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s_j
Feb 9th, 2008, 09:34 AM
A competitive tennis match tried to break out today inside Rod Laver Arena, where the women's final was held. There were signs, late in the first set, that we might finally receive a compelling contest--Ana Ivanovic, who couldn't control her nerves long enough to toss the ball in the French Open final last year, had found the range on her forehand, recovered from a service break, and moved within two points of the first set against Maria Sharapova when Sharapova served at 4-5, 0-30. Sharapova won the next point with a good serve and then Ivanovic tried a backhand drop shot that barely reached the net. (What is in the water in Serbia? Great players, but none of them can resist the temptation to try a drop shot at the worst possible moment. Perhaps Andy Murray is secretly Serbian.) Sharapova seized control of the set and served beautifully in the second set (she lost two points on serve) to close out the match 7-5, 6-3. She now has three major titles, with only the French Open missing from her collection.

This might have been Sharapova's worst match of the tournament, which says a lot about her level these past two weeks. She might never play better than she did against Justine Henin in the quarterfinals (she's only 20, so there's plenty of time to try) but she didn't need to against either Jelena Jankovic or Ivanovic. The Serbs are fine players and are both ranked higher than Sharapova (who will remain at no. 5) but the rankings don't mean anything. Sharapova is miles ahead of them.

Will she keep her lead? Sharapova has been in this position before, first as a surprise 17-year-old champion at Wimbledon, then as a 19-year-old winner at the U.S. Open. After that U.S. Open final, I was convinced that she would become the game's most dominant player. Injuries kept her down last year. At her press conference, she suggested that she still might not be ready (physically, she said) to string together a lot of titles in a season.

"I don't think that I'm quite physically (ready) and experienced enough to do that," she said. "I know I've already won three Grand Slams. I know I keep saying this, but I don't think I'm at the peak of my career yet. I don't think my body has 100 percent developed into its own. I've got many more things to learn, you know, in my tennis, and many things to build and improve. That takes time."

Unlike the rest of the women in Sharapova's generation, including our Serbian heroines, she has a fully developed will. Ivanovic was feisty today and kept her chin up despite bad form. She's no Sharapova, though. You may not like the way the Russian plays (though I have to say her game has become easier on the eyes), but her competitive spirit is superior to those women who seem likely to be her chief rivals four and five years from now. It's clear, also, that she puts tennis ahead of the gazillion dollar marketing deals she has secured in the last few years.

Michael Joyce, Sharapova's coach, celebrated the victory with a beer and talked about the confidence Sharapova gained from the year-end championships in Madrid, which she almost missed because of a cyst in her left wrist (she couldn't hit a backhand). Sharapova took ten days off after the tournament and then trained in Los Angeles and Florida with Joyce.

"The key to Maria playing well is playing lots of tennis," Joyce said. "You know, there's so many trainers now--she grew up with this [Robert] Lansdorp mentality of hitting a million balls. When she was injured she couldn't do that."

In the off season, she played a lot of matches, played two-on-ones in the morning, and then went to Singapore for an exhibition and four days of practice in the heat. By the time this tournament rolled around, she had absorbed a difficult but rewarding loss against Venus Williams in Hong Kong and learned that she would have to be in good form early on, since Lindsay Davenport would almost certainly meet her in the second round. She aced that test and every other one in what amounted to the most difficult draw of her career. Sharapova didn't drop a set the entire tournament and lost a total of 32 games.

Earlier in the week, I suggested this tournament could mark the beginning of the Sharapova Era that many of us expected to begin in 2004. Perhaps she needs another year or so, as she suggested. But it seems that this time, she's more ready than she lets on.



Do you agree?

spiritedenergy
Feb 9th, 2008, 09:41 AM
no

Shoulderpova
Feb 9th, 2008, 10:21 AM
no

and that comes from an Ivanovic fan :haha:

tennisbear7
Feb 9th, 2008, 10:40 AM
I agree with the article, except with the prognosis.

The women's tour is too strong to have someone dominate. Maria is one to have strong, consistent results every week, but I don't think she can do a Graf or Serena. It's not being negative, it's being realistic. Serena, when dominating, played great, had the speed, serve, power. To say that Maria will do the same and wipe the floor off other great players (Justine, Williamses who Maria seems to have heaps of trouble overcoming)and establish a "Maria Sharapova era" is simply unrealistic. You have to be ultra, ultra special to reallydominate. Just because she won this slam doesn't mean the foundation of her era at all. Henin is a superior player with more skills, and hell she hasn't been able to string together three slams in a year.

To be honest, I think that Maria fans would like to see her slams spread along a long period of time to mark her as one of the greats of the game, not like Serena whose slams are all bunched up (though Serena is one damn fine player, and obviously a hall of famer despite the distractions over the years).

Ben.
Feb 9th, 2008, 10:50 AM
Well I don't think she is gonna dominate the whole game from here onwards, just too many players that are at the same level as her (or even above her - a few) that have the abilty to win slams like Serena, Venus & Justine. Masha will always be around to give the grand slams a good shake or two but she won't be like Federer slam material.

The women's tour just has a lot of depth & you never really know who will pop out of nowhere & win a title these days.

xan
Feb 9th, 2008, 12:55 PM
Good article. I'm sure Maria has a lot more great results in her.

mankind
Feb 9th, 2008, 01:01 PM
I'm not sure about the Sharapova Era, that is, assuming a Graf-like dominance, but I agree that Sharapova does put tennis before everything else, including money and endorsements. She works her butt off unlike many other tennis players her age, which is why the results have come her way. And I also agree that she's more than ready than she lets on, and has much higher expectations than she lets on.

goldenlox
Feb 9th, 2008, 01:05 PM
It seems to me that most players get so nervous in big moments, they hurt their own chances for success.
Maria can play well no matter how pressurized the moment.
That gives her a big edge over the rest of her age group.

Serge007
Feb 9th, 2008, 03:22 PM
She could win GS without dominating.

plantman
Feb 9th, 2008, 04:08 PM
She could win GS without dominating.

:yeah:

morningglory
Feb 9th, 2008, 06:39 PM
A Maria era would have to wait until the sisters and justine retire... then we'll talk.

spiritedenergy
Feb 9th, 2008, 07:53 PM
and that comes from an Ivanovic fan :haha:

the usual answer of Sharapova's fans to everything said by Ana's fans...
Being Ana's fan doesn't mean I can't give opinions on other players:tape::help:

faboozadoo15
Feb 9th, 2008, 08:18 PM
As a fan, you tend to idealize the situations. Seeing how Maria won the US Open and dominated indoors until her match with Justine, it really looked like her era was beginning. And then 2007 happened, her weakest year since breaking through. Now she's had those hardships, bad losses, even early losses which she never had before. She swept through the Australian Open with a very difficult draw, even beating Ivanovic playing by far her worst match of the tournament. She must be swelling with confidence. Her shot selection and general play in pressure moments is undeniably among the very best. The question will be whether her body can hold up to the test. I imagine she'll do well until the clay season comes. If that deflates her sails, it will be interesting to see how she handles the situation and whether she'll still be as strong as she was in Australia.

faboozadoo15
Feb 9th, 2008, 08:20 PM
the usual answer of Sharapova's fans to everything said by Ana's fans...
Being Ana's fan doesn't mean I can't give opinions on other players:tape::help:

Look at what your first post did in this thread. It's painfully obvious you're just trying to undercut Sharapova at every turn, so STFU and get a life.

Sharapova >>>> Ivanovic

spiritedenergy
Feb 9th, 2008, 08:31 PM
Look at what your first post did in this thread. It's painfully obvious you're just trying to undercut Sharapova at every turn, so STFU and get a life.

Sharapova >>>> Ivanovic

OMG what did it do? OMG it was 2 letters, N and O OMG!!!11111 It ruined a thread made to sanctify Saint Maria from Siberia OMG!!!!!

Go preach in hell.

goldenslam888
Feb 9th, 2008, 08:39 PM
maria is by far and away the best of her generation. i could see maria having a dominate year. a graf type era? no. with 3 slams at age 20, i think its obvious she can play with anyone of any era.

faboozadoo15
Feb 9th, 2008, 08:39 PM
Get a life. Anyone with an ounce of maturity or anyone who has taken an introduction to psychology course knows exactly what you're trying to do. And it's pathetic. Clearly just trying to cut down the trees so your sunflower is the tallest thing in sight.

AcesHigh
Feb 9th, 2008, 09:17 PM
Sharapova's unique. She came in at a young age and faced down fearlessly two legends on their best surface and won.
She may not be the most talented of her generation, but the willpower, the mental strength will keep her in contention for every slam until her body doesn't allow her to compete.
This year will obviously be an important one in that this may be the start of Sharapova's era if Justine/Serena/Venus fade or we could see more of the same from the past few years.

youngbuck
Feb 9th, 2008, 09:40 PM
the usual answer of Sharapova's fans to everything said by Ana's fans...
Being Ana's fan doesn't mean I can't give opinions on other players:tape::help:

Yes it does.

goldenslam888
Feb 9th, 2008, 10:57 PM
Sharapova's unique. She came in at a young age and faced down fearlessly two legends on their best surface and won.
She may not be the most talented of her generation, but the willpower, the mental strength will keep her in contention for every slam until her body doesn't allow her to compete.
This year will obviously be an important one in that this may be the start of Sharapova's era if Justine/Serena/Venus fade or we could see more of the same from the past few years.

maria may not be the most talented, but nobody paints the lines like an on form maria.

serena, venus fade? thats already happened. maria really just needs to stay healthy and focused, and she'll have some dominating years. doubt she'll be an evert, martina, or graf, but shes on schedule to win more slams than justine, venus, or serena.

matty
Feb 10th, 2008, 04:17 AM
It seems to me that most players get so nervous in big moments, they hurt their own chances for success.
Maria can play well no matter how pressurized the moment.
That gives her a big edge over the rest of her age group.

So true. Her attitude/self-talk is nothing short of amazing--one of the best, for sure!!!

But will she dominate? I have this weird feeling that her body is going to start to break down and she'll end up being injured a lot.
Like I said, it's just my own personal feeling.