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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:46 PM   #1
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Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

Serena's improbable run to end

Unseeded American will fall to top-seeded Sharapova in Aussie final


Coming off very limited play in 2006, Serena Williams has proved her doubters wrong by reaching the Australian Open women's singles final, but she won't win the title, predicts Tracy Austin of MSNBC.com.

COMMENTARY
By Tracy Austin
MSNBC contributor
Updated: 16 minutes ago





Tracy Austin

MELBOURNE, Australia - Serena Williams has given tennis fans an Australian Open to remember.

Entering the first major of 2007 ranked as world No. 81 due to having played in only four events in 2006, the 25-year-old American has defied the odds to reach her 10th Grand Slam final.

She has taken out five seeded players, and she says she hasn't even played well yet Down Under.

There's no question Serena has exceeded expectations, but she is going to have her work cut out for her when she takes on top-seeded Maria Sharapova in the women's singles final.

Sharapova is going to be a huge step up in class for Williams -- too big a step in my opinion as I see the Russian taking the title.

Sharapova in storming form
There’s no doubt that Sharapova has elevated her game in the last few months. She is also a more confident player than she was before she won her second major at last year's U.S. Open.

The 19-year-old was already a great player on the attack, but her defense has gotten better and she has been serving well on big points.

Overall there are more facets to her game than there used to be, and you can see all the little pieces falling into place as Sharapova improves.

Williams’ semifinal opponent Nicole Vaidisova is a stablemate of Sharapova’s at Nick Bollettieri’s tennis academy in Florida, and she has a similar game to Sharapova's but with one big difference -- Sharapova is much better at that game than is Vaidisova.

Sharapova is a tough cookie and she won’t be intimidated the way Vaidisova was against Williams. She was not intimidated by Williams when she was 17 and playing in the Wimbledon final, and she certainly is not going to be intimidated now as a seasoned player who has won two majors.

Sharapova hits the ball so early, so deep and so well on a consistent basis. I think she is going to rush Williams and therefore test her conditioning a lot more than it has been tested so far.

At her peak, Williams moved so well it was impossible to rush her, but Sharapova is going to put her on her back foot over and over again.
Let's break down their games.

SERVE
It’s tough to choose between them. Williams has a big serve and she has used it well this tournament, but Sharapova’s serve is much improved. I don't see a decided edge for either of them on the serve.
EDGE: EVEN

RETURN OF SERVE
Williams used to have one of the best returns in the game, but it is not quite "on" yet.
Sharapova is returning a lot better than she used to, and she is being smarter about choosing when to go for her returns too.
EDGE: SHARAPOVA


VOLLEYS
Sharapova really does not volley unless she is fairly sure of hitting a winner, so she makes a higher percentage of a the volleys she hits. Williams, though, is a more natural volleyer.
EDGE: WILLIAMS

FOREHAND
Both Williams and Sharapova have incredibly powerful forehands, but both are also prone to mistakes on that wing.
I think Williams’ lack of matches puts her at a slight disadvantage here so, on current form, she loses out to Sharapova.
EDGE: SHARAPOVA

BACKHAND
Right here, right now, Sharapova’s backhand is a safer shot than Williams’ is, so I back the Russian here too.
So many shots are about confidence, and in three months’ time, when Williams has a few more matches under her belt, then she is going to be stronger in so many areas, including this one.
EDGE: SHARAPOVA

FITNESS AND ATHLETICISM
I would split these categories into two. I think Williams is the more agile mover and is the better athlete naturally, but there is no question that Sharapova is in much better shape.
EDGE ATHLETICISM: WILLIAMS

EDGE FITNESS: SHARAPOVA
STRATEGY
This is not going to be a strategic contest, it is going to be a battle of serves and power hitting. It is going to be about who executes their shots better on the day.
EDGE: EVEN

MENTAL TOUGHNESS
These are two of the strongest players mentally in the women’s game. Neither of them ever gives up and they have that champion’s ability to compete well even if they aren’t necessarily playing well.
EDGE: EVEN

MY PICK
SHARAPOVA IN STRAIGHT SETS

© 2007 MSNBC Interactive
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:49 PM   #2
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

I don't agree with most of these...

Serena's serve is better, and she is more mentally tougher. I would also give her the edge in the forehand dept. I also think that Serena is fitter than everyone thinks.
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:49 PM   #3
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

What a surprise!

Forget that Serena throughout this tournament has
been doing nearly everything better than Maria, but
what does that matter, right?

Whatever.

Do your thing Rena!
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:50 PM   #4
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

Oh come off it. Serena has not done everything better this tournament than Maria. That's rubbish.

But I think I'd go along with the main body of what Tracy is predicting.
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:51 PM   #5
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

Even if Maria Shapova does win this match, Tracey Austin should lose her job when she gave the serving and forehand edge to Sharapova.
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:51 PM   #6
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

Thanks for the jinx, Tracy.
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:51 PM   #7
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

i agree with most of what tracy is saying, however, serena can push maria to 3 sets, but serena may jsut run out of steam at the final hurdle, which would be a shame as it would be a horrible end to an outstanding women's Australian Open.

Good luck to both of them. It's nice being neutral for a Slam final for the first time since August 2005.
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:51 PM   #8
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

Well, it's a wrong pick!
Among other, Sharapova has better return od serve?
And, don't know about Sharapova, but Serena knows better than just power hitting. She will came out with some smart strategy, imo.
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:52 PM   #9
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

Well, whatever she says, the winner is serena!
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:53 PM   #10
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

Quote:
Originally Posted by Justine-credible View Post
It's nice being neutral for a Slam final for the first time since August 2005.
Well, it will not last long. I believe she will be in RG final, for start...
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loves life and is fun to be around." - Serena

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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:54 PM   #11
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

tracy, you're a complete and utter douche bag
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:57 PM   #12
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dasha_ View Post
Well, it's a wrong pick!
Among other, Sharapova has better return od serve?
And, don't know about Sharapova, but Serena knows better than just power hitting. She will came out with some smart strategy, imo.
Well, according to serena herself, she is a tennis player, not a thinker
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:58 PM   #13
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dasha_ View Post
Well, it will not last long. I believe she will be in RG final, for start...
yes i think so too, its nice to see us justine and serena fans getting along, i did think serena would make a GS final this year but not this early! i was thinking wimbledon. anyway, good luck to both of them for saturday's big showdown.
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:58 PM   #14
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

She said this about nearly everyone of Serena's opponents so far...
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:58 PM   #15
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Re: Tracy Austin: Serena's improbable run to end

I must disagree with Tracy on serving and strategy. Sharapova's been serving like crap the whole tournament, and if she keeps that up, she's dead. Also, Serena knows she can't outhit and outrun too many people right now, so she's been using her opponents' weaknesses against them (Shahar Peer's lack of big-match experience, Vaidisova's tendency to overhit). Since Sharapova's dad has to literally sit on his hands during her matches now, her ability to make changes on the fly has been taken away. Tracy Austin has probably forgotten more tennis than I currently know, but I think she's wrong on those two analyses.
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