The Sorting Hat has announced its verdicts:
Each player plays the other three in her group (the round-robin stage). The winner of each group plays the runner-up of the opposite group in the semi-finals on Sunday. The final is on Monday.
Maria has a very tough draw, on top of being injured.
She has until Thursday night to recover from her right-shoulder strain before she takes on Vera Zvonareva in a mouthwatering match that I hope will be repeated in the final!
It will be Maria and Vera's fourth meeting, all of which have taken place in 2004. Vera won 7-6 6-2 in the semi-finals at Memphis in February, going on to win her only singles title of the year. Maria got her revenge in the third round of the French Open, 6-3 7-6. Vera outlasted Maria 4-6 6-4 6-4 in the third round of Montréal to give herself a 2-1 lead in their head-to-heads.
Maria is 0-2 against Svetlana Kuznetsova - the only player ever to beat her in the women's singles at Wimbledon, 6-1 2-6 7-5 in the fourth round in 2003. The US Open champion also did the dirty on Maria in the semi-finals at Beijing this year, 6-2 6-2. Revenge for Maria would be sweet indeed.
Maria has never played Amélie Mauresmo before, and it would be sweet also if Maria could emphasise that the best player in the world is the Wimbledon champion, not one who was world number one without ever winning a Grand Slam title. Maria should certainly have the edge in mental strength over the bottler that is Mauresmo; unfortunately Maria is injured while Mauresmo is in top form.
I hope to God I will be proved wrong, but I have a nasty feeling that Maria is going to lose all three of her round-robin matches (assuming she is fit to play them all), and that Vera is going to lose to everyone except Maria.
It would have been better for Maria to be in the Red Group with Elena Dementieva (against whom she is 3-1 in head-to-heads) and Serena Williams who probably still thinks about that Wimbledon final every day, and might also find it difficult to play against Maria for another reason:
Here's the order of play for the first two days:
(PST = GMT - 8 hours)
Wednesday 10th November 2004
(start 18:30 PST = Thursday 02:30 GMT)
1. Vera Zvonareva v Amélie Mauresmo
2. Anastasia Myskina v Serena Williams
3. Elena Dementieva v Lindsay Davenport
Thursday 11th November 2004
(start 18:30 PST)
1. Svetlana Kuznetsova v Amélie Mauresmo
2. Maria Sharapova v Vera Zvonareva (20:00 PST = Friday 04:00 GMT)
3. Elena Dementieva v Serena Williams
So, shall I stay up till 6am or get up for 4am to follow live scores? It's worse than the Australian Open!
Dr. Andrew Broad