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Old Apr 24th, 2011, 10:37 AM   #19
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Full third-round TV-report for Sharapova v Záhlavová Strýcová

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THE CHAMPIONSHIPS (Wimbledon, London, England; grass; Major)
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Third-round TV-report: Sharapova v Záhlavová Strýcová (Saturday 26th June 2010)
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+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [16,EF] d. Barbora Záhlavová Strýcová, 7-5 6-3

This was a fascinating match, as Záhlavová Strýcová is one of the most emotional and extreme tactical players I’ve ever seen. She mixed up the pace, depth and spins of her shots, and put Maria in all sorts of awkward positions. Záhlavová Strýcová hit numerous dropshots until Maria started reading them, and gave Maria a lot of trouble with dipping passing-shots.

It was an unconvincing performance by Maria, and the way her forehand broke down in this match is serious cause for concern ahead of her next match against Serena Williams, although the challenge that Záhlavová Strýcová presented was completely different to the one that Williams will present.

Ultimately, Maria had too much firepower for Záhlavová Strýcová, whose emotions got in the way at the decisive moments: not least at *5-6 (15/30), when she threw a wobbler when her first serve was called wide, then double-faulted to go SP×2 down.

Maria’s so much better conditioned to handle these pressure-cooker situations, so although she continued to struggle in the second set, the outcome was never in doubt after the aforementioned double fault.

There was an interesting subplot with Hawk-Eye challenges in this match. Maria made several correct challenges in this match: Záhlavová Strýcová got annoyed that Maria was making these challenges, while Maria was annoyed that she had to make these challenges, as the resulting overrules often meant having to replay a point that she would have won already but for a bad call. Záhlavová Strýcová, on the other hand, ran out of challenges in both sets.

Maria’s grunting was exceptionally loud in this match. Perhaps it was just because she had to work really hard to win points, but BBC commentator Simon Reed suggested that she was deliberately raising the volume because she could see that Záhlavová Strýcová was getting upset about it.

Maria made a very bad start to the match, playing a terrible service-game to be broken straight away. She broke straight back courtesy of two double faults, but was broken again for 1-2* as Záhlavová Strýcová mixed power with numerous dropshots, and retrieved very well: making Maria feel a need to hit very close to the lines.

Maria hit a crosscourt forehand winner and a crosscourt backhand winner as she broke back for *2-2, then scored the first hold of the match for 3-2*.

Záhlavová Strýcová came through a tough service-game to hold for 3-3*, then Maria started to read Záhlavová Strýcová’s dropshots, hitting winners off two of them as she held for 4-3*. Záhlavová Strýcová tried to convince the umpire that Maria had touched the net after running down a dropshot.

Maria saved BP at *4-4 (30/40) before coming through a two-deuce service-game to hold to 5-4*. Then they played a mammoth-game of three deuces on Záhlavová Strýcová’s serve: she saved two SPs bravely, going to the net both times.

Maria held to love for 6-5*, reached 40/15* on a double fault as I have already mentioned, and took the first set 7-5 when Záhlavová Strýcová dumped a forehand halfway up the net (and threw her racket).

Záhlavová Strýcová’s body-language looked positive when she broke for 5-7 *1-0, but that soon changed when Maria made yet another successful challenge, and broke back for *1-1. The next three games went with serve: *3-2.

They played a five-deuce marathon, with Maria needing 6 BPs to break for *4-2 – sealed with a blazing backhand return-winner down the line. Maria then came through a four-deuce service-game, saving a BP before holding for 5-2*.

Záhlavová Strýcová looked very positive as she held to love for 3-5*, but Maria then served out the match to love – sealed with a pinpoint ace down the middle.


First set
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SHARAPOVA _@_@*_*_*_*@ 7
ZÁHLAVOVÁ @_@__*_*_*__ 5

The match was second on Court One, and started at 15:22 BST.

Maria serving 0-0: Double fault #1 (second serve into the net). 0/15. Maria’s forehand clipped the netcord and sat up nicely for Záhlavová Strýcová to hit a crosscourt forehand dropshot-winner. 0/30. Maria on the third stroke hit a wild off-forehand wide. 0/40 (BP #1). Maria went to the net, and did well to leave Záhlavová Strýcová’s forehand pass down the middle, which was just long. It could so easily have clipped Maria’s racket. 15/40 (BP #2). Záhlavová Strýcová hit a crosscourt forehand winner, and shouted “c’mon”. Broken.

A very bad start for Maria, and already her chances of beating Serena Williams on Monday are diminishing.

Záhlavová Strýcová serving 0-1: Záhlavová Strýcová on the third stroke hit a cheap forehand long. 15/0. Double fault #1 (second serve clipped the netcord and fell long). 15/15. A longish baseline-rally ended with Maria dumping a horrendous forehand into the net. 30/15. Maria, her grunt rising in pitch, hit an off-forehand winner into the corner. 30/30. Maria hit a pinpoint forehand down the line, forcing Záhlavová Strýcová to earth a backhand. 30/40 (BP #1). Double fault #2 (second serve into the net). Broken.

Tracy Austin said that Maria’s lay-off with an elbow-injury earlier this year was devastating to her emotionally.

Tracy Austin: “Záhlavová Strýcová is a feisty competitor. She’s very quick about the court, will get a lot of balls back in play.”
Simon Reed: “Apparently she has to warm her serve up longer and longer in this comeback.”

Some very heavy breathing could be heard in the BBC’s coverage. It turned out that a ball-boy was crouching right by the effects-microphone. It’s hard work being a ball-person!

Maria serving 1-1: Maria on the third stroke hit a crosscourt forehand wide. 0/15. Deep serve out wide forced Záhlavová Strýcová to hit a forehand long. 15/15. Double fault (second serve into the net). 15/30. Záhlavová Strýcová drew Maria to the net with a dropshot, but Maria’s deep crosscourt forehand forced Záhlavová Strýcová to hit a forehand lob long. 30/30. Maria forced a short ball, but hit a laserlike off-forehand just wide. 30/40 (BP #1). First serve out wide forced a short return, which Maria dispatched with a crosscourt backhand winner onto the sideline. Deuce #1. Záhlavová Strýcová’s forehand dropshot forced Maria to net a forehand. Ad Záhlavová Strýcová (BP #2). Záhlavová Strýcová dominated the point with a good return + deep crosscourt backhand, forcing Maria to net a backhand. Broken.

Maria is struggling to overpower Záhlavová Strýcová, who retrieves very well, and mixes it up with a lot of dropshots as well as power. She’s making Maria feel that Maria has to hit a very close to the lines. I’m beginning to understand how Záhlavová Strýcová beat Daniela Hantuchová in the previous round.

Simon Reed: “Confidence is elusive, but Záhlavová Strýcová seems to have it now, despite having a terrible year.”

Záhlavová Strýcová serving 2-1: Maria forced a short ball, but dumped an off-backhand into the net. 15/0. Maria’s deep return forced Záhlavová Strýcová to net a forehand return. 15/15. Záhlavová Strýcová netted a forehand. 15/30. A meaty rally ended with Maria taking out her frustration with a high crosscourt forehand winner just inside the sideline. 15/40 (BP #1). Maria dumped a forehand into the net. 30/40 (BP #2). Deep body-jamming serve down the middle forced Maria to hit a crosscourt forehand wide. Deuce #1. Maria’s deep crosscourt forehand forced Záhlavová Strýcová to bunt a forehand wide. Ad Maria (BP #3). Maria hit a short-angled crosscourt backhand winner. Broken.

Maria serving 2-2: Záhlavová Strýcová mishit a crosscourt backhand just wide, and yelled in frustration. 15/0. Záhlavová Strýcová forehand long. 30/0. Serve out wide forced Záhlavová Strýcová to net a forehand return. 40/0 (GP #1). Double fault (second serve into the net). 40/15 (GP #2). Záhlavová Strýcová crosscourt forehand wide. Held.

And that, incredibly, was the first hold of the match. Maria’s going to have to hold serve much more reliably if she is to have any chance against Serena Williams, who has looked almost invincible on serve in her first three rounds.

Záhlavová Strýcová serving 2-3: Záhlavová Strýcová hit a pinpoint forehand down the line, but Maria challenged and showed that it was wide by about 2% of the breadth of the sideline. 0/15. Maria ran down a dropshot and netted a forehand. 15/15. Second serve: forehand return long. 30/15. Deep serve out wide: Maria nailed a deep backhand return-winner down the line. 30/30. First serve out wide forced Maria to hit a crosscourt forehand return wide (she said “late” just after hitting it). 40/30 (GP #1). In a long baseline rally, Záhlavová Strýcová mixed up the depth and spins on her shots, but netted a crosscourt backhand. Deuce #1. Záhlavová Strýcová on the third stroke hit a crosscourt forehand dropshot-winner. Ad Záhlavová Strýcová (GP #2). Maria ran down a short-angled crosscourt forehand and hit a forehand winner down the line. Deuce #2. Záhlavová Strýcová’s short-angled crosscourt forehand forced Maria to net a forehand. Ad Záhlavová Strýcová (GP #3). Maria hit a wild forehand long. Held.

Záhlavová Strýcová is mixing up the pace, depth and spins of her shots extremely well, and Maria is getting very frustrated.

Maria serving 3-3: Záhlavová Strýcová hit a short down-the-line forehand just wide. 15/0. Maria ran down a dropshot, hit a crosscourt forehand winner, and Záhlavová Strýcová tried to convince the umpire that Maria had touched the net, which she very nearly did: when Maria’s winner bounced for the second time, she was standing on tiptoes with her racket-arm stretched over the net, but no part of Maria or her racket was actually touching the net. 30/0. Maria hit a deep crosscourt forehand onto the baseline, forcing Záhlavová Strýcová to mishit a forehand just wide. 40/0 (GP #1). Ace down the middle. 40/15 (GP #2). Maria ran down a dropshot and hit an off-backhand winner. Held.

Záhlavová Strýcová’s becoming too predictable with her dropshots now. She’s going to have to use them much more sparingly from now on.

Záhlavová Strýcová serving 3-4 (new balls): Záhlavová Strýcová dumped a forehand into the net, and muttered that she was distracted by Maria’s screaming. 0/15. Maria hit a backhand long. 15/15. Maria forced a floater, but didn’t close into the net, and netted a backhand volley. 30/15. Maria’s backhand was called long, but she called upon Hawk-Eye to show that it was good, so they had to replay the point. With a loud shriek, Maria hit a blazing backhand winner onto the baseline, and Záhlavová Strýcová challenged in vain. Záhlavová Strýcová is getting very emotional. 30/30. Maria went to the net, but Záhlavová Strýcová’s dipping crosscourt backhand forced her to net a backhand half-volley. 40/30 (GP #1). Deep first serve out wide induced Maria to hit a backhand return long. Held.

Maria serving 4-4: Záhlavová Strýcová’s deep crosscourt forehand induced Maria to spray a forehand long. 0/15. Maria went to the net and hit a backhand volley-winner onto the sideline. Záhlavová Strýcová smiled, and shouted “why?” The luck does seem to be going with Maria at the moment. 15/15. Maria hit an off-forehand winner onto the sideline, and Záhlavová Strýcová bent over in frustration, but sensibly didn’t risk her last challenge. 30/15. Maria’s first serve clipped the netcord and landed on the service-line, but was called long. She made a successful challenge to show that it clipped that line, and so she got another first serve. Maria netted a forehand. 30/30. Záhlavová Strýcová’s deep crosscourt backhand forced Maria to net a backhand. 30/40 (BP #1). Maria’s crosscourt forehand forced Záhlavová Strýcová to hit a forehand long. Deuce #1. Záhlavová Strýcová netted a forehand, threw her racket, and muttered. Ad Maria (GP #1). Maria hit a down-the-line forehand would-be winner just wide. Deuce #2. Maria went to the net and hit a crosscourt backhand volley-winner. Ad Maria (GP #2). Deep first serve out wide forced Záhlavová Strýcová to hit a backhand long. Held.

Maria’s grunting is exceptionally loud now – even for her. Simon Reed suggested that she was deliberately upping the volume because she can see that Záhlavová Strýcová is getting upset about it (and a lot of other things). There’s a real personality-clash in this match, which makes for an entertaining subplot.

Záhlavová Strýcová serving 4-5: Záhlavová Strýcová crosscourt backhand winner just inside the sideline. 15/0. Záhlavová Strýcová went to the net, forcing Maria to hit a crosscourt backhand wide. 30/0. Záhlavová Strýcová on the third stroke hit a crosscourt backhand wide. 30/15. Záhlavová Strýcová tried to serve and volley, but didn’t get to the net quickly enough for Maria’s short, dipping return, and so she dumped a short-angled crosscourt backhand volley into the net. 30/30. Maria went to the net and hit a crosscourt backhand drop-volley winner, but Záhlavová Strýcová ran it down and hit a backhand pass just out of Maria’s reach, forcing her to net a forehand volley. 40/30 (GP #1). Maria’s depth forced Záhlavová Strýcová to hit a backhand long. Záhlavová Strýcová yelled in frustration. Deuce #1. Maria’s deep forehand down the line forced Záhlavová Strýcová to stretch wide and earth a backhand. Ad Maria (SP #1). Záhlavová Strýcová’s crosscourt forehand approach forced Maria to net a forehand. Deuce #2. Záhlavová Strýcová went to the net and hit a high forehand volley down the middle, forcing Maria to hit a crosscourt backhand lob wide. Ad Záhlavová Strýcová (GP #2). Záhlavová Strýcová ran around her backhand, got jammed, and dumped a forehand halfway up the net. And Maria just bunted her return back to see if Záhlavová Strýcová could handle the lack of pace! Deuce #3. Maria hit a crosscourt forehand just wide. Ad Záhlavová Strýcová (GP #3). Záhlavová Strýcová went to the net, but Maria’s down-the-line forehand pass forced her to lunge wide, net a backhand volley and fall over. Deuce #4. Maria on the fourth stroke hit an off-forehand winner onto the baseline. Záhlavová Strýcová wasted her last challenge to show that it was plumb on the line. Ad Maria (SP #2). Záhlavová Strýcová went to the net behind a deep first serve out wide, and dispatched the floater it forced with an off-forehand volley-winner. Deuce #5. Second serve out wide forced Maria to hit a crosscourt forehand return wide. Ad Záhlavová Strýcová (GP #4). Záhlavová Strýcová’s deep serve forced Maria to hit a backhand lob long. Held.

Tracy Austin: “Right before Strýcová goes to hit the second serve on the deuce-court, Sharapova moves over to her left, looking like she’s giving her more room to hit to the forehand; the ball goes up, and she moves back to the right.”

Maria serving 5-5: First serve out wide: Záhlavová Strýcová hit a down-the-line forehand winner onto the baseline, but Maria challenged it to show that it was wide. First serve out wide + crosscourt forehand winner. Maria shouted “c’mon”. 30/0. First serve forced a short return, which Maria dispatched with a crosscourt forehand winner – lovely footwork to get into position. 40/0 (GP #1). Záhlavová Strýcová forced a short ball, but put a forehand just long (she’s out of challenges). Held.

Tracy Austin: “She says she shoulder’s feeling fine, 100%. It took her a while to get back to full strength. Any time you have rotator-cuff surgery on your right shoulder, and you rely so much on your big serve... there was a /huge/ amount of concern of whether she was going to come back 100%. She had surgery in New York with quite an experienced surgeon: Dr. Altchek – did a lot of research on who the best surgeon was going to be.”

There were several shouts of “c’mon Barbora” from the crowd.

Záhlavová Strýcová serving 5-6: Body-jamming crosscourt forehand return forced Záhlavová Strýcová to net an off-backhand and sink to her knees. 0/15. Maria’s roaring backhand return forced Záhlavová Strýcová to bunt back a short, weak forehand; another searing backhand from Maria forced Záhlavová Strýcová to earth a forehand lob. 0/30. Deep first serve out wide forced Maria to hit a forehand return wide. 15/30. Záhlavová Strýcová threw a wobbler when her first serve was called a let, and rather predictably went on to serve a double fault (dumping her second serve into the net). She muttered in Czech. 15/40 (SP #3 for Maria). Záhlavová Strýcová dumped a horrendous mishit forehand halfway up the net. Záhlavová Strýcová threw her racket. Maria won the first set 7-5 at 16:26 BST (1h04m).

Záhlavová Strýcová fought so hard in that set, but just cracked emotionally at the crucial moment. Maria’s so much better conditioned to handle these pressure-cooker situations.


Second set
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SHARAPOVA _@*_*@*_* 6
ZÁHLAVOVÁ @__*___*_ 3

Tracy Austin: “Would be nice for Maria to see her streak away with this second set easily, because she really needs to elevate the level of her game. If she wins this, next up for her is Serena Williams. She’ll have to play better than this.”

Maria serving 0-0: Double fault (second serve into the net). 0/15. Maria hit an error-forcing crosscourt backhand onto the sideline, and Záhlavová Strýcová wasted her first challenge of the set, having run out of them in the first set. Real mind-games going on with challenges in this match. 15/15. Double fault (second serve into the net). 15/30. Záhlavová Strýcová’s deep crosscourt forehand forced Maria to hit a forehand long. 15/40 (BP #1). First serve out wide + crosscourt backhand winner onto the sideline. 30/40 (BP #2). Maria forehand just long. Broken.

Záhlavová Strýcová jogged to her chair looking quite pleased with herself, then had a word with the umpire. Is she complaining about Maria’s grunting?

Záhlavová Strýcová serving 0-1: Maria’s dipping crosscourt forehand + crosscourt backhand forced Záhlavová Strýcová to net a backhand volley. 0/15. Maria hit a down-the-line backhand return-winner, and once again had to call on Hawk-Eye to show that it was good. Záhlavová Strýcová hit a ball against the ground, and looked extremely upset. 0/30. Maria threw in a short sliced backhand, forcing Záhlavová Strýcová to net a forehand. 0/40 (BP #1). Deep first serve out wide forced Maria to earth a backhand lob-return. 15/40 (BP #2). Maria off-forehand virtual return-winner. Broken.

Maria serving 1-1: Záhlavová Strýcová’s deep backhand just inside the baseline forced Maria to net a forehand. 0/15. Maria netted a horrendous forehand off a mildly awkward deep ball. Tracy Austin: “You can tell when someone’s losing a little confidence in a shot: they slow down the racket-head speed instead of hitting it with conviction and letting the arm move through freely.” 0/30. Maria hit a crosscourt forehand drive-volley off a forehand lob that was going wide, then hit an off-forehand drive-volley winner onto the sideline. Záhlavová Strýcová threw her racket. 15/30. Maria forced a floater and hit a backhand drive-volley winner down the line, and Záhlavová Strýcová smiled. 30/30. Maria hit a deep forehand winner down the line: just inside the baseline. 40/30 (GP #1). Ace down the middle: just inside both the centre-line and the service-line. Held.

Záhlavová Strýcová read notes from a book at the changeover. She’s a very tactical player, so the book has several pages. I’d be fascinated to read it (even if I’d have to spend a few weeks studying Czech first).

Záhlavová Strýcová serving 1-2: Záhlavová Strýcová hit a deep short-angled crosscourt forehand + short-angled crosscourt forehand dropshot-winner. 15/0. Maria backhand long. 30/0. Double fault (second serve just long). Záhlavová Strýcová said “aiee!” 30/15. Záhlavová Strýcová’s short-angled crosscourt forehand forced Maria outside the tramlines to hit a forehand long. 40/15 (GP #1). First serve out wide: Maria hit a down-the-line forehand long. Held.

Maria serving 2-2 (new balls): First serve out wide forced Záhlavová Strýcová to stretch wide and net a forehand. 15/0. Záhlavová Strýcová went to the net, but Maria hit a “beautifully balanced” backhand pass-winner down the line. Tracy Austin: “It’s tough to come in on the backhand wing of Sharapova, particularly when she has so much room to hit into. Open stance.” 30/0. Deep second serve forced Záhlavová Strýcová to bunt a forehand return just long. 40/0 (GP #1). Maria went to the net and hit a crosscourt forehand drive-volley winner: Záhlavová Strýcová threw her racket at it (not a legal shot, even if it would have got the ball back – the racket has to be in the player’s hand). Held.

Záhlavová Strýcová serving 2-3: Záhlavová Strýcová’s crosscourt forehand clipped the netcord THREE TIMES and dropped dead for a winner! Well, I guess she was due for some luck, as Maria does seem to have had all the luck so far. 15/0. Záhlavová Strýcová went to the net, but Maria hit a down-the-line backhand pass-winner. 15/15. Záhlavová Strýcová hit a forehand long, and yelled. 15/30. First serve out wide forced Maria to hit a backhand long. 30/30. With Maria retreating from the net after hitting a short, weak forehand, Záhlavová Strýcová netted a makeable down-the-line backhand, and emitted a long, high-pitched shriek. 30/40 (BP #1). Maria netted a backhand. Deuce #1. Maria’s deep backhand forced Záhlavová Strýcová to net a forehand. Ad Maria (BP #2). Záhlavová Strýcová forced a floater, and dispatched it with a deep forehand smash-winner just inside the baseline, forcing Maria to net a backhand. Deuce #2. Záhlavová Strýcová went to the net, forcing Maria to hit a crosscourt backhand pass wide. Ad Maria (BP #3). Deep 102mph first serve forced Maria to net a forehand. Deuce #3. Second serve out wide: Maria’s deep forehand return forced Záhlavová Strýcová to net a backhand. Ad Maria (BP #4). Maria forced a floater but netted an off-forehand drive-volley winner. Deuce #4. Maria hit a deep crosscourt backhand virtual winner, and celebrated with a massive fist-pump. Ad Maria (BP #5). First serve out wide + crosscourt forehand winner. Deuce #5. Záhlavová Strýcová forced a short return, but dumped a forehand into the net. Ad Maria (BP #6). Maria hit a blazing backhand return-winner down the line. Broken.

Tracy Austin: “[Maria is] really struggling on that forehand. She’s using all arm, and not uncoiling. You really want to turn a lot and have your left hand out in front, but then you’ve got to /uncoil/: that right side’s got to come around, and it’s not on her forehand. That’s going to make it harder on her shoulder as well.”

Maria serving 4-2: Maria netted a forehand. Maria is coughing – I hope it’s not a recurrence of the illness I suspect her of having had at Birmingham. 0/15. Maria sprayed a crosscourt forehand wide. Tracy Austin: “She really just yanked up on that forehand completely.” 0/30. First serve out wide + deep forehand drive-volley virtual winner. Záhlavová Strýcová yelled in frustration. 15/30. Maria hit a forehand onto the baseline, forcing Záhlavová Strýcová to bunt a forehand wide. 30/30. First serve out wide + forehand winner down the line. 40/30 (GP #1). First serve down the middle forced a short return, but Maria netted a horrendous off-forehand that should have been an easy put-away. Deuce #1. Ace #2: down the middle. Ad Maria (GP #2). Maria went to the net, but her volleys sat up very nicely for Záhlavová Strýcová to hit a crosscourt backhand pass-winner that Maria had to dodge out of the way of. Deuce #2. Maria went to the net, but hit a forehand volley long. Ad Záhlavová Strýcová (BP #1). Maria hit a pinpoint forehand winner down the line – just inside the baseline – after her crosscourt backhand barely cleared the net earlier in the rally. Deuce #3. First serve out wide forced a very short return, which sat up nicely for Maria to hit an easy crosscourt forehand winner. Ad Maria (GP #3). Maria went to the net, but a dipping pass forced her to hit a backhand volley that sat up nicely for Záhlavová Strýcová to hit a forehand pass-winner down the line. Deuce #4. Maria’s deep off-forehand forced Záhlavová Strýcová to earth a backhand lob. Záhlavová Strýcová wasted her last challenge. Ad Maria (GP #4). Maria forced a very short ball, and dispatched it with an off-forehand winner. She reacted with a loud “c’mon” and a shaking fist-pump. Held.

This match has been like pulling teeth for Maria, but suddenly her lead looks very commanding.

Záhlavová Strýcová serving 2-5: First serve out wide + crosscourt backhand forced Maria to net a backhand. 15/0. Maria forced a floater, but hit a horrendous crosscourt backhand drive-volley wide. Tracy Austin: “She’s just not the same athlete as Venus [Williams], Serena [Williams], Kim Clijsters or Justine Henin. So it was an awkward shot, and she couldn’t adjust the body. She’s a very /grooved/ tennis-player.” 30/0. First serve out wide forced Maria into the tramlines to net a forehand return. 40/0 (GP #1). Deep first serve out wide forced Maria to hit a crosscourt backhand wide. Held.

A very good hold for Záhlavová Strýcová, and her body-language looked very positive as she skipped back to the baseline to receive.

Maria serving 5-3: Záhlavová Strýcová off-backhand wide. 15/0. Maria went to the net; Záhlavová Strýcová hit a dipping forehand pass to Maria’s feet, but Maria pulled off an amazing half-volley backhand dropshot-winner. 30/0. Záhlavová Strýcová netted a backhand. 40/0 (MP #1 for Maria). Ace down the middle: just inside the centre-line. Maria won 7-5 6-3 at 17:17 BST (second set 51m, match 1h55m). The hand-shake was a cursory slap.


Maria’s BBC interview
---------------------

This interview took place immediately after Maria left the court. She drank some pink liquid from a large bottle marked “evian”.

Phil Jones: “Well done, Maria. A really gutsy performance out there today, and you’re into the second week of Wimbledon, where I think you feel you truly belong.”

Maria Sharapova: “It’s great to be in that second week. It always means you’ve won a few rounds, and er, you know, the tougher ones are ahead of you.”

Phil Jones: “Well, you won here in 2004. Every couple of years since, you’ve won a Grand Slam [sic]. Do you think the omens are good for this year, the way you’re playing?”

Maria Sharapova: “Yeah, it’s been... it’s been good so far, but I, you know, I can’t worry about that. I just gotta go out and take it one match at a time, and not... not think about years or days, or... you know.”

Phil Jones: “And you’ve got to step it up next round, because it’s Serena Williams, obviously, in the last 16. Your thoughts on that?”

Maria Sharapova: “Well, it’ll be... it’ll be a really tough match. She’s the defending champion, and playing really well, so erm, it’ll be tough, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Phil Jones: “Well, you certainly played so well today that I’m sure she’ll be looking at the draw with interest herself. Well done.”

Maria Sharapova: “Thank you very much.”


Articles
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Sharapova ready for huge test [skytext 480->484]
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Maria Sharapova is hopeful that she will be able to combat the big hitting of Serena Williams in Monday’s big fourth-round clash at Wimbledon.

Defending champion Williams has looked in great form in this year’s tournament so far, winning the opening set of each of her matches 6-0.

But, asked if she could live with the power of Williams, Sharapova said: “Tennis is not just about power. On grass, it’s a big key to the game, but I don’t think it’s everything.”

The last time the pair met on grass was in the 2004 final, when a 17-year-old Sharapova sensationally won 6-1 6-4.

But she added: “It’s tough to take anything away from that match, as it was many years ago. I don’t really think about yesterday or the day before.

“There are always wonderful memories but, when you step out on the court, it’s new. You’ve got to start from scratch; the score is 0-0.”

Williams, who has won the Wimbledon title three times, agrees that the 2004 encounter will have little bearing on Monday’s clash.

“I just remember I was really nervous,” she said. “I think I put too much pressure on myself. It didn’t work out, and that was that.”

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Wozniacki and Sharapova advance (BBC Sport: digitext)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/8764986.stm
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Third seed Caroline Wozniacki and 2004 champion Maria Sharapova passed tough third-round tests in straight sets to make the last 16 at Wimbledon.

<snip Wozniacki>

Sharapova shook off a tenacious Barbora Záhlavová Strýcová 7-5 6-3 to set up a match against Serena Williams.

It will be the first meeting between Sharapova and Williams at Wimbledon since the Russian upset her as a fast-rising 17-year-old in the 2004 final.

<snip Wozniacki>

Sharapova showed the sort of steely resolve during big points that her compatriot lacked.

The 23-year-old lost her opening service-game in both sets, but each time fought her way back to overhaul an aggressive Záhlavová Strýcová.

The Czech had kept the umpire busy with a series of challenges and complaints before her racket bore the brunt of her frustration as she found the net at set-point down in the 12th.

Sharapova moved ahead in the second set with a hard-earned break in the sixth and, after facing down a break-point in the following game, clinched the contest with an ace.

“I love playing against her,” said Sharapova of her match against Williams.

“She is the defending champion. She is great on this surface. She has won numerous Grand Slams [sic]. If there is a challenge ahead of you, it is definitely playing against her, and I enjoy that.”

<snip other matches>
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Sharapova loses attitude and wins new admirers (Oliver Brown, The Sunday Telegraph – UK)
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[Russian is far removed from stroppy teenager of old as she wins through despite high error-count]

Mercifully, Maria Sharapova is losing her affectations. At Wimbledons past, she has irked many with her grand royal waves, stroppy put-downs, and feathery white outfits that would have looked better on a swan.

It seems that winning a Major at 17 can do that to a girl.

Of course, she still conducted her victory press-conference last night with a certain hauteur, matching her Nike gym top with a designer bag so capacious that it was technically a sack. She also scrupulously refused to say anything whatsoever of interest about herself, her game or her opponent.

It used to be worse. Any question of the vaguest impudence was once treated with the type of disdain a teenage girl might muster if her mother scorned her boyfriend. But her demeanour on court at least showed a greater spontaneity, and fewer ostentatious hair-flicks.

No, it was Sharapova’s third-round victim who had the attitude-problem.

Barbora Záhlavová Strýcová could barely lose a point without flouncing in disgust, or making another ludicrous Hawk-Eye challenge.

The pity for the Czech was that her play appeared good enough to beat Sharapova, who made 35 unforced errors – a total she can ill afford to repeat if she has any hope of beating Serena Williams tomorrow.

It may be too romantic to expect Sharapova to emulate her exploits of 2004, when she outwitted the weapons of Williams with her balletic 17 year-old’s poise. Most expect her to be marmalised by the American, and even she had the modesty to concede that her relationship with the world No.1 “would only be a rivalry if I won more”.

Reflecting on that age of innocence six years ago, Sharapova said: “There are always wonderful memories. But when you step out on court, it’s new. You’ve got to start from scratch. The score is 0-0.

“At that age, when you’re just playing a few tournaments, not many people know about you or your game. I’ve been around the Tour for many years. So I think Serena and I know each other’s games pretty well.”

Sharapova has endured a truncated season as a result of a troublesome shoulder-injury, and her movement continues to be somewhat staccato. So it was against Záhlavová Strýcová, her unseeded adversary, but she still produced the decisive shots when called upon to seal a 7-5 6-3 triumph.

The crowd on Court One were effusive in their applause, confirming the impression that Sharapova had come full circle since she was embraced at Wimbledon as the siren of Siberia, referred to by some as ‘Maria Supernova’.

After two seasons on the periphery of the game, though, and much time in injury-bays, she appears to have rediscovered her glow.

Sharapova needed all her patience to thwart Záhlavová Strýcová. The first four games of the match all ended in breaks of serve, but a tiebreak was averted when the Czech pitched a forehand into the net to fall behind.

Still Sharapova was not safe, finding herself broken early in the second set, only to reclaim the advantage immediately. Again she broke in the sixth game, and had to hold the lead with increasing desperation as her net-play faltered, forcing her to defend another break-point.

The coup de grâce was emphatic, though, as she served an ace down the centre of the ‘T’ for an invigorating win. Sharapova cannot be judged just by how she discharges her work on court, though. Her popularity is inextricably linked as much to her personality.

There is feverish interest among the commentators here, for distance, in her boyfriend Sasha Vujačić: the Slovenian player for the LA Lakers basketball team. Vujačić is expected at Wimbledon imminently.

Then there is her forthcoming visit to her homeland of Belarus – to inspect the legacy of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster – to consider. Even if she is swept away by Williams, she can still find much to keep her humble.
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Dr. Andrew Broad
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My Eternal Fanship: 1. Monica Seles; 2. Мария Шарапова (‘Maria Sharapova’); 3. Daniela Hantuchová; 4. Jelena Dokić; 5. Iva Majoli; 6. Karina Habšudová; 7. Вера Звонарёва (‘Vera Zvonarëva’); 8. Nicole Vaidišová; 9. Анна Чакветадзе (‘Anna Chakvetadze’); 10. Lucie Šafářová; 11. Ирода Туляганова (‘Iroda Tulyaganova’); 12. Magdaléna Rybáriková; 13. Sabine Lisicki
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