I've been watching a lot of old Maria matches/highlights lately, and it's almost like watching a different player to the one we see today. Was just wondering what your guys thoughts are on how Maria's game is different today?
I think, apart from the serve, which had to change for obvious reasons, Maria's forehand is one of the biggest reasons for her lack of success on hardcourts in recent years. She uses the reverse forehand (or helicopter forehand) far less these days, and it used to be a shot that could redirect pace really well, and she could come up with stunning down the line winners with it. Nowadays, although it probably produces fewer errors, Maria really struggles with heavy shots to her forehand; she shortens the backswing and snatches at the ball, and invariable drops it short and leaves it open to be attacked.
I also think mentality is a big part of the difference. Before the shoulder injury, Maria had a fearlessness and, let's be honest, a slight arrogance on the court, and I don't mean that in a bad way at all. Recently, her mentality is far less aggressive and she's less inclined to kill every ball - this has lead to more success on the clay but, again, is less helpful on faster surfaces, especially grass. I don't think there has ever been a more aggressive version of Maria than at Wimbledon 2004. She needs to bring back that aggression and confidence. This is definitely something I think Connors will be able to help with.
I've included some clips from matches at different stages of Maria's career - what do you think? My personal favourite version of Maria was fall 2006 Maria - the serve had never been better (she hit over 10 aces in almost all of her matches in Zurich and Linz), and her movement was better, IMO, than in Australia '08. I wonder what she needs to be able to do to ever reach those levels again?