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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 02:39 PM   #1
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Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

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?





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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 02:56 PM   #2
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

The best is yet to come.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 04:07 PM   #3
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

Very interesting first post. There is few elements she cannot bring back. When you look back at 2004 Sharapova, she was a bit smaller and it helped her a lot moving around the court. Now, even if her movement improved A LOT, technically wise, she cannot be as speedy as she was back then. Again, it did not prevent her from having a tremendous 2006 season, for instance. That's the first point.

Secondly, I think that because of the shoulder injury, she will never be as powerful as she used to be. Overall, her game has slow down raw strength wise and she cannot help it. She had to adapt and come up with a game including more security and more topspin. If you take the example of the forehand, it was much more effective in her first years and the helicopter forehand you are talking about was a huge weapon. But, at the same time, watching it now, makes me feel that every time she used to hit it, she was killing her shoulder. The backhand, has slightly improved to me; though.

Her serve, I think, needs a new motion because even if it became a strength in the past two years, it can still be worked on. Going back to the motion she had during the AO 2008, would help her take the ball higher and with her height, hit it harder without damaging her shoulder that much.

To me, Maria should have worked on tactics rather than technique or raw force. I mean, she has this topspin quite powerful game that can lead her to dominate from the baseline. BUT, she does not have anymore regularly those killing shots, so she has to mix things up. And I'm so tired of hearing of her "one dimensional game" and her "ball bashing game". Yes, it is what she likes, but she and her coach should think about going more to the net, hitting volleys and even drive volleys. I mean, how many times have we seen her coming forward, waiting for the ball to bounce and hit a forehand, letting extra time to her opponent to organize herself and get the ball back in game? She knows how to volley and I'm not talking of serve and volley or something, but just going forward as soon as it is possible and taking advantage of her groundies. The best illustration of such a job would be the AO 2008, she was always determined to go to the net and finish off the point. Against Henin, in 2010, at Roland Garros, she showed that she was able to play effectively such an aggressive game. If her serve was fixed back then, I can't see no reason why she would not have won that match. ALSO, Maria never do that nowadays, but she has great DROPSHOTS that usually end up as winners. Here again, I do not know why she stopped ??

Hope that Connors has noticed all that I am talking about and will make her work more on it.

I also felt that in 2013 AO, she was hitting flatter and then, after that, just got back to Claypova. Is it me or something? Someone can help me out with that ?

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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 04:33 PM   #4
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

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Originally Posted by 18majors View Post
The best is yet to come.
I'm inclined to believe so as well...I think her game is much more mature now and she makes less dumb/unnecessary errors too. She just needs to be more aggressive on faster surfaces and this is where Connors could bring the exciting Maria back
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 05:00 PM   #5
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

With all problems which exist now in Maria's game Maria model 2012 & 2013 most probably will win against Maria models 2004 - 2008. Even Maria's serve is better now in some parameters than before. For example the serve speed. Maria never before had so powerful serve. Why is she not using it regularly is a question of tactics, not of ability.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 05:01 PM   #6
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

The best of Maria is yet to come
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 05:37 PM   #7
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

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Originally Posted by denny5576 View Post
The best of Maria is yet to come
I believe that is possible. I believe so because of training and awareness of her physical condition. I discount 2004...just a different everything about her, height, weight, mentality. But since 2006, there has been a remarkable consistency in her physical condition, minus the injuries. I have noticed about a ten pound range of up and down with her weight, which is not very much. After winning the us open, she was heavier in 2007. She was almost thin by Australia in 2008. During her injury time off, she maintained a high level of staying in shape. I thought I detected a conscious effort to play at a slightly lower weight during the clay season in 2012, culminating in her win at the French open. This year, I noticed it most in Spain, she seemed a few pounds more this year, maybe not lately, and I thought it was a conscious effort to be stronger against Serena....and I thought it worked a little bit.

Serena stays in much better condition than some of the times when she was younger, and I believe Maria is more conscious of zeroing in on exactly what she wants her body to be for the best possible results. I believe it will pay off for her.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 05:47 PM   #8
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

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Originally Posted by denny5576 View Post
With all problems which exist now in Maria's game Maria model 2012 & 2013 most probably will win against Maria models 2004 - 2008. Even Maria's serve is better now in some parameters than before. For example the serve speed. Maria never before had so powerful serve. Why is she not using it regularly is a question of tactics, not of ability.
Not really sure what kind of 'tactical' genius decided she shouldn't hit her biggest serves, and serve 90% of her serves to the forehand, especially on the AD court. Azarenka, Serena and even Lisicki literally just wait on that serve every time.

Also I don't believe that today's Maria would beat the Maria of 2004-2008. Only a few times in the last few years has she approached that level IMO, in particular last year's clay court season, and the odd random match, like the one against Kerber in Beijing.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 06:05 PM   #9
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

Even though her power has dropped, she still has prodigious pace and accuracy off both wings. The big problem (IMO) is that, even though her shots are weaker, they still give her SO MANY opportunities to come in on short balls with an aggressive approach and end the point there or with an easy volley...yet she NEVER does this anymore. That was something pre-ShoulderPova was great at and underrated for - she may not be a great volleyer, but she had a solid sense of coming in at the right times.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 06:34 PM   #10
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

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Originally Posted by effedcamel View Post
Even though her power has dropped, she still has prodigious pace and accuracy off both wings. The big problem (IMO) is that, even though her shots are weaker, they still give her SO MANY opportunities to come in on short balls with an aggressive approach and end the point there or with an easy volley...yet she NEVER does this anymore. That was something pre-ShoulderPova was great at and underrated for - she may not be a great volleyer, but she had a solid sense of coming in at the right times.
Agree completely. Peak Maria was never afraid to drive volley, it was like a trademark of her game.

Highlights of this match have been deleted, but for me it's drive-volleyPova at her finest, she came in so many times. In 2005 Maria really couldn't find a way to get past Kim's defence, then the next few years she turned it around by COMING FORWARD. She definitely needs to bring this back.

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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 10:13 PM   #11
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

Apart from her forehand, other areas she should be working on:
1) The predictable serving patterns
2) Her hesitance to hit BHDTL
3) Over-thinking/ anxious mindset

Quote:
Originally Posted by denny5576 View Post
With all problems which exist now in Maria's game Maria model 2012 & 2013 most probably will win against Maria models 2004 - 2008. Even Maria's serve is better now in some parameters than before. For example the serve speed. Maria never before had so powerful serve. Why is she not using it regularly is a question of tactics, not of ability.
The only place 2012-2013 Pova would win is on clay (in 3 sets). Serving faster =/= Better serve. 2004-08 Pova had far better placement, more variety with her serves.

The last part of your post is so laughable that I am not even going to address it.
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Old Aug 5th, 2013, 12:33 AM   #12
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

I agree that her forehand is the main part of her game that's declined compared to 2004-08 (not her serve, as legend would have it). But as others have alluded to, I think it's likely that she can't hit her forehand like she used to anymore -- maybe she was told by her doctors that it was what caused the injury, or maybe it's that the surgery actually removed her ability to hit it like that (I know she's said in the past that one of the reasons she was so prone to shoulder problems was that before the surgery she always had an unusually loose/flexible shoulder, maybe that was what enabled her to lasso it right the way round like she used to). So I guess reverting back to her previous forehand just isn't an option. I do think her forehand in the second half of last year was the best I've seen it since the surgery, as she was pretty consistent with it while still managing to drive it through the court (sets 2 and 3 of her match against Bartoli at the USO stands out, she hits tons of forehand down-the-line winners there), but since Australia this year it's regressed and she's started just guiding it into court again for the most part.

I definitely agree that her reluctance to drive-volley in recent years has harmed, and I think that ties in with the fact her mental toughness isn't quite what it once was. I don't actually think her drive-volleys have regressed technically, because there's been a few matches in the last couple of years where she's been relaxed where she's been vintage DriveVolleyPova. It's just that when you're feeling tight (as I believe Post-SurgeryPova usually is in high-stakes matches), it's a lot harder to successfully drive-volley, because when you're tight, your thought processes work that bit slower, and if you've taken just a few split-seconds longer than normal to spot an opportunity to take a ball out of the air then you've wasted valuable time. Basically, I feel if she can find a way to be more releaxed in big matches (which is a LOT easier said than done, admittedly), I think a lot of these problems go away.

For the most part I think her main focus should be on just trying to do what she does better, but in terms of variety, as I was saying a few weeks ago, I think it might be an idea to try and develop her slice....she actually has had a decent backhand slice on clay the last couple of years, and if she could use it more consistently and on other surfaces, I think she'd be less vulnerable on the defence. Also, I think her return has room for improvement: if you look at her matches against Serena, she actually doesn't get aced all that much (compared to other players), but it's just she can't get loads of her returns into court because she's taking full swings on every return, which is suicide against a huge serve. If she can just find a way to block huge serves back or take a shortened swing at them and just try to get them into play and give herself a chance, then she'd be better off I think, because she has the wingspan and good anticipation to be a better returner than she is. (And what I just mentioned was one of Connors' strengths, incidentally.)

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Old Aug 5th, 2013, 01:16 AM   #13
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

I must be the only one who thinks she BH has regressed too. Yes, she defends a lot better than before on that wing, but she doesn't have the raw power she used too. Hogstedt should never have touched that wing. It was the serve and forehand he should have focussed on. Her backhand before was technically 100%, her forehand was not, and her serve obviously needed to be adjusted. That's what bothers me a little IMO. Recently her BH has disappeared in matches, and been outshone by her forehand.
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Old Aug 5th, 2013, 04:19 AM   #14
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlatan View Post
Apart from her forehand, other areas she should be working on:
1) The predictable serving patterns
2) Her hesitance to hit BHDTL
3) Over-thinking/ anxious mindset



The only place 2012-2013 Pova would win is on clay (in 3 sets). Serving faster =/= Better serve. 2004-08 Pova had far better placement, more variety with her serves.

The last part of your post is so laughable that I am not even going to address it.
You can laugh as much as you like. It will not change the facts. The speed of the serve is not matter of an opinion, so it is clear you are not aware of the numbers.
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Old Aug 5th, 2013, 04:38 AM   #15
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Re: Evolution of Maria's Game - 2004-2013

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Originally Posted by swissmr View Post
Not really sure what kind of 'tactical' genius decided she shouldn't hit her biggest serves, and serve 90% of her serves to the forehand, especially on the AD court. Azarenka, Serena and even Lisicki literally just wait on that serve every time.

Also I don't believe that today's Maria would beat the Maria of 2004-2008. Only a few times in the last few years has she approached that level IMO, in particular last year's clay court season, and the odd random match, like the one against Kerber in Beijing.
When we talk about the comparison of Maria model 2012 - 2013 to Maria models 2004 - 2008 we should consider the best form of Maria, not her not so good matches.
It is not possible to prove who will win Maria 2012-2013 or Maria 20004-2008 and therefore it is meaningless to argue. My opinion is based on the comparison of the basic parameters of Maria's game for which there is a data.
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