7-6 6-1). Maria's emotional celebrations - particularly after her quarter-final - were in stark contrast to some recent Grand Slam finals.
Maria certainly has the qualities of a Grand Slam champion: an amazing serve; sharp, flairsome, brilliant groundstrokes (particularly her crosscourt backhand); fantastic depth of shot and use of angles; and - frighteningly for her opponents - significant potential for improvement. Although often a slow starter, Maria seems to get into a zone where she sees the ball like a cantaloupe in slow motion!
Even more important are Maria's extreme intensity and mental strength. She showed tremendous fighting qualities to escape straight-sets defeats in her quarter- and semi-finals, and very little signs of choking as she converted her leads to victories. She can only be compared with Monica Seles, who has a mind like a steel trap which snaps shut as soon as her opponent is anywhere near defeat.
It's so great for women's tennis that Maria won. It will help attract the general public to tennis, especially as Maria is charming in interviews, and, of course, not at all unattractive! It should inspire more young girls - particularly in East European countries - to pick up a racket - not that Russian girls seem to need any more inspiration now that they've won the French Open, Birmingham (Maria is 12-0 on grass this year), Eastbourne, and now Wimbledon!
Oh - and I'm glad Maria didn't embarrass me by giving my name in her on-court victory-speech! ;)
Dr. Andrew Broad
hey man...all youve said about maria...from her strengths on teh court to her strengths off the court and i have nothing but total respectfor her...i am a huge fan of hers and im really relaly pleased for her winning wimbledon...and to beat williams in straight sets is just absolutly amazing..wow..for waht she started off with in america to waht she is accomplising now is just pure destiny and i think that with her success will come alot more notice to teh womens side of tennis because not only of her skills on the court but like you said she is def not un attractive...she is a very VERY beutiful young lady and she has good interveiws showing her manner and jsut her character..again i will say congrats to miss sharapova on her grand slam and i wish her all the best as i will definatly be following her successes for along time to come...well i could sit ehre and talk all night on this amazing young women but i must go...for alas i am only 15 and the pessures of teenage life are beckoning me (my friend wants to go play hcokey) again i get made fun of for wathcin the womens tennis but with the sport havin such a specimin as maria i am proud to sa i watch it lolol bye
Jul 4th, 2004, 02:56 AM
I really can't understand you Andy Mac!
Jul 4th, 2004, 03:41 AM
yea i kno man..lol i try to eb smart but relaly arent... :confused: lol sorry man but can u at least stop like offendin me man....
Jul 4th, 2004, 05:48 AM
I mean, I really want to understand what you ar e posting so I can make a conversation, but dang it... Not even full sentences or at least full words
Jul 6th, 2004, 12:08 AM
I might as well post my report on each round as I write it, rather than post a super-long seven-match report at the end of this week!
Maria played her first-round match on Court 13 on Monday evening, taking less than an hour to crush qualifier Yulia Beygelzimer 6-2 6-1. The match wasn't televised on Freeview Wimbledon Interactive, so I followed live score-updates on CEEFAX.
I tuned into Maria's scores as soon as Jelena Dokic's match (and, sadly, her entire Wimbledon 2004 campaign) was over - at 19:05 BST. They'd obviously just started, as it was 1-1 in the first set.
Maria broke for 2-1, and held for 3-1. Beygelzimer held for 2-3, and Maria held, broke, and held to take the first set 6-2 at 19:28.
Maria went 4-0 up in the second set, then the CEEFAX scoreboard jammed. So I checked on the Internet, and Maria was 5-1 up. She broke to win 6-2 6-1 at 19:55.
The BBC showed Maria's match-point with Beygelzimer serving at 2-6 1-5 15/40. Maria hit a backhand return followed by a crosscourt forehand to stretch her opponent, who slapped a forehand into the net.
Maria managed to get through the match unbroken, and in fact without facing a single break-point, despite getting only 55% of first serves in and winning only 47% on second serve. However, she won 87% of points when she did get her first serve in, hitting 7 aces.
Whereas Beygelzimer got 61% of first serves in, but won only 44% of those points, yet won 47% of points on second serve! Maria broke the Beygelzimer serve 5 times from 7 break-points.
Maria's fastest serve was 114mph, her average first-serve speed 103mph (the same as Beygelzimer's fastest), her average second-serve speed 96mph (2mph faster than Beygelzimer's average first-serve speed).
Maria hit 18 winners and 10 unforced errors, Beygelzimer 4 winners and 9 unforced errors. Maria's net-game is an area for improvement: in this match she went to the net only four times, winning only two of those points.
Maria's second round was against wild card Anne Keothavong. British women's tennis may be a joke, but Keothavong is a much-improved player from what I saw of her at Birmingham, and said before the match that she could exploit Maria's weaknesses: "My coach and I have seen her play, we'll keep it there. I've got to be confident in my own ability, and know that I'm good enough to beat her."
The match was played on Court 18 on Wednesday, and wasn't televised so I followed live score-updates on CEEFAX. However, the BBC did go back and show the start of the match during the rain-delay.
It was tremendous fun to watch, as Maria was going for her shots without compromise, and she has such a presence about her.
The match began at 16:25 BST, with Maria serving first. With Keothavong hitting deep, Maria hit a backhand wide. 0/15. Maria netted a forehand. 0/30. Double fault. 0/40 (three break-points). Service-winner. 15/40. Keothavong netted a backhand. 30/40. Maria hit an error-forcing backhand down the line. 40/40. Keothavong hit a forehand wide - forced by a deep, powerful forehand from Maria. Advantage Maria. She hit a wild forehand wide off a short ball. Deuce #2. Maria hit an error-forcing forehand-smash after failing to put away several overheads. Advantage Maria. Double fault. Deuce #3. Ace out wide. Advantage Maria. Keothavong hit a forehand return long.
The commentators said Maria was hitting too much to Keothavong's backhand.
Keothavong serving 0-1: Maria hit a forehand volley wide and long - forced by a pass from Keothavong that made her stretch. 15/0. Maria crosscourt backhand winner. 15/15. Maria netted a forehand. 30/15. Maria hit two backhands long, allowing Keothavong to hold to 15.
Maria serving 1-1: Maria hit an error-forcing forehand down the line. 15/0. Double fault. 30/0. Maria hit a 114mph service-winner down the middle. 30/15. Maria hit an error-forcing backhand which landed on the baseline. 40/15. Maria forehand long. 40/30. Maria forced a defensive lob from Keothavong, and hit a crosscourt forehand winner to hold for 2-1.
Then, sadly, the rain-delay ended and the BBC stopped showing this match, never to show the rest of it.
Games continued to go with serve in the first set until 3-3 (Keothavong held her own with some impressive serving and deep groundstrokes, and Maria escaped from 0/40 a second time), then Maria was broken for 3-4. However, it was to be the last game she would lose in this match, as she broke back immediately, and held for 5-4.
Then the rain came, and the match was suspended at 17:00, and resumed at 17:25. Maria broke to win the first set 6-4 at 17:28, and stormed through the second set 6-0, completing the 6-4 6-0 victory at 17:55.
Maria got 64% of first serves in, winning 70% of the points when she did so, and 59% on second serve (Keothavong 57%, 50%, 37%). Maria served two aces but five double faults. She broke serve 5 times from 9 break-points, and was broken once from 4 break-points.
Maria hit 22 winners to 15 unforced errors, Keothavong 8 winners to 12 unforced errors - a ratio much healthier for Maria, who also won 9 points at the net from 13 approaches.
The first Friday evening of Wimbledon saw a mouthwatering third-round match on Centre Court between Maria Sharapova and Daniela Hantuchová. It promised to be the match of the Championships, especially after Maria's Birmingham title and Daniela's near miss at Eastbourne.
For Daniela fans, and those hoping for a good contest, it was a bit of an anticlimax as Maria won 6-3 6-1 in 61 minutes. I saw the match in full on BBC television, and here are my comments that I wrote immediately after the match:
Maria was simply awesome today, playing like the ball was coming to her in slow motion and hitting winners at will. Daniela didn't play badly, although she did make some errors when she had half-chances to get into the match.
But Maria was simply too good for Daniela - or anyone - to handle today. It was a clinical execution, and if she can maintain this superb form, she could well go all the way to the final, if not win the whole thing!
Maria's serve was particularly good today. She held serve easily, Daniela didn't even have a break-point in the match, and this put so much pressure on Daniela to hold her own service-games. Maria's serve is one of the very best in women's tennis - in the same class as the Williams sisters.
I think Lindsay Davenport is the only player who could stop Maria - on this sort of form - from getting to the final. And Davenport would struggle against Maria because Maria hits the ball hard, and moves much better than Davenport.
There were several wolf-whistles as the players walked onto court, acknowledging that it was a match between two of the most attractive players in the Championships! :hearts:
The match started at 17:37 BST, with Maria serving first. The first point was a long rally, ending with one of Daniela's trademark down-the-line backhand winners. But Maria possesses a crosscourt backhand as brilliant as Daniela's down-the-line one, and used it to hit a winner off a weak return by Daniela. 15/15. Maria held to 15 with an ace down the middle and two errors from Daniela.
Daniela also held her opening service-game to 15, hitting a forehand winner down the line from inside the tramlines.
Maria held to 30 for 2-1 with two crosscourt backhand winners (one hit behind Daniela) and a service-winner.
Maria has a lovely delay on her shots: she waits just long enough for her opponent to anticipate that she's going to hit it in one direction, then hits a winner into the open space. When she beat Daniela, she was in a zone where she was seeing the ball like a cantaloupe in slow motion - she could do anything she wanted with the ball.
Maria hit a forehand volley-winner and a beautifully-held forehand winner down the line to get Daniela serving at 1-2 15/30. But Daniela recovered with a wide serve to set up a crosscourt forehand winner, and two Maria errors to hold to 30 for 2-2.
Maria held to 15 for 3-2 with an ace out wide and a virtual ace down the middle. It was by now apparent that Maria was holding serve more easily than Daniela.
Maria drew first blood as she broke Daniela to 30 for 4-2, after a game of errors and a forehand return-winner down the line by Maria at 30/30. Commentator Tracy Austin said Daniela hits the ball very flat, and needs to add more topspin to make the ball dip in.
Maria consolidated the break by holding to 15 for 5-2 with a forehand winner down the line (set up by a serve into Daniela's body to force a short, mishit return), and a stunning forehand winner down the line that landed on the baseline with a puff of titanium pigment (the white powder on the lines).
Maria had more weight of shot than Daniela. Their average groundstroke-speeds up to this point were 73mph for Maria, 60mph for Daniela. I did think when I saw Daniela's matches at Eastbourne and in the first round of Wimbledon, that she was not hitting the ball as hard as I'm used to seeing from her. Daniela is playing too carefully at the moment, whereas Maria is playing uninhibited, instinctive tennis.
Maria is an ambidextrous player, who was coached to play right-handed so that she can use the strength of her left hand on her two-handed backhand. Daniela, serving to stay in the first set at 2-5 15/15, hit a crosscourt backhand onto the sideline, and Maria actually hit a left-handed crosscourt forehand pass-winner!
Then Daniela hit a backhand just long to give Maria two set-points at 15/40. Daniela saved the first with a short, wide-angled service-winner, and saved the second with a good serve down the middle to set up an off-forehand winner. Maria netted a backhand at deuce, and Daniela held serve with an ace out wide.
Thus Maria served for the first set at 5-3. She served it out to love, with two service-winners down the middle, a forehand winner down the line, and a service-winner to win the first set 6-1 at 18:08.
By the second set, Centre Court was half in shadow, which makes it harder for the players to see the ball when it's coming out of the shadow into the sunlight. Daniela held her opening service-game to 15 with a low forehand winner down the line and three errors from Maria. It was to be the last game Daniela would win.
Maria held to 30 with two service-winners and a short-angled ace out wide, although Daniela did win a nice spreading rally with a crosscourt forehand to set up an off-forehand winner.
Serving at 1-1, Daniela hit a wide serve to set up a forehand winner down the line, followed by a forehand half-volley dropshot-winner. 30/0. Maria hit a backhand winner down the line, which landed on the sideline. 30/15. Daniela forehand volley-winner. 40/15. Daniela backhand just wide. 40/30. Maria forehand winner down the line. 40/40. Daniela backhand just wide. Advantage Maria (break-point). Daniela hit a forehand long, giving Maria a break for 2-1.
By now, Maria was squeaking as she hit the ball. She held to love with an ace down the middle and three errors from Daniela. There were some calls of "Come on Daniela" from spectators.
Daniela, serving at 1-3, hit a service-winner. 15/0. Daniela hit a forehand drop-volley, but Maria ran it down hungrily to hit a crosscourt backhand pass-winner. 15/15. Maria off-forehand volley-winner. 15/30. Maria forehand volley-winner. 15/40 (two break-points). Daniela outmanoeuvred Maria to hit a crosscourt forehand winner. 30/40. Daniela saved the second break-point with an ace down the middle, but after two deuces and a series of errors, Daniela netted a backhand off a netcord from Maria, who thus led 4-1 with two breaks.
Tracy Austin said Maria could win Wimbledon! Maria, now grunting loudly, held to 15 with a crosscourt forehand winner behind Daniela, an error-forcing forehand down the line, and an ace down the middle.
Daniela, serving to stay in the match at 1-5, started with a service-winner down the middle. But Maria was in such a zone by now: she hit a forehand winner down the line behind Daniela, and a deep, penetrating backhand followed by a searing off-forehand winner. 15/30. Daniela served and volleyed, but hit a backhand volley wide. 15/40 (match-point). Daniela hit a wide serve, Maria a crosscourt forehand return, Daniela a forehand down the line, Maria whacked a backhand crosscourt, and Daniela netted a backhand. Maria yelled and jumped for joy as she sealed a 6-3 6-1 victory at 18:38.
Maria's winner:unforced-error ratio was 25:5, while Daniela's was 12:8 - in other words, it was very much Maria who beat Daniela as opposed to Daniela beating herself.
Maria was successful in all 9 of her approaches to the net, while Daniela won 6 of 10 points at the net.
Maria got 73% of first serves in (Daniela 66%), winning 93% of the points when she did so, and 45% on second serve - whereas Daniela won 60% of points when she got her first serve in, and only 33% on second serve. Maria hit 5 aces to 2 by Daniela, but Maria's serve wasn't much faster than Daniela's - both had an average first-serve speed of 104mph, Maria's average second-serve speed was 1mph faster at 96mph, and her fastest serve was 2mph faster at 112mph.
Maria broke Daniela's serve 4 times from 8 break-points, while Daniela did not have a single break-point in the match.
Maria: "I feel very confident. I'm playing well, and got a lot of matches in at Birmingham. I have picked up my level from the opening two rounds.
"When I came out for the match I was expecting a tough game, and the score did not show it but I had to fight for every point.
"I want to take one match at a time, and I don't want to look too far ahead. I just want to win this tournament - if it isn't going to be this year then I want to do it next year."
Daniela reportedly came off court saying it was like playing a Williams sister.
Photos of both players:
Dr. Andrew Broad
"I'm just a normal girl with an extraordinary life playing tennis, and it's a lot of fun."
[Maria in a BBC interview]
Maria scored a 6-4 7-5 win over 31st seed Amy Frazier in the fourth round. It was tougher than I expected after Maria overwhelmed Daniela Hantuchová in the previous round, but Maria was rather sporadic against Frazier, who unsettled her with some good placements, particularly when she hit the ball just inside the sidelines to make Maria run wide. Maria is probably at her weakest when she has to run wide for her forehand.
Frazier has been playing on the WTA Tour since 1987, and came into the match having upset second-seeded French Open champion Anastasia Myskina in the previous round. Frazier is a solid, reliable baseliner with a flat, unorthodox forehand.
The match was first on Court One on the second Monday; it started at 13:03 BST. I saw the whole match on BBC television.
Maria, serving first, opened with a service-winner, and held to 15 with an ace down the middle and a forehand winner down the line. Frazier held to 30 for 1-1 after a game of errors.
Serving with the sun in her eyes, Maria went down 0/40 after a Frazier forehand return-winner down the line, a netted backhand, and a Frazier crosscourt backhand winner behind Maria. She double-faulted to drop her serve to 30 for 1-2.
But Frazier caught double-faultitis herself, committing three of them as she dropped serve to 30 for 2-2 (Frazier saved one break-point at 15/40 with an ace out wide).
Maria's slow start continued as Frazier broke to 15 with a backhand winner down the line, an error-forcing crosscourt forehand, a crosscourt forehand winner behind Maria, and a backhand down the line which forced Maria to lob a forehand long.
This time Frazier consolidated the break: despite Maria hitting an inside-out forehand winner down the line at 15/0, Frazier held to 30 for 4-2 after a long rally at 15/30 which ended with Frazier hitting a backhand down the line to open up the court for a sliced forehand winner down the line.
John McEnroe's suggestion for overcoming slow starts was to jump rope before the match and work up a sweat. Sam Smith suggested running before the match to get the feet moving, as well as hitting balls to get your rhythm.
Maria hit a short-angled ace out wide, and held to love for 3-4 as some chip-charge tactics from Frazier failed to be effective.
Maria fought through a game of two deuces to break back for 4-4. At 15/0 she hit a crosscourt backhand into Frazier's backhand corner, followed by a brilliant crosscourt forehand winner off a low ball into her forehand corner. But Frazier hit a backhand winner down the line, and had a point for 5-3 at 40/30. Maria hit a crosscourt backhand to set up a forehand winner down the line behind Frazier, and saved a second game-point with a short-angled crosscourt forehand winner. On the second deuce, Maria took her time and whacked a huge crosscourt forehand winner. She broke for 4-4 with an inside-out forehand winner down the line.
Maria held to love for 5-4 with a service-winner, an ace down the middle, and two forehand errors from Frazier, who thus had to serve to stay in the first set.
With a loud grunt, Maria hit a virtual forehand winner down the line. 0/15. Maria backhand out. 15/15. Maria forehand return long. 30/15. Frazier netted a backhand. 30/30. Service-winner out wide. 40/30. Frazier hit a wild forehand long. 40/40. Frazier backhand wide. Advantage Maria (set-point). Maria forehand return long. Deuce #2. Maria hit a punishing early backhand return, followed by a crosscourt forehand which forced Frazier to net a forehand. Advantage Maria (set-point #2). Double fault. Maria won the first set 6-4 at 13:39.
In the second set, Maria held to 15 for 1-0 with a mighty crosscourt backhand winner behind Frazier, and a crosscourt backhand winner. Frazier ended Maria's run of five games in a row by holding to 15 for 1-1 with a service-winner and three errors from Maria.
Maria held to 30 for 2-1 with an error-forcing crosscourt forehand which Frazier tried to take on the full, and two service-winners, one at 106mph to win the game.
With Frazier serving at 1-2, Maria hit a down-the-line forehand winner and a crosscourt forehand winner to give herself a break-point. But three backhand errors in a row saw Frazier hold to 2-2 after two deuces.
Maria went 40/0 up with a brilliant forehand winner down the line off a deep return, and a virtual ace out wide. But she was pegged back to 40/40 after a double fault and a Frazier backhand return-winner. Frazier netted a forehand return to give Maria a fourth game-point, which she converted with an off-forehand winner. "COME ON!" shouted Maria, pumping her fist.
Frazier held to 30 after an error-strewn game, to level up at 3-3.
Maria went 40/0 up on serve again, with a service-winner, an ace down the middle, and a huge serve down the middle to force a floating return, which Maria dispatched with a forehand smash-winner after the bounce. Frazier saved one game-point with a crosscourt backhand return-winner, and the second with an early forehand return down the line to set up a forehand smash-winner, but Maria held for 4-3 when Frazier hit a forehand return wide at 40/30.
Frazier held to 30 for 4-4 after an aggressive but error-strewn game (Frazier hit a backhand drop-volley winner on the first point after forcing a floater from Maria).
Maria hit a good serve to force a short return and set up a crosscourt backhand winner, but was broken to 30 after a double fault and three errors. Maria seemed to be serving too much to Frazier's forehand.
Thus Frazier was serving for the second set at 5-4. She hit a forehand long. 0/15. Frazier forehand winner down the line. 15/15. Maria netted a backhand, due to "nerves and lousy footwork" [John McEnroe]. 30/15. Double fault. 30/30. Frazier played a good spreading rally, but Maria ran everything down, grunting loudly, and hit a forehand pass-winner down the line. 30/40 (break-point). Double fault.
Serving at 5-5, Maria was down 15/30 after Frazier hit a forehand winner down the line off a short mishit backhand from Maria and a forehand return winner down the line. Sam Smith questioned Maria's ability to see where she is winning and losing points. Frazier hit a crosscourt backhand winner to give herself break-point at 30/40, but Maria saved it with a service-winner out wide.
Frazier earned a second break-point with an error-forcing off-backhand, but Maria saved it by thwarting Frazier's chip-and-charge with a fantastic forehand pass-winner down the line that landed on the sideline. Maria hit a service-winner out wide, and held for 6-5 with a crosscourt backhand that forced Frazier to hit a backhand wide.
Serving to stay in the match at 5-6, Frazier netted a backhand off a deep forehand return from Maria. 0/15. Maria netted a forehand return. 15/15. Double fault. 15/30. Maria netted a forehand. 30/30. Double fault. 30/40 (match-point). Maria hit a forehand return onto the baseline that was called out, but overruled as "in", so they played a let. Maria hit a forehand return followed by a crosscourt forehand, and Frazier netted a forehand. Maria won 6-4 7-5 at 14:31 to set up a quarter-final against Ai Sugiyama.
Maria: "I was very relieved as she beat the second seed, a French Open champion, and must be in good form which really showed against me. She played a great match, and made me work for it until the last point.
"I've never played her [Ai Sugiyama] before, so I can't predict what will happen, but I am looking forward to a very tough match.
"I want to win Wimbledon, that's a fact. But I mean that has always been my dream. But there's no pressure. Who has an opportunity in life like I do right now, at the age that I am."
Maria got only 50% of first serves in (Frazier 64%), winning 72% of the points when she did so, and 50% on second serve (Frazier 59%, 39%). Maria served 5 aces and 4 double faults, but Frazier really dug her own grave with 12 double faults.
Maria's winner:unforced-error ratio was 25:15, whereas Frazier's was much worse at 15:21. So why was the match so close? There were a lot of forced errors.
Maria broke Frazier 5 times from 8 break-points, and was broken 3 times from 6 break-points. It was a scrappy match, with Maria's sporadic brilliance overcoming Frazier's stickability in the end.
Suddenly Maria's arms shot up, a dazzling smile on her face. As she jogged to the net she looked up to the sky as though to Heaven; indeed, she seemed to be thanking God. She looked back down and pumped both fists as the ecstasy surged through her body.
Maria had just won her first Wimbledon quarter-final to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final. And I've never seen a tennis-player look more genuinely overjoyed than Maria did at 16:14 BST on that Tuesday afternoon - it was certainly a marked contrast to the winners' muted celebrations in certain recent homonational women's Grand Slam finals.
Maria had just won a mentally-taxing two-hour Centre-Court battle with Ai Sugiyama, seeded two places higher at 11. Maria had hit terrific shots, but they kept coming back as Sugiyama displayed immense retrieval abilities. It was a classic case of the irresistable force against the immovable object, until Sugiyama finally ran her little legs off, and Maria went for the jugular to record a 5-7 7-5 6-1 victory.
"Ever I hewed him, and ever he clung to me, until finally I threw down my enemy and his fall broke the mountainside."
[Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings]
The match started at 14:13, with Maria serving first. She held serve easily to 15 with an ace out wide and a service-winner, unfazed by Sugiyama's crosscourt forehand return-winner at 40/0.
"She has this real presence on a tennis-court, she has star-quality, she's very threatening on the return of serve" [commentator Annabel Croft]. Maria hit a forehand return-winner into Sugiyama's forehand-corner, and had two break-points at 15/40. But she squandered them with two netted shots. Maria had a third break-point, but Sugiyama saved it with a forehand winner down the line behind Maria. Sugiyama held for 1-1 after three deuces, showing (according to commentator Bill Threlfall) impressive serving for one of 5'4", and good variety.
Maria held to love for 2-1, with an off-forehand winner off a short return, a breathtaking crosscourt backhand winner, and a short-angled crosscourt backhand winner off a short return. Bill Threlfall praised the smoothness of Maria's service-action, and Annabel Croft contrasted Maria's start with her nervous French Open quarter-final.
Sugiyama struggled on serve again, with some venomous but errant hitting from Maria. After two deuces, Sugiyama held for 2-2 with a forehand volley-winner off a weak forehand from Maria.
Maria served a double fault, but held to 15 for 3-2, hitting a forehand volley-winner after two floaters from Sugiyama. Maria was holding serve easily while Sugiyama was struggling to hold... but by the end of the first set it would be completely the opposite.
Sugiyama had her first easy service-game to hold to love for 3-3, finishing with an ace out wide. Maria held to 15 for 4-3, finishing with a crosscourt forehand winner. Sugiyama was hitting her groundstrokes at over 60mph, but Maria was hitting hers over 80mph!
Sugiyama held to 15 for 4-4, finishing with a forehand winner down the line. Bill Threlfall praised Maria's "very amazing grunt." He said it was like a "song-grunt", starting low and getting higher as the rally progressed.
Maria went 30/15 up on serve with an ace down the middle that curved away beautifully from Sugiyama, and a forehand drive-volley winner. Sugiyama hit a forehand pass-winner. 30/30. Maria hit a forehand drop-volley winner after some deep, aggressive hitting. 40/30. Double fault. 40/40. Service-winner. Advantage Maria. Maria forehand just wide. Deuce #2. Ace down the middle. Advantage Maria. Maria netted a backhand. Deuce #3. Maria forehand wide. Advantage Sugiyama (break-point). Service-winner. Deuce #4. Ace down the middle. Advantage Maria. She hit a short service-winner onto the sideline. 5-4.
The commentators questioned Maria's tactical variety as she struggled against Sugiyama's defences. They also said she wasn't reading Sugiyama's serve to her forehand as Sugiyama hit a service-winner. Maria suffered a momentary lapse in concentration as she left a forehand winner down the line from Sugiyama, and Sugiyama held for 5-5 with a backhand winner down the line.
Maria was broken to 15 as she committed a double fault and three errors; thus Sugiyama served for the first set at 6-5. Maria went for a crosscourt backhand winner, but it was just wide. 15/0. Maria netted a forehand. 30/0. Maria forehand wide. 40/0. Sugiyama hit a good serve out wide, forcing Maria to mishit a backhand return wide. Sugiyama won the first set 7-5 at 14:58.
Maria's winner:unforced-error ratio for the first set was 13:21, compared with 8:4 for Sugiyama. These ratios would be completely reversed, even in the second set.
Maria came out quickly from the set-break, but she looked anxious and flustered for much of the second set. She seemed to be running out of ideas with no Plan B, and playing more cautiously, which handed the initiative over to Sugiyama somewhat. Sugiyama's plucky body-language was a contrast to Maria's cool body-language - Sugiyama seemed to be enjoying the fight, whereas Maria seemed more anxious to win.
Serving first in the second set, Maria won a 17-stroke rally with a backhand into Sugiyama's backhand-corner, followed by a backhand volley, followed by a short crosscourt forehand volley, followed by a backhand pass-winner down the line. All that just for 15/0. She hit a service-winner into Sugiyama's body for 30/0, made two errors for 30/30, and benefitted from two Sugiyama errors to hold to 30 for 1-0.
Sugiyama held to love for 1-1 with two service-winners. Maria held to love for 2-1, serving and volleying at 30/0 with a deep forehand volley followed by a two-handed backhand volley-winner crosscourt.
Maria had 0/30 after Sugiyama double-faulted, but wasted the opening with two return-errors. She hit a backhand winner down the line off a floater to get to 40/40, then justified why she goes for her returns with a stinging crosscourt forehand return to set up a crosscourt backhand winner and give herself break-point. But she made two errors, and Sugiyama played a dominating rally ending with a forehand volley-winner to hold for 2-2.
Maria held to 15 for 3-2 with a backhand winner down the line, and a serve-and-volley point with an "amazing" forehand drop-volley winner.
Maria got to 15/30 on Sugiyama's serve with a long rally ending with a backhand winner down the line, and Sugiyama double-faulted to give Maria one break-point at 30/40. Maria netted a forehand pass. 40/40. Sugiyama hit a defensive forehand lob long. Advantage Maria (break-point #2). Maria hit a backhand return long - she had now wasted all seven of her break-points so far in this match. Deuce #2. Sugiyama netted a backhand. Advantage Maria (break-point #3). Sugiyama netted another backhand as Maria broke for the first time in the match, to lead 4-2.
Although she hit a short-angled ace out wide, Maria seemed mentally tired as she got broken back immediately to 15 with a double fault and three errors (one forced by Sugiyama's presence at the net). 4-3.
Maria didn't seem to be thinking clearly as she attempted - and netted - a backhand dropshot from behind the baseline off a hard, deep shot on Sugiyama's serve at 3-4. But she recovered from 40/15 with a superb forehand pass-winner down the line with topspin and sidespin, followed by a high forehand volley-winner, and a crosscourt forehand return-winner to give herself break-point. She hit a forehand wide, but then hit a backhand return-winner into Sugiyama's backhand-corner to give herself another break-point. But Maria missed a forehand pass wide with the court open, and two errors later, Sugiyama held for 4-4.
Maria hit a crosscourt forehand volley-winner and an off-forehand smash-winner for 30/15, but Sugiyama hit a backhand return-winner down the line, and Maria netted a backhand to go break-point down at 30/40. Three errors later it was the second deuce, and Maria hit two service-winners to hold for 5-4, forcing Sugiyama to serve to stay in the second set.
Maria hit a fantastic lob over Sugiyama's head to set up a crosscourt forehand volley-winner onto the sideline and give herself three set-points at 0/40. But she missed two returns, and Sugiyama saved the third with a forehand winner down the line, and levelled up at 5-5 after two Maria errors. Bill Threlfall said Maria had to play more according to the score and her opponent's changing abilities, as Sugiyama was making plenty of errors herself by now.
Maria went 40/0 up on serve with a curvaceous serve down the middle to set up a crosscourt backhand winner, and a crosscourt forehand winner. But they vanished as quickly as the three set-points in the previous game, as Maria sliced a backhand long, Sugiyama hit a forehand return-winner down the line, and came to the net to force Maria to hit a backhand wide. Maria hit a crosscourt forehand winner to give herself another game-point, and Sugiyama netted a backhand volley off a forehand pass down the line from Maria.
Thus Sugiyama was serving to stay in the second set at 5-6. Maria hit a down-the-line forehand which forced Sugiyama to net a backhand lob. 0/15. Maria hit an 82mph off-forehand return-winner onto the sideline. 0/30. Sugiyama netted a forehand pass. 0/40 (three break-points). Maria netted a forehand return off a good serve down the middle. 15/40. Maria hit a short-angled crosscourt backhand which forced Sugiyama to hit a backhand long. Maria won the second set 7-5 at 15:50.
The third set started in the same hard-fought vein as the first two. Maria hit a 103mph ace out wide for 30/15, but Sugiyama hit a wonderful early off-forehand return-winner for 30/30. Maria hit a backhand just long to give away break-point at 30/40, but saved it with a trademark crosscourt backhand winner. Maria opened the court but netted a forehand to give Sugiyama another break-point, saving it with a forehand volley-winner off a low dipping crosscourt forehand pass from Sugiyama. Fast-forward a few errors and an ace out wide by Maria, and she held for 1-0 after the fourth deuce, hitting a backhand winner down the line with Sugiyama leaning the other way.
Sugiyama held to 30 for 1-1 as Maria made four errors including two missed forehand returns.
But Sugiyama clearly looked tired as Maria held to love for 2-1 with a virtual forehand winner down the line, and a wide-angled serve to set up an off-forehand volley-winner. If Maria had been mentally tired in the second set, Sugiyama was now physically tired after fighting so hard.
Moreover, Maria had moved up a gear, and seemed to be learning as she went along, now attacking Sugiyama's forehand more as the Plan B that had been lacking earlier in the match. She broke Sugiyama to love for 3-1, with a backhand winner down the line at 0/15 that Daniela Hantuchová would have been proud of.
Maria hit a crosscourt forehand volley-winner to win her ninth point in a row against Sugiyama, and broke her again to 30 for a chance to serve for the match at 5-1.
Maria was in a total zone as she hit two service-winners down the middle and an ace out wide to give herself three match-points at 40/0. She hit a serve down the middle, Sugiyama a forehand return, Maria a crosscourt backhand, and Sugiyama hit a backhand wide. It was at precisely 16:14 and 30 seconds that Maria sealed her victory.
Maria gave an emotional interview to the BBC immediately she came off court:
"I'm almost speechless. All the hard work and sacrifices make this amazing. I don't know how it happened. I was down the whole match and felt like I had no chance, but that moment at the end made it all worthwhile. I always wanted to play on Centre Court, but never thought about reaching the semi-finals. Moments like these are the ones to savour."
That Maria was by far the more aggressive player is clearly reflected in the statistics: Maria had a winner:unforced-error ratio of 44:41, compared with 13:15 for Sugiyama. Maria also won 16 of 20 points at the net; Sugiyama 7 of 11. I'm surprised Sugiyama doesn't come to the net more in singles, given that she's a fantastic volleyer in doubles.
Maria got 65% of first serves in (Sugiyama 67%), winning 73% of the points when she did so, and 58% of the points on her second serve (Sugiyama 61%, 54%). Maria hit 9 aces and 4 double faults, Sugiyama one ace and 5 doubles.
Maria's average first-serve speed was only 2mph faster at 100mph than Sugiyama's, although her fastest serve was 8mph faster at 112mph, and her average second-serve speed was 9mph faster at 93mph.
Maria broke 4 times from 17 break-points, Sugiyama twice from 11.
Maria produced an amazing comeback to defeat fifth seed, former world number one and 1999 Wimbledon champion Lindsay Davenport 2-6 7-6 (7/5) 6-1 to reach her first Grand Slam final. Davenport seemed to be in total control at 6-2 3-1 up, then Maria changed the rotation of the earth.
Maria: "She's won this tournament and I want this tournament. I want it very bad. When you have a big passion, then you're going to give it your all."
Davenport: "I've always said I'm a huge fan of her game. She serves well and hits big groundstrokes, so I'll be trying to serve consistently and get ahead in the rally to get the offensive."
Davenport's plan worked perfectly in the first half of the match, getting on top of the rallies early with her serve and her return, but then it was Maria who took the initiative, getting Davenport off-balance so that she was less effective.
Davenport won the toss and elected to receive, and the match started at 13:12 BST on that second Thursday. Maria netted a forehand, but hit a service-winner to make it 15/15, then there was a rain-delay from 13:13 to 13:40.
After a three-minute warm-up (as allowed for delays between 15 and 30 minutes), play resumed at 13:40, and Maria made two errors to give Davenport two break-points at 15/40. Maria saved the first with a short-angled crosscourt backhand to exploit Davenport's lack of mobility and force her to net a backhand, but Davenport converted the second when Maria netted a backhand.
Davenport held to love for 2-0 with a service-winner, a wide serve to set up a crosscourt forehand winner, and an ace out wide.
Maria hit a service-winner, a crosscourt forehand winner that clipped the net, and went 40/0 up. Davenport hit a crosscourt backhand to set up a crosscourt forehand winner, but Maria held to 30 for 1-2 when Davenport netted a forehand.
Davenport held to 30 for 3-1 with three service-winners and an ace down the middle, although Maria hit a fabulous running forehand pass-winner down the line behind Davenport at 40/15.
Maria showed great footwork: taking little backward steps in order to hit an inside-out forehand winner down the line on the rise; she also hit two regular forehand winners down the line to hold to 15 for 2-3.
Maria earned a break-point at 30/40 with an amazing short, acute-angled crosscourt backhand winner, a brilliant crosscourt backhand winner just inside the sideline, and a forehand return-winner down the line. But Davenport saved it with a service-winner, and held for 4-2 with an ace down the middle.
Maria served two double faults in a row, and Davenport hit a forehand drive-volley winner for three break-points at 0/40. Maria saved the first two with a virtual ace out wide and a down-the-line forehand winner onto the sideline, but Davenport converted the third with an off-forehand winner into Maria's backhand-corner to break to 30.
Thus Davenport was serving for the first set with new balls at 5-2. Maria forehand just wide. 15/0. Maria forehand very long. 30/0. Maria crosscourt forehand winner onto the sideline. 30/15. Davenport hit two service-winners in a row, and won the first set 6-2 at 14:05.
Davenport opened the second set by hitting a backhand long, and screamed! She hit a forehand volley-winner to give herself two break-points at 15/40. Maria saved the first with a bunted forehand whose depth forced Davenport to net a backhand, but conceded her serve at 30/40 with a wild forehand long.
As in the first set, Davenport held for 2-0 (to 30) with two service-winners and two aces down the middle.
Crucially, Maria survived a game of three deuces and two break-points to hold for 1-2 before the rain came. She got to 40/30 with a backhand drive-volley winner and two service-winners, but netted two backhands to give Davenport break-point. Maria saved it with a brilliant crosscourt backhand winner onto the sideline; she then netted another backhand, but saved the second break-point with a backhand down the line off which Davenport netted a forehand. Davenport hit a forehand return wide, and Maria hit a service-winner to make it 1-2.
Then there was another rain-delay, from 14:19 to 15:11 (entitling them to a five-minute warm-up), which Maria spent reading _OK_ (a celebrity-gossip magazine). The interim reports on CEEFAX and Teletext were along the lines of "RAIN DELAYS DAVENPORT FINAL CHARGE", and indeed it would take an unbelievable miracle for Maria to turn this match around now, and it was obvious that the miracle would definitely end if Maria reached a final against Serena Williams...
Upon the resumption, Davenport held to 30 for 3-1 with an ace down the middle, a backhand winner down the line, and a backhand volley-winner (Maria hit a crosscourt forehand pass-winner at 40/15).
Maria held to love for 2-3 with a service-winner, an ace out wide, an off-forehand winner, and a crosscourt forehand winner.
With Davenport serving at 3-2 with a break, Maria hit a crosscourt forehand winner. 0/15. Virtual ace down the middle. 15/15. Maria hit a fabulous crosscourt backhand onto the sideline. 15/30. Service-winner. 30/30. Double fault. 30/40 (break-point). Davenport forehand just wide. 3-3.
In the blink of an eye, the momentum of the match had shifted. Maria was taking the initiative now, going for bigger second serves, getting Davenport off-balance to make her less effective.
With Maria serving at 3-3, Davenport hit a backhand winner down the line, but Maria recovered from 15/30 with an ace out wide, and held to 30 for 4-3 with a crosscourt backhand winner and a service-winner.
With Davenport serving at 3-4 40/15, Maria pegged her back to 40/40 with a forehand return-winner down the line, followed by a searing crosscourt backhand return-winner on the sideline (Davenport queried the call). But two Maria errors later, Davenport levelled up at 4-4. Maria was now in `squeaking' mode.
Maria was in trouble in her next service-game, recovering from 15/30 with a powerful service-winner out wide, and from 30/40 - a break-point which would have left Davenport serving for a 6-2 6-4 victory - with an ace out wide. Maria held for 5-4 after one deuce with an off-forehand to force Davenport to net a one-handed backhand.
Maria hit an error-forcing crosscourt forehand return, with interest at 86mph, but Davenport responded with a short crosscourt forehand winner onto the sideline. 15/15. Davenport held to 30 for 5-5 with an off-forehand winner and an ace down the middle.
Maria double-faulted, but hit a crosscourt forehand winner for 15/15. She hit a service-winner, but two errors to go down 30/40 - a break-point which would have left Davenport serving for a 6-2 7-5 victory. Maria saved it with a service-winner down the middle, followed by a backhand volley-winner... and held for 6-5 after the second deuce.
Davenport held to 15 for 6-6 with an off-forehand winner, a backhand winner down the line and a service-winner. The second set would be decided by a tiebreak.
Maria hit a forehand wide to give Davenport the first mini-break. 0/1. Maria, grunting louder, hit a forehand winner down the line behind Davenport. 1/1. Maria hit a crosscourt forehand winner at 84mph to go up a mini-break. 2/1. Davenport netted a backhand volley. 3/1. Maria double-faulted. 3/2. Maria hit a backhand long, and screamed. 3/3. Maria hit a forehand winner down the line off a short ball. 4/3. Maria hit an off-forehand winner and shouted "Come on." 5/3. Maria forehand volley-winner. 6/3 (three set-points). Maria netted a forehand return. 6/4. Maria forehand just wide. 6/5. With the third set-point on her own serve, Maria hit a backhand winner down the line, and won the second set 7-6 (7/5) at 15:52.
The first four games of the third set followed the same pattern of breaks and holds, but with Maria serving first! She broke Davenport in the first game after a marathon game of six deuces. Davenport hit a forehand winner down the line, but at 30/15 Maria hit an early, searing crosscourt backhand return-winner. Maria hit a crosscourt backhand winner just inside the sideline for break-point at 30/40, which Davenport saved with an off-forehand winner. Maria hit a backhand pass-winner down the line to get another break-point and shouted "COME ON!" After the third deuce, Maria fended off a game-point with a beautiful short-angled crosscourt backhand winner. On the fifth deuce, Davenport double-faulted to give Maria a third break-point, but saved it with a forehand drive-volley winner. On the sixth deuce, Davenport netted a backhand off a deep backhand return, then hit a forehand long to give Maria the break.
Maria was reading the Davenport serve better now, and moving around whilst waiting to receive serve.
Maria held to 30 for 2-0 with an ace out wide onto the sideline, and a service-winner down the middle onto the centre-line.
Davenport had to save break-point at 30/40 just to win her lone game of the third set, after Maria hit a backhand winner down the line at 30/30. Maria squandered it by netting a forehand, and Davenport escaped with an ace down the middle and some more Maria errors to hold for 1-2 after two deuces.
Maria seemed to tighten up a little as she netted a forehand, and Davenport had her at 15/30 with a crosscourt backhand to set up an off-backhand winner. Maria held for 3-1 after two deuces, with the help of a forehand winner down the line, an ace out wide, and a backhand winner down the line.
Maria wasted a break-point at 30/40 by netting a forehand return, but broke for 4-1 after one deuce with an off-forehand return-winner. Now it was Davenport on the back foot, and Maria was very intense, pumping her fist and shouting "come on" after winning points, and shouting "no" after making errors.
Maria held to love for 5-1 with a service-winner down the middle, an ace down the middle, and a couple of netted groundstrokes from Davenport, who seemed to have no fight left in her. Davenport had lost her composure, while Maria was showing great composure.
Serving to stay in the match at 1-5, Davenport hit a forehand long, let out a high-pitched yelp... and smiled! 0/15. Davenport hit a backhand wide. 0/30. Davenport hit a short-angled crosscourt forehand-winner. 15/30. Ace out wide. 30/30. Maria, looking much hungrier than Davenport, hit a running crosscourt backhand pass-winner. 30/40 (match-point). Davenport hit a serve down the middle, Maria a forehand return, and Davenport hit a forehand long. Maria won the match 2-6 7-6 (7/5) 6-1 at 16:24 and 55 seconds.
Maria's celebrations weren't quite as extravagant IMO as when she won her quarter-final, but she had a lovely smile on her face, and put her hand over her mouth. As she signed autographs, a couple of fans copped a feel of her sexy shoulders! :lick:
"This is unbelievable. I don't know how I'm in the final. It's amazing, it's my favourite Grand Slam, and I never expected to do so well here so early. I knew she was a champion and had the experience, but I just tried to find a way to win.
"I just kept believing in myself. I was there to have fun. She had all the experience, and somehow I tried to find a way. I got that break in the second and turned it around.
"I never thought about getting so far at seventeen years old. But I always believed in myself, and I knew that I could do it. Lindsay is such a great player, to beat her here in the semi-finals is amazing. In order to beat her, you must be playing at a good level."
"In the second set I had a few chances, and every time she came up with the goods. I had a few break-point opportunities, and every time I got aced or an unreturnable serve. When we came back after the rain-break, she stepped up her game and was more in charge than I was. She started to serve better, and I started to serve worse.
"She came back hitting the ball harder after the rain-delay, and it was hard to get control of a rally. I felt like she was hitting it with more authority.
"It was tough to take. It was a little bittersweet to walk off somewhere I have had some great victories and moments in my career.
"I'd be surprised if I was back [at Wimbledon]. I've had an amazing and very long career, but the wins don't get me as excited any more, and the losses don't hurt as much. I can't see myself back here in six, twelve months. I hope to finish out the year, that would be ideal."
Maria's overall winner:unforced-error ratio was an amazing 46:25, Davenport 26:17. Even in the first set, Maria's was 11:4, Davenport 7:3. It was a very high-quality match; no doubt a "forced errors" statistic would be very revealing, with the pace that both players hit the ball.
It was a baseline-oriented match, with Maria winning 5 out of 7 points at the net, Davenport 7 out of 12.
Maria got 60% of first serves in, winning 74% of the points when she did so, and 42% on second serve. Davenport got 68% of first serves in, winning 70% of points on first serve, 31% on second serve. Maria, who served slightly faster than Davenport, served 6 aces and 8 double faults, Davenport 9 aces and 6 doubles.
Maria broke 4 times from 10 break-points, Davenport 3 times from 11. In the second set, Davenport broke once from 6 break-points, while Maria only had the one break-point and converted it!
Sorry for the delay - I am busy working since last week and until the Athens Olympics (which Maria sadly won't be playing in because five Russians were ranked above her at the time of selection, and only three players from each country may play singles).
As we all know, Saturday 3rd July 2004 went down in history as the day when Maria won her first Grand Slam title - the first Russian ever to win Wimbledon, the third-youngest player to win Wimbledon after Lottie Dodd and Martina Hingis, and the lowest-ranked player to win Wimbledon at #15 - with a sensational 6-1 6-4 victory over two-time defending champion Serena Williams, the top seed although ranked only #10.
Williams looked a shadow of the player who won Wimbledon in 2002 and 2003. No doubt this was partly due to "young-upstart syndrome", where an experienced player is expected to win against a talented youngster who has no respect for reputation, and the experienced player puts too much pressure on herself to win because she doesn't want to be shown to be inadequate by a 17-year-old.
It was amazing to see Maria dominating Williams in so many of the rallies - very hard to do because Williams moves so well and is so powerful herself. Maria had Williams constantly off-balance with a dreamlike blend of pace and placement, as she varied the length and angles of her groundstrokes masterfully, to either hit winners or force Williams into error. I've never seen Williams have to hit so many balls off the back foot.
Maria seemed destined to win Wimbledon after her miraculous turn-around against Lindsay Davenport in the semi-finals. Maria has a huge serve, a good second serve (which doesn't sit up with topspin like Williams's second serve), huge flat groundstrokes that skid through on grass, clever use of angles, and a wonderful instinct for which shot to hit. She is a fearless competitor, and does not flinch in sight of victory.
"I have always been a competitor throughout my whole career. I just wanted to compete and play against girls or boys, older or younger. I play a lot with instinct.
"I haven't been nervous throughout this whole tournament, I've just been out enjoying myself. Nerves are part of tennis. I like that part. It keeps you motivated, keeps you wanting to be in those situations and get out of them by winning.
"Serena's very tough and she's a fighter. We share those similarities so I'm looking forward to a very tough match. What I've been doing these past two weeks is just playing my game. It doesn't matter who I play. I just want to go out and I want to have fun. It's my first Wimbledon final. It's an amazing feeling.
"I'm pretty calm and I've been enjoying the moment, but when I think about being in the final, it gives me goosebumps."
John McEnroe said, "This girl is not afraid. She actually believes that she can win the title this year. And, with Serena not quite at the top of her game, Sharapova will go into the final on Saturday thinking she has a chance.
"She is not as comfortable or proficient at the net as Amélie Mauresmo, but she went out thinking she could win against Lindsay Davenport. By the middle of the second set, she thought she should win. Sharapova seems to learn with every set of every match she plays. I have seen her before, but did not realise how good she really is."
Serena Williams went into the final as heavy favourite to win the title, but one who did give Maria a chance was Tracy Austin. "I am far less sure [about Williams] than I have been in the last few years."
Williams is not the force she was before her eight-month injury lay-off (after she won Wimbledon 2003). Her serve remains supreme (she hit one of 126mph against Tatiana Golovin - the fastest ever by a woman at Wimbledon), but her forehand (one of her most potent weapons) can be wayward, and her decision-making sometimes baffling.
Williams put a lot of pressure on herself to win Wimbledon for the third year in a row, saying it would be "the most special moment" of her career. "It's been a tough road back, I was really struggling. It seems like people always expect me to win, but it's not that easy. I'm proud of myself to have come through.
"I wish I was getting ready to fight Venus in the final, but I can't think about that. Maria's a tough player. She's solid on all sides. She hits good angles. She doesn't seem to get too distracted.
"She's a better player than she was in Miami [Serena beat Maria 6-4 6-3], but I'm a better player too. She played pretty tough against me, but we've definitely both improved, so I think it's going to be a good show.
"I think she is doing a really great job. I saw her when she was about 12, practising so hard. She wants to come out and win. I will have to play well and have fun.
"When I was young, I was determined to really fight when I played my first Grand Slam final [Serena won the US Open 1999 at the age of 17]. You run so much on adrenaline that experience doesn't really mean much."
Williams's pre-final press-conference turned surreal with the following dialogue which must surely rival the Cowboy scene in the David Lynch film Mulholland Drive for cryptic prophesy!
WILLIAMS: The lion is king of the forest, but the tiger is king of the jungle.
REPORTER: What? We need a translation. What is Sharapova?
WILLIAMS: It's not for me to figure it. I have.
Richard Williams was interviewed on BBC television just before the final, and I'm very pleased that Maria made him eat his words after he was asked whether he thought his daughter would win! "She certainly will, without a doubt. And I think she wanna do it today, too."
The players had a long and no doubt nerve-wracking wait for two o'clock to strike in the little room by Centre Court. This was shown on BBC television: Maria was standing behind Serena.
Maria won the toss (she called heads) and elected to serve - a sign of confidence and a statement of intent.
Maria actually left the court during the warm-up, presumably to take a preventative pee! :unsure: She did the same thing just before the doubles final at Birmingham (which she won with Maria Kirilenko).
The match itself started at 14:12 BST. On the first point, Williams hit a two-handed forehand return long. As a devout Selesian, this was cool to see. Williams would hit two more two-handed forehands in the match, losing all three points when she did so.
Maria held to 30 with a service-winner and two backhands wide from Williams (who hit an off-forehand return-winner at 40/0, but hadn't found her range yet). I was very pleased to see Maria get on the scoreboard straight away, as you never feel involved in a final until you've won your first game.
Williams held to love for 1-1 with a backhand winner down the line, a service-winner down the middle and two backhand errors from Maria.
Maria went 0/30 down on serve after a Williams crosscourt backhand winner. She recovered to 30/30 with a bunted forehand winner down the line off a hard crosscourt forehand-return, moved to 40/30 with a crosscourt backhand winner, and held for 2-1 with a deep error-forcing backhand down the line which caused Williams to break a string.
Maria got 0/15 on Williams's serve with a crosscourt forehand pass-winner onto the sideline after incredible defence earlier in the rally. Williams recovered to 30/15 with a service-winner and an ace down the middle, but committed three unforced errors as Maria broke to 30 for 3-1.
Maria held to 15 for 4-1 with a crosscourt backhand winner off a short mishit return from Williams, and two more unsuccessful two-handed forehand returns from Williams - the last one off a good serve into Williams's body.
Maria was in a total zone now, forcing Williams into error with a very acute crosscourt forehand, and getting two break-points at 15/40. These Williams saved, and she saved a third break-point with a backhand winner down the line. But Maria converted her fourth break-point (after the second deuce) with a crosscourt backhand return-winner. It was Williams who was doing the loud grunting.
Thus Maria served for the first set at 5-1... and this was the only game in the match where she got nervous, committing three unforced errors to go two break-points down at 15/40. She saved the first rather luckily with a forehand netcord winner (Williams had the momentum in the rally), and the second with a service-winner out wide. Maria saved a third break-point when Williams netted a forehand return off a bad bounce, wasted her first set-point by netting a forehand, and Williams saved Maria's second set-point with a crosscourt backhand winner onto the sideline. Maria double-faulted on her third set-point, but after the fifth deuce, Williams netted a forehand return on Maria's fourth set-point. Maria won the first set 6-1 at 14:42 and 53 seconds.
Williams held to 30 in an error-strewn first game of the second set. Williams was going for too much, and Maria deserves credit for making her feel she had to.
After a double-fault and two forehand errors, Maria found herself facing break-point at 0-1 30/40. She saved it with a terrific spreading rally: Maria hit a wide-angled crosscourt forehand, Williams slipped and fell over as she hit a crosscourt forehand back, and Maria patted a forehand winner into the wide open court. Maria hit an ace down the middle, plumb on the junction of service-line and centre-line, and held for 1-1 with a forehand volley-winner. Williams had now failed to convert any of four break-points she held in the match.
Maria got 0/15 on Williams's serve by hitting a short, exaggerated sliced backhand with vicious sidespin that curled into Williams's body, followed by a backhand pass off which Williams hit an attempted forehand volley off the frame of her racket, and the ball biffed her on the nose! But Williams recovered to hold to 15 for 2-1 with a crosscourt forehand winner, an ace out wide, and two forehands wide from Maria.
John McEnroe praised Maria's physical fitness and muscle-definition, but said her legs could get stronger - not that he's been checking out those sexy long legs! :lick: Maria does Yoga, which makes her very aware of how to prevent injuries and get stronger.
Maria got Williams on the back foot to lead 30/0 on serve at 1-2, but Williams took her to 30/30 with two backhand winners down the line. Maria played a dominating rally, culminating with an off-backhand to set up a forehand winner down the line. Williams's footwork let her down again as she mishit a forehand, failing to make that all-important little adjustment step as Maria held to 30 for 2-2.
Williams held to love for 3-2 as Maria hit two consecutive forehand returns long, Williams hit a high forehand volley-winner, and Maria mishit a forehand.
Maria struggled with the wind as she double-faulted, and missed a backhand off a Williams crosscourt backhand that didn't bounce. 0/30. Maria was in squeaking mode as she hit a forehand winner down the line behind Williams. 15/30. Williams broke a string as she hit an awesome short backhand return-winner onto the sideline - "Shank you very much!" [Tracy Austin]. 15/40 (two break-points). Williams hit a forehand long in the wind. 30/40. Maria netted a backhand off a deep crosscourt backhand from Williams, who thus broke for 4-2.
But Maria, like all great champions, broke back immediately. Maria hit a short crosscourt forehand, forcing Williams to slice a forehand long. 0/15. Williams netted a forehand return. 0/30. A wide serve onto the sideline forced Maria to hit a forehand lob-return long. 15/30. Maria played a dominating rally: she hit a crosscourt forehand, and Williams curiously waited on that side of the court, failing to anticipate a forehand down the line from Maria that forced Williams to hit a one-handed backhand long. Maria pumped her fist and stared Williams down as she had two break-points at 15/40. Maria hit a deep off-backhand return just inside the baseline, forcing Williams to hit a forehand wide.
David Mercer praised Maria's composure, calling her an "ice-maiden". "Not ice-maiden, because she shows a lot of emotion" [Tracy Austin]. Maria shrugged off a double fault to hold to 15 and level up at 4-4, with a brilliant instinctive backhand lob-winner over Williams's head and a service-winner.
The key game of the match was when Williams served at 4-4. With a spectacular backhand return-winner down the line, a whipped crosscourt backhand winner, and a deep error-forcing backhand return off a tentative second serve, Maria earned herself two break-points at 15/40 which would have left her serving for the match at 5-4. But she squandered them with two backhand errors. At 40/40, Williams ballooned a backhand long and wide, her coarse footwork betraying nerves. Advantage Maria (break-point #3). Maria hit a short two-handed sliced backhand return, but Williams ran it down with a nervous grunt, and Maria netted a forehand. Deuce #2. Service-winner. Advantage Williams.
At this point, I was thinking that those three missed break-points might prove crucial if Maria had to serve to stay in the second set at 4-5. But Maria saved Williams's game-point with the best point of the Wimbledon 2004 Championships: she hit a short crosscourt forehand, whereupon the crowd started roaring; Williams hit a crosscourt forehand, Maria a bunted forehand, Williams a backhand, and finally Maria hit a crosscourt forehand winner right into Williams's forehand-corner, and the roaring turned into huge applause. It was one of those amazing rallies so dramatic that the world seems to go into slow motion.
Deuce #3. Service-winner. Advantage Williams. Maria hit an instinctive forehand lob-winner. Deuce #4. Williams netted a backhand volley. Advantage Maria (break-point #4). Maria hit a short backhand return which caught Williams by surprise: she stumbled and hit a forehand wide, giving Maria the break for 5-4.
Usually, when a player is about to serve to win their first Wimbledon title, the commentators would be talking about how nervous he or she must be feeling, how their heart is about to jump out of their mouth. But here, they just talked about that amazing previous game, how Maria was not only as tough as nails but tough enough to melt nails, and how no Russian lady had ever won Wimbledon, though Olga Morozova was runner-up in 1974. The changeover seemed to pass very quickly.
Maria put in a very professional service-game, only missing one first serve. She dropped the first point by netting a forehand after her slowest first serve of the match. But she hit an ace out wide for 15/15, a service-winner out wide into the corner for 30/15, and Williams netted a forehand return off Maria's only second serve of the game to give her two championship-points at 40/15.
On the first championship-point, Williams hit a backhand return, and someone squealed loudly as if trying to put Maria off. She hit a forehand wide on the fifth stroke of the rally.
On the second championship-point (40/30), Maria hit a let serve, then served down the middle; Williams hit a short forehand return down the middle, Maria a deep forehand, and Williams hit a crosscourt forehand... into the bottom of the net. Maria won 6-1 6-4 at 15:26 and 4 seconds.
Maria hit 17 winners to 14 by Williams, and 11 unforced errors to 10. But Maria made Williams hit a lot of forced errors with her great combination of pace and placement. Maria won a total of 65 points to 53 for Williams.
Maria got 61% of first serves in - the same as Williams - winning 64% of the points when she did so, and an impressive 60% of points on her second serve. Williams won 61% on first serve, 43% on second serve. Perhaps because Williams is shorter than Maria, her second serve has more topspin, and sits up waiting to be hit.
Maria served two aces and four double faults, and Williams beat her in this department with three aces and just one double. Williams's first serve was faster than Maria's on average (108mph to 106mph), and Williams's fastest serve was 119mph while Maria's fastest was 113mph. But again, Maria's second serve was better: 97mph to 86mph.
Maria only came to net four times, but was successful on every occasion - it's something she should do more often on grass, especially when playing a retriever such as Ai Sugiyama. Williams came to the net nine times, but won only three of those points.
Maria sank to her knees, and - as prophesied - covered her face with her hands. She raised her eyes and arms to Heaven... hugged Serena as their fathers (Yuri Sharapov and Richard Williams) hugged each other, shook umpire Alison Lang's hand, hit a ball into the crowd with a big grin on her face, and climbed up into the stands to her father Yuri, who hugged her like she was made of gold.
Maria came back down, blew kisses to the crowd, and was kissed by referee Alan Mills. Yuri threw his mobile phone to Maria so that she could call her mother Yelena, who was in Florida. She caught the phone skillfully, but it kept switching off, so she had to abandon it and get on with the presentation-ceremony. The smile on her face at this point made her look as beautiful as Jelena Dokic.
Williams received the runner-up plate, and Maria the famous Venus Rosewater Dish that all great female players aspire to hold, but few of them ever achieve it. Maria studied the Venus Rosewater Dish closely.
Both players were interviewed on court by Sue Barker: first Serena, then Maria. Maria was very giggly and charming in her interview. When asked if she believed it, she said "No!", and she created an intriguing air of mystique by thanking an anonymous person who inspired her to win Wimbledon. Thanks Maria for not embarrassing me by naming me! ;-)
Then Maria paraded around the four corners of Centre Court with the Venus Rosewater Dish, before leaving the court to do a hundred interviews.
(now with World Team Tennis and Dasha Sharapova - Maria's 9-year-old cousin!)
I'll post a supplementary report containing post-final quotes from Maria, Serena Williams, Virginia Wade and others - probably next weekend, for it will take me considerable time to assemble all the material I want to include.
Dr. Andrew Broad
"It's amazing really, I'm absolutely speechless. It's unreal. I never expected this to happen so fast. It's always been my dream to come here and win, but it was never in my mind that I would do it this year. When I came off court and saw my name on that board with all those champions, that was when I realised what I'd done.
"I'm very surprised by the way I beat her. The first set was very tough, but I felt throughout it I was in control. In the second set I lost my serve, but I got myself together and pulled it off.
"To tell you the truth, I did not have a big tactic going into the match. I did not see her play throughout these two weeks. I play a lot with instinct.
"I owe my mom and dad so much. Me and my dad have been through this together all through my career, and it's just amazing. I know how tough it is to watch, and playing is a lot easier, believe me.
[The night before the final] "I got a terrible sore throat and thought I was going to get sick. I was in tears. I never thought about not playing, but I knew it wasn't a good sign. I just kept believing in myself. I don't know how I won. I was in my own world.
"I switched on the phone but it kept switching off."
"I don't know what happened - I didn't play great and I didn't win. I put a lot of stress on myself, probably too much, going into it. I wanted to win more than anything, and was so focused the day before. There were no ifs and buts.
"This is the final of Wimbledon. Before it was like the fourth round of Nasdaq. And there is a big difference. When anyone's in the final, you're going to give 300%. I think she treed a little bit today.
"She played probably her best tennis of the whole tournament, maybe her life. I was really happy for her. I know that feeling and that moment - there's no better feeling.
"It's not easy to lose the title. Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself. I could say it's an achievement to be here, but to me it's not enough.
"I'm only at 20% right now, and I'm going to triple my effort and do everything I can to play better next time. There's a lot of things I want to work on - my serve and my return. I know I can do things a lot better than I have here.
"I put so much pressure on myself. I didn't do anything I was planning on doing, or had done in previous matches, and I couldn't relax before the match - I'm a perfectionist. All I want to do is play tennis and get better.
"I don't even think of her. I just think about the present, the future and me. I need to focus more on me. If I keep working hard, I'll be back where I belong."
I'm sure it will be many months, if not years, before Serena can go through a day without once thinking about her Wimbledon 2004 defeat and its attractive perpetrator. And I can assure you that, come the US Open, she will not want to be anywhere near Maria in the draw, or even in the same half.
"You will die with my name on your lips - that much I promise you."
[Angie Russell in Home and Away]
It will be very interesting to see whether Serena will ever be ranked higher than Maria again. Right now, Maria is #8 and Serena is #14. You can vote on this in a poll I've created at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeldani/surveys?id=11834668
Virginia Wade (BBC Sport):
"What I really like about Maria Sharapova is she's so focused on court - this girl wants to play tennis. She seems to have her head firmly screwed onto her shoulders.
"Against Serena, she really dominated points - everything we said she would have to watch out for from Serena, she did to Serena. She hit behind Serena, hit short angles and down the line. She hit two lobs that were just absolute instinct. It was a really mature performance for a 17-year-old.
"Maria was on a real high, really in the zone, for the whole match. She is just great fun to watch - and her reaction at winning was so lovely.
"Yes, there is still room for improvement in Maria Sharapova's game. She did not get all that many first serves, though her second serve was very good. But her groundstrokes were fantastic, she moves well, she has great footwork - what else does she have to do? Maybe come to the net a few more times - but that's it."
"It's a fantastic achievement, especially the way she did it. She obviously has the body. Now she's grown into it, and will get stronger. It's great for women's tennis."
Miles Kasiri (boys' singles finalist):
"I knew Maria for about two years, and we trained together a few times with her father. Even when she was thirteen, she used to beat everybody - even the older guys - and she worked so hard."
Maria withdrew from last week's JPMorgan Chase Open at Los Angeles:
"After talking with my advisors, we have made the decision to change my schedule to allow me to get some recovery time. When I planned my summer schedule, I dreamed about - but didn't count on - winning Wimbledon.
"It has been the most unbelievable time of my life. I want to make sure that I stay strong, and play at my highest level for the rest of the season."
Maria's first on-court appearance since winning Wimbledon (apart from a World Team Tennis match on 14th July where she lost 5-3 to a 15-year-old Nicole Vaidisová) will be in the Acura Classic at San Diego later this week (Maria has a bye to the second round).
Dr. Andrew Broad
Thanks a lot for putting that together Andrew :yeah:
Jul 27th, 2004, 01:51 PM
yea andrew thanks for al thsoe great posts...i cud read the one with maria winning wimby all day..
May 17th, 2005, 02:33 AM
At last I have uploaded to my website my long-promised extended Wimbledon 2004 reports! These reports contain point-by-point descriptions of Maria's matches that were televised by the BBC, and transcriptions of her BBC-interviews.