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Old Jan 15th, 2007, 11:47 PM   #1
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Australian Open 2007: Andrew's TV-reports (semi-final + final reports added)

AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Rebound Ace); Grand Slam)

This message is a Maria-filtered version of my full tournament-preview, which you can find at

1. Photos
2. UK TV-alert
3. First-round draw (full version only)
4. Maria Sharapova preview
5. Vera Zvonarëva preview (full version only)
6. Anna Chakvetadze preview (full version only)
7. Daniela Hantuchová preview (full version only)
8. Iroda Tulyaganova preview (full version only)
9. Nicole Vaidišová preview (full version only)
10. Andrew's wishes (full version only)
11. Qualifying (full version only)
12. Order of Play for Monday (full version only)

It also incorporates extracts from the following sections of my Day 1 round-up:

1. Photos
5. First-round draw: Top half
6. Second-round draw: Bottom half
7. Andrew's wishes
9. Order of Play for Tuesday

Please note that Section 4 occurs after Section 6 in this message. This is because the old Section 3 is replaced by the new Sections 5 & 6.

1. Photos (merged & Maria-filtered)

Maria Sharapova:
Search Getty Images for "sharapova"

2. UK TV-alert

The evening-sessions of the Australian Open will be televised on BBCi from 08:30 GMT each day of the tournament (digital viewers press Red or select the appropriate Freeview-channel - 301 or 302, I don't know which yet).

My understanding is that this coverage will consist of the women's match on the evening-session of the Rod Laver Arena (today Serena Williams v Mara Santangelo), followed by the men's match, followed by recorded coverage of any Andy Murray match that will have taken place during the day-session (his matches will also be broadcast live on BBCi during the British night, and possibly on BBC 1 or BBC 2 if he reaches the third round - I mention this just in case they happen to slip any women's tennis into such coverage; in 2002, they showed five minutes of Daniela Hantuchová against Venus Williams).

Last year, the women's semi-finals took place during the day-session, and recorded coverage was shown on BBCi following live coverage of the evening-session that day.

The women's and men's singles-finals will be broadcast live on BBC 1 and BBC 2, respectively.

5. First-round draw: Top half (to be played on Tuesday)
5.1 Top quarter: Sharapova, Zvonarëva, Chakvetadze

* Roberta Vinci v Anastassia Rodionova (ˇforza Roberta!)
* Renata Vorácová [Q] v Meghann Shaughnessy
* Emmanuelle Gagliardi v TATHIANA GARBIN [30]

* VERA ZVONARËVA [22,EF] v Tzipora Obziler (DAVAI VERA!)
* Séverine Brémond v Tamira Paszek [Q] (allez Séverine!)
* Varvara Lepchenko v Agnieszka Radwanska (davai Varvara!)
* ANA IVANOVIC [13,DF] v Vania King (ajde Ana!)

* ANNA CHAKVETADZE [12,EF] v Sybille Bammer (DAVAI ANNA!)
* Yulia Beygelzimer v Laura Granville
* Sophie Ferguson [WC] v Jelena Kostanic Tosic
* Klára Zakopalová [Q] v SAMANTHA STOSUR [24] (pojdme Klára!)

* FLAVIA PENNETTA [28,DF] v Kaia Kanepi (ˇforza Flavia!)
* Alicia Molik [WC] v Chan,Yung-Jan (go Alicia!)
* Peng,Shuai [s] v Andreja Klepac [Q] (jia you Shuai!)
* Madison Brengle [WC] v PATTY SCHNYDER [8]

5.2 Second quarter: Hantuchová

* Vasilisa Bardina v KIM CLIJSTERS [4] (davai Vasilisa!)
* Akiko Morigami [s] v Tsvetana Pironkova (my Reason says Akiko, but my Passion says Tsvetana)
* Nicole Pratt v Virginie Razzano
* ALYONA BONDARENKO [29] v Stéphanie Cohen-Aloro [Q] (davai Alyona!)

* Sandra Záhlavová [Q] v ANNA-LENA GRÖNEFELD [17] (pojdme Sandra!)
* Ashley Harkleroad v Yuan,Meng (go Ashley!)
* Aravane Rezaď v Emilie Loit (allez Aravane!)

* Ekaterina Bychkova v DINARA SAFINA [9] (davai Ekaterina!)
* Youlia Fedossova [WC] v Catalina Castańo
* Ahsha Rolle v Lourdes Domínguez Lino
* Elena Bovina v LI,NA [19]

* Aiko Nakamura [s] v ELENI DANIILIDOU [32] (ganbatte Aiko!)
* Sania Mirza [DF] v Olga Savchuk (go Sania!)
* Alla Kudryavtseva [Q] v Emma Laine
* Nathalie Dechy v MARTINA HINGIS [6]

6. Second-round draw: Bottom half (to be played on Wednesday)

* Gisela Dulko [DF] v NADIA PETROVA [5] (ˇvamos Gisela!)
* Anne Kremer [Q] v Serena Williams (dajee Anne!)
* MARION BARTOLI [18,S] v Victoria Azarenka (allez Marion!)
* Virginia Ruano Pascual v JELENA JANKOVIC [11] (ˇvamos Virginia!)

* SHAHAR PEER [16] v Meilen Tu (kadima Shahar!)
* TATIANA GOLOVIN [20,DF] v Zuzana Ondrášková (loyalty to Tatiana)
* MARIA KIRILENKO [26,DF] v Julia Vakulenko [Q] (loyalty to Maria)
* Monique Adamczak [WC] v SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA [3] (I want Adamczak to win this, to vindicate Iroda)

* ELENA DEMENTIEVA [7] v Martina Müller (davai Elena!)
* Maria Elena Camerin v Elena Vesnina (my loyalty is to Maria Elena)
* Iveta Benešová v KATARINA SREBOTNIK [21] (my loyalty is to Iveta)
* NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [10,EF] v Milagros Sequera (POJDME NICOLE!)

* Lucie Šafárová v FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE [14] (podjme Lucie!)
* Anastasiya Yakimova v AI SUGIYAMA [23]
* Eva Birnerová v Julia Schruff (I find Birnerová more attractive)
* Olga Poutchkova v AMÉLIE MAURESMO [2] (davai Olga!)

4. Maria Sharapova preview

Here's a couple of paragraphs about Maria from Reuters:

"Runs down her opponents with a combination of power and depth on her groundstrokes. Backs up her strong serve with an aggressive approach on both flanks. Her piercing shrieks, though, can put off opponents and fans alike."

"Increasingly strong on both wings and with an ever-improving mental conviction on court, Sharapova seems set to better her Melbourne Park best of the semi-finals. Has opted to skip all warm-up events bar an exhibition in Hong Kong where she was soundly beaten by Kim Clijsters."

4.1 Pretournament quotes from Maria

"I have had one of the best off-seasons training-wise I have had in a couple of years. The last few I have been injured and I have not been able to work on too many things, but I've been happy with my off-season this year."

[Re. being the top seed]
"I don't see it as putting any extra pressure on me. Whatever you are seeded, you've just got to go out and play your matches.

"I'm excited to start the year at this tournament. Seeded one, two or three, you still have to go out and play your matches."

[Re. the #1 ranking]
"Personally, I don't feel it's a huge deal. I honestly don't remember who ends the year number one. You remember people who win Grand Slams."

[Re. Justine Henin-Hardenne's withdrawal]
"It is very unfortunate for her, and you always want to be playing against the top players. You always want to compete against the best players, but you can't expect everyone to play in every Grand Slam."

[Re. moving the Australian Open to March]
"Every Grand Slam has its advantages and disadvantages, and the heat in Australia is definitely one of those. It's been held at this time of year for so many years; it's kind of hard to say you're going to move one of the biggest tournaments of the year and put it in the middle of the calendar, because there are lot of other tournaments [that would be affected].

"Unfortunately you do get some bad injuries, but that's the way it goes. You definitely want to play in better conditions, so if [there was] less heat, I'd definitely agree with that.

"But it's not easy taking a tournament out and putting it somewhere else in the schedule. It's really hard to do.

"With the structured plan that the Tour has been working on, I think things are being addressed, but I don't think you can do very much with this tournament."

[Re. Gatorade Sports Science Institute]
"The 'Beat the Heat' campaign is an important tool to get the word out to parents to help their kids playing tennis and other sports to stay safe, hydrated and playing their best in hot weather.

"It's fitting that we're launching this campaign during the Australian Open, which has a reputation as one of the world's hottest competitive environments."

4.2 First round

Camille Pin, ranked #62, is one of the softest hitters on the Tour. She reached the semi-finals of Auckland, but retired injured after three games. Maria has never played her before, but will devour her with ease. Next?

4.3 Second round

#87-ranked Roberta Vinci is an old-school player who likes to serve & volley and chip & charge, which makes her very effective on grass. But when I saw her play Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open 2006, she seemed totally intimidated by her opponent, so I can't see her causing Maria any problems (they've never met before).

Maria has played #100 Anastassia Rodionova twice before, winning 6-3 6-3 at the French Open 2003 and 6-3 6-1 at Los Angeles 2006.

4.4 Third round

Maria has never played Tatiana Garbin [30], who finished 2006 by winning an $75k ITF tournament at Barcelona. Garbin surprised the great Monica Seles at Indian Wells 2001, but to knock top-seeded Maria out of a Grand Slam would be an even bigger surprise.

Former world #11 Meghann Shaughnessy is the other likely third-round opponent, but she's down to #39 and her 2006 results don't look too impressive, finishing the year with three losses in a row.

I just can't see Maria losing before the fourth round unless she sprains her ankle or something.

4.5 Fourth round

This is where it gets interesting.

The seedings decree a meeting with Ana Ivanovic [13], who could become the first-ever player younger than Maria to beat her. She gave Maria a tough 7-6 7-5 win at Linz 2006 - Maria was unable to serve out either set earlier when she had the chance.

Ana is a very talented player with a big forehand and a tendency to spread. She is a Reason-candidate for my Eternal Fanship (I'm not planning any more inductions in the foreseeable future).

Ana is not on the best of form. She started 2007 with two impressive wins on the Gold Coast, but lost to Shahar Peer in the quarter-finals. She beat Nadia Petrova by retirement at Sydney, but couldn't withstand Nicole Vaidišová in the quarter-finals.

Vera Zvonarëva [22] would be my preferred fourth-round opponent, as she is a member of my Eternal Fanship! She and Maria had such a fantastic rivalry in 2004; Maria moved ahead 3-2 with a win at San Diego 2006. They both have lovely groundstrokes of flairsome power; Maria with more ability to overpower her opponent; Vera with more versatility and retrieval-skills. They are both tremendous fighters.

4.6 Quarter-finals

The seedings say Patty Schnyder [8], but I think she's overranked. She's a crafty spin-merchant who is particularly dangerous on clay, having upset Maria 3-6 6-3 6-1 at Rome 2005 - a loss which cost Maria an early chance to take the #1 ranking. Maria leads their head-to-head 4-1, but every match has been tough - most recently 7-5 7-5 at Linz 2006. But Schnyder's loss to Shahar Peer at Sydney doesn't fill me with dread.

I would love Anna Chakvetadze [13] to be that quarter-finalist instead. Anna is, for me, the most improved player of 2006 - now with groundstrokes of flairsome power. I recently inducted her into my Eternal Fanship. She won the Tier I title at Moscow in spectacular fashion, beating players ranked #10, #12, #7 and #5 (as well as receiving a walkover from Maria in the quarter-finals). She also won Hobart against a much weaker field.

Some experts have predicted Anna to reach the quarter-finals instead of Schnyder, and even suggested that she could beat Maria! She certainly gave Maria a very tough match at Los Angeles 2005, when both were injured. Maria won 4-6 6-4 7-5, and then pulled out of the tournament. Maria also beat Anna 6-1 6-4 at the French Open 2005, but Anna's game has improved beyond recognition since then.

4.7 Semi-finals

Kim Clijsters [4] is the one player I didn't want to see in Maria's half of the draw. Clijsters has given Maria all sorts of problems in the past with her combination of muscular power and superior retrieval-abilities, winning their first four matches.

Maria improved the head-to-head to 2-4 by winning both their matches in 2006 (San Diego 7-5 7-5 and Sony Ericsson Championships 6-4 6-4), but lost 6-3 7-6 in an exhibition at Hong Kong a week ago.

Granted, it was only an exhibition, and Maria wasn't playing with her usual determination and intensity, but she has given away an important psychological advantage. I have to say, my optimism about Maria's chances of winning the Australian Open after Justine Henin-Hardenne withdrew has been shaken - first by the loss, and then by the draw.

Martina Hingis [6] is another potential semi-finalist, having reached six Australian Open finals in a row (1997-2002), winning the first three. But Hingis has Sania Mirza in her third-round draw - to whom she lost at Seoul 2006 - and Dinara Safina in the fourth round - who beat her in the Gold Coast final. And Hingis is 0-3 against Clijsters since her comeback, including the quarter-finals here last year.

Should Maria face Hingis in the semi-finals, I'd be worried because Hingis beat her 6-3 6-1 at Tokyo 2006, although Maria should start as favourite after beating Hingis 6-3 6-4 at Dubai and 6-3 6-3 at Indian Wells.

My ideal semi-finalist would be Daniela Hantuchová [15], but Daniela may have to miss the Australian Open with a viral infection, and her record against Clijsters (whom she'd meet in the fourth round) is better left unspoken of.

4.8 Final

The bottom half of the draw is by far the more open. Defending champion Amélie Mauresmo [2] was thrashed 7-5 6-0 by Jelena Jankovic at Sydney, having almost lost her opening match to Tatiana Golovin, who loves to choke.

Mauresmo also lost early at Sydney and Eastbourne 2006 - the weeks before the Grand Slams that she won - but this time, she admitted that she is struggling with her game. And of course defending a Grand Slam champion is a tremendous amount of pressure, especially for a famous choker such as Mauresmo.

Maria lost her first three matches to Mauresmo, who can mess her up by serving & volleying, heavy topspin or slice, and just a lot of off-speed balls that make Maria have to generate all the pace herself. But Maria beat Mauresmo 6-0 4-6 6-0 at the US Open, which gives Maria the psychological advantage.

There's no strong favourite to come through to the final if Mauresmo fails to live up to her seeding. Svetlana Kuznetsova [3] and Nadia Petrova [5] both retired from Sydney with illness and injury, respectively.

Jelena Jankovic [11] is on great form, having won Auckland and almost beaten Clijsters in the Sydney final (served for the match in the second set and had match-points) - but 'almost' is the operative word. Jankovic also choked dramatically when leading Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-4 *4-2 (40/30) in the semi-finals of the US Open, then lost every game in the rest of the match. I think she may need more experience before she will be ready to reach a Grand Slam final, although she has a great draw to do so here. Fatigue may also be a factor after playing two full weeks before the Australian Open.

My dream-final would be between Maria and Nicole Vaidišová [10]. I think that would be a very exciting match, not just because Nicole is a member of my Eternal Fanship, but because she's the best player who is younger than Maria, and certainly has the weapons (particularly her serve and forehand) to win many Grand Slams.

Nicole made a spectacular run to the French Open 2006 semi-finals - beating Mauresmo and Venus Williams back to back - but blew a golden opportunity to reach the final at 7-5 *5-4 against Kuznetsova. And apart from another win over Mauresmo at Moscow, she has yet to reproduce that form. One factor in this may be that she's had to abbreviate the swing on her serve due to a shoulder-injury.

Nicole could face Elena Dementieva [7] in the fourth round - who beat her at Hong Kong, where she also took a set off Maria - so I guess Dementieva is another potential finalist, even with that weak serve.

7. Andrew's wishes (Maria-filtered, and updated after Day 1)

2r + MARIA SHARAPOVA [1,EF] d. Roberta Vinci

9. Order of Play for Tuesday (Maria-filtered)

Rod Laver Arena (start 11:00 AEST = 00:00 GMT)
WS 1r: MARIA SHARAPOVA [1] v Camille Pin
MS 1r: Robert Kendrick v RAFAEL NADAL [2]
WS 1r: Vasilisa Bardina v KIM CLIJSTERS [4]
Evening-session (start 19:30 AEST = 08:30 GMT)
WS 1r: Alicia Molik [WC] v Chan,Yung-Jan
MS 1r: LLEYTON HEWITT [19] v Michael Russell

It's just as well Maria didn't get the evening-session, because BBCi has promised live coverage of Andy Murray v Alberto Martin (Margaret Court Arena) at that time, so no women's tennis tomorrow!

An Australian heatwave is forecast for tomorrow, with temperatures over 40şC. It shouldn't put Maria at a disadvantage, though, as she's so strong mentally, and used to extreme heat from Florida!

Dr. Andrew Broad
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

Last edited by andrewbroad : Mar 21st, 2008 at 07:21 PM. Reason: edit Title
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Old Jan 18th, 2007, 12:34 AM   #2
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First-round report

AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Rebound Ace); Grand Slam)

This message is a subset of my Day 2 round-up...

1. Photos
4. First-round report

...merged with a subset of my Day 3 round-up:

1. Photos
8. Second-round draw: Top half
9. Third-round draw: Bottom half
12. Order of Play for Thursday

1. Photos (merged & Maria-filtered)

Maria Sharapova: (to 529)

Various players including Maria: (First round - day 2)

Search Getty Images for "sharapova"

4. First round (Tuesday 16th January)

+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [1,EF] d. Camille Pin, 6-3 4-6 9-7

Struggling with heatstroke that would have caused many players to retire, it's a testament to Maria's will that she pulled this one out. Indeed, we're all lucky that it was not her last will and testament!

No thanks to the Australian Open's idiotic Extreme-Heat Policy, which doesn't allow the roof to be closed on Rod Laver Arena - or a match to be suspended for heat - when it has already started.

Extreme heat can be an equaliser, and it can also make some matches very one-sided. It's no longer about tennis - it's about who can handle the heat better on the day.

The third set was filled with drama. Maria blew a 5-0* lead and three match-points (two at 5-2* and one at 6-5*), then was two points from defeat as Pin served for the match at 7-6 (30/15).

As Maria levelled up at 7-7, it was 3am in England, and that was the point at which I decided to go to bed, since I had to be up at 8am to catch BBCi's coverage. But I was lying in bed for an hour, worrying about Maria - not only about her chances of victory, but about the medical danger of playing for three hours in 40°C!

Some sources even claim that it was 50°C!!

No women's tennis on BBCi today, but Sam Smith said (whilst commentating on Hewitt v Russell) that Maria had "quite a lot of pain in her stomach" towards the end.

I'm very worried about Maria's future matches in this Australian Open, after that 2h51m marathon in such heat. I wouldn't normally be worried about Anastassia Rodionova - who beat Roberta Vinci 6-3 6-1 - but can Maria recover in time for Thursday? I hope to God they put her on the evening-session then.

First set
SHA @*__@* *@ 6
PIN __*@__*__ 3

Second set
SHA _@*___* *_ 4
PIN @__*@* * * 6

Third set
SHA *@*@*_____*__@*@ 9
PIN _____*@*@* *@___ 7

markspot: "Pin had a huge advantage over Masha because she is so small and she can withstand heat much easier. So her advantage over Masha in that regard kept increasing with every minute."
Pin was able to take the 2nd set 6-4 by getting everything back in the extreme conditions.

There was a mandatory 10-minute heat-break at the beginning of the 3rd set as*the temperature*was very hot. Maria quickly*took a 5-0 lead but Pin was able to come back and level the set 5-5.*Maria then won one game to lead 6-5 and had*to call the trainer as she was suffering in the heat*and then lost the next 2 games. Pin was serving for the match at 7-6, but Maria was able to take a dominant break and hold her serve to finally take the match on a Pin groundstroke hit long.
MELBOURNE, Australia - Extreme on-court temperatures and high third set drama all contributed to what would become the most competitive contest of the Australian Open thus far, as tournament favorite Maria Sharapova overcame underdog Camille Pin, 63 46 97, in the first round on Tuesday.

Sharapova, the top seed at the year's first major, was very nearly sent home in her first match of the new year by the 62nd-ranked Pin. She had a relatively easy time in the first set, but became more erratic as the match went on; she seemed to regroup after losing the second set, going up 5-0 in a hurry in the deciding third set, but that was when things really began heating up.

Pin took her cue as Sharapova began erring more often, keeping the ball in play with a mix of angles and spins, and slowly working her way back into the set. She saved two match points trailing 5-2 and after evening things to 5-5 saved another one down 6-5, and subsequently found herself serving for the match up 7-6. But the nerves got the better of Pin, who had never beaten a Top 30 player, let alone a No.2; upon double faulting that game away, Sharapova cruised through two straight games to end it.

Luke Buttigieg for
2006 US Open champion and 2004 Wimbledon winner Sharapova appeared to be cruising when she shrugged off losing the second set to race to a 5-0 lead in the third, but Pin staged a remarkable recovery and actually served for the match herself at 7-6.

Struggling to stay in the contest after the EHP's introduction during the second set at Rod Laver Arena, Sharapova dug deep and broke back before finally claiming her 6-3 4-6 9-7 victory in 171 minutes with her fourth break of the set.

After dominating the match early, despite hitting 25 unforced errors, Sharapova continued to rack up the unforced errors as the match wore on, eventually finishing with 65 to Pin's 44, but 44 winners to Pin's 14 went a long way to compensating.

Bren O'Brien for
Women's No.1 seed Maria Sharapova has endured a torrid three-setter against Frenchwoman Camille Pin to progress to the second round of Australian Open 2007, 6-3 4-6 9-7.

The hot conditions on Rod Laver Arena played havoc with the Russian's game, as she squandered a one-set advantage against the world No. 61, who forced a deciding set.

The implementation of the Extreme Heat Policy meant a five-minute break at the end of the second set for the players, and Sharapova looked to use that to her advantage. But she was forced to fight to the very end, grabbing the victory and setting up a second-round match-up with compatriot Anastassia Rodionova.

Things looked to going to plan for the 2005 Wimbledon and 2006 US Open champion when she recovered from an early break of serve to break Pin three times and take the advantage.

But Pin was able to rally, taking an early break in the second set, and holding her nerve when Sharapova broke back to level the match.

The Russian then surged to a 5-0 lead in the third, and looked set for an easy win. But Pin battled back, winning five straight games to level up again and have the No.1 seed under pressure. She took a break in the 13th game, and was two points from victory, but could not serve out the match. Sharapova then broke in the 16th game for the toughest of first-round victories.

BBC Sport:
Top seed Maria Sharapova survived searing heat and a stomach problem to beat France's Camille Pin in an epic first-round tie at the Australian Open.

The Russian was two points from defeat after letting a 5-0 lead slip in the final set, but somehow came through for a 6-3 4-6 9-7 win.

With the temperature at Melbourne Park up to 36°C by midday, all play on the outside courts was suspended as the tournament's extreme heat policy was invoked.

The roofs on the two main stadia were closed but only after matches already on court were completed, in accordance with tournament rules.

That included Sharapova, who had to battle away against a sprightly Pin in the full glare of the midday sun.

After taking the opening set, she let world number 62, Pin, back into the match in the second.

And a combination of nerves, heat exhaustion, cramping and what she later described as "a pinch" in her stomach contributed to the loss of five straight games in the decider.

But the Russian did not give up and played some superb tennis to haul her way back from 7-6 down to win in two hours 51 minutes.

Agence France-Presse (AFP):
It was a draining experience for Sharapova.

Red-faced, dripping sweat and swearing at the umpire, she stumbled through the second set before a new burst of energy carried her 5-0 clear in the third.

But she was clearly feeling the pace and started cramping, dropping the next five games. The courageous Pin fought back to serve for the match at 7-6 before Sharapova dug deep to snatch victory.

John Pye, AP Sports Writer:
It was a thumbs-up dripping with irony.

Soaked with sweat, and delusional by her own admission, top-seeded Maria Sharapova had come within two points of a first-round exit at the Australian Open.

When it was announced the roof would be closed over Rod Laver Arena after her match, Sharapova clapped her hands above her head and raised her right thumb to applaud the decision.

Not long after Sharapova trudged off to see a doctor, rehydrate and take a cold bath while the temperature soared above 104 degrees [40°C], Rafael Nadal strolled onto a centre court shielded by the retractable roof and cooled by air conditioning.

It was too hot midway through the Sharapova-Pin match for other matches to be started on outdoor courts. Sharapova needed a medical timeout for cramps in the last set, an ice-vest over her neck at every change of ends, and every ounce of tenacity she could muster to beat the Frenchwoman who had made the second round only twice in 15 majors.

Russian top seed Maria Sharapova was among the players to take advantage of the ice-vests - ice-filled tubes worn round the neck to fend off the punishing heat - during her first-round match against France's Camille Pin on Rod Laver Arena.

Her match, which included a 10-minute heat-break after the second set, was played with the roof open as rules stipulate it can only be closed between matches.

Pritha Sarkar (Reuters):
Feeling dazed and confused at 6-6 in the third set, the U.S. Open champion looked completely out of sorts as she plopped down serves and had to be reminded that there was no tiebreak in the decider.

Scenting a famous victory, Pin bounded up and down the court and grabbed a break for a 7-6 lead as Sharapova dropped her serve to love with a double fault.

However, Pin's lack of experience on the big stage finally caught up with her and Sharapova won the next three games.

Ed Osmond (Reuters):
Sharapova, struggling with a stomach-injury, wasted three match-points, and Pin was just two points from victory when she served for the match at 7-6.

Sharapova dug deep, however, to win the next three games, breaking Pin's serve to love to end a match lasting just under three hours.

The 19-year-old Sharapova looked comfortable in the first set, quickly finding her rhythm and picking off her opponent with a series of crisp strokes at the start of her bid for a third Grand Slam title.

Pin refused to lie down, though, frustrating Sharapova in the second set with her consistent first serve and steady groundstrokes.


The players took a 10-minute heat break which revitalised Sharapova, and she stormed into a 5-0 lead in the final set before wilting under pressure from the gritty Pin.

Sharapova made a succession of errors and wasted three match-points as Pin relentlessly kept the ball in play and waited for her opponent to make a mistake.

The US Open champion, seeking her first Melbourne Park title, netted a number of booming groundstrokes as her confidence ebbed away, and she received treatment from a doctor between games.

A confused Sharapova had to be reminded by the umpire that tiebreaks were not used in the final set, but faced by the prospect of becoming the first women's top seed to lose in the Australian Open first round since 1979 [Virginia Ruzici], she stayed calm and sealed victory when Pin sent a forehand long.

Maria quotes

"This was one of my toughest matches I've played here, but obviously not one of my best. It was really tough.

"Most importantly, I'm looking forward to recovering. I can only get better from here. I just hope I can feel better.

"I was so delusional I couldn't think. You know, it was hard to think about what you were going to do on court, because you were just mentally trying to find a way to kind of make the points shorter, and basically trying to find a way to win.

"But sometimes, when it's that hot outside, your mind doesn't work properly. At points in the match, you're not really worrying about how you're playing or what you're doing - you're just trying to focus on winning every point as quickly as possible. It's just really physically draining.

"It's inhuman to play three hours in that kind of heat - I don't think our bodies were made to do that. But, it was hard for me and it was hard for my opponent. I wouldn't say it was unfair, but I could be feeling a lot worse if I'd lost the match.

"In the middle of the second set, I started getting some pinches in my abdominal muscle."

[Re. retiring from the match]
"Why? Because I'm not a quitter. I'm not just going to stop because of the heat. I thought that it would really suck if I lost, but I'm not a quitter.

"I would be feeling a lot worse now if I had lost, and I'll be ready for my next match."

Pin quotes

"Maybe she felt a bit worse than me, but maybe I didn't show it too much. That's good, but my legs were sore and my feet were burning, and it was pretty tough but I had to deal with that.

"Right now, actually I feel very disappointed. But now that I've been around, I've been half an hour at the restaurant, and I can see people saying, 'Well, you did great today,' so I feel a bit better now.

"I tried to play aggressively when I was serving for the match, but she is the world number two and she played a great game. I was really sad to miss it, but she's No.2 in the world, and she's succeeded to do what she had to do on this game.

"But I was so close that I thought it was my day, but apparently it was not, so next time."

More pretournament quotes from Maria

"There are a lot of other things in life. I want to have a family and I can see myself retiring at a similar age to Kim [Clijsters]."


"I'm definitely enjoying what I'm doing right now. I love the feeling of going on the court and trying to get myself better. I still have that motivation to work hard.

"I've been in two semis here. I'm just ready to take it to the next level, hopefully get to the final or win it. I might not have that many matches under my belt, but I feel fresh, I feel healthy, which is most important.

"I'm glad that I could take the confidence that I played with at the [US] Open, and take it through the end of the year, and hopefully start with that.

"My preparation is a lot better than last year, [when] I came into the event not knowing if I was going to compete with my injury or not. It was a last-minute decision. Actually, it's been a good five, six weeks of training.

"After I won the US Open, I just took the confidence and the way I was playing. I didn't feel like I was playing my best tennis in the first few rounds - especially in the fourth or the quarters, I didn't feel like I was playing great.

"And when I had to, you know, against Amélie, I've already been in a few semi-finals, I lost them, some tight ones. I was able to win that one. I played the good points well. With a little bit of luck at times - and confidence - I was also able to win the final.

"You know, so it's a bit of confidence, a bit of mentally being strong. I took that with me. Overall, I was pretty proud of myself for keeping that level going.

"It's a pretty classy dress. It's like a lemon chiffon colour. It's a little high-waisted. I tend to pay a lot of attention to detail. There's a little corset detail in the back, and there's a bow. My warm-up dress is really cute."

Pretournament quotes from Kim Clijsters about Maria

"Maria always plays well here. She's very good I think also in playing in the heat. This kind of Australian atmosphere, I think she enjoys that.

"She's playing well. She always is capable of doing a little bit more when it gets close, when it gets really important. That's why she's such a great champion."

8. Second-round draw
8.1 Top half (to be played on Thursday)

* MARIA SHARAPOVA [1,EF] v Anastassia Rodionova (DAVAI MARIA!)
* Renata Vorácová [Q] v TATHIANA GARBIN [30]
* VERA ZVONARËVA [22,EF] v Tamira Paszek [Q] (DAVAI VERA!)
* ANA IVANOVIC [13,DF] v Agnieszka Radwanska (ajde Ana!)

* ANNA CHAKVETADZE [12,EF] v Laura Granville (DAVAI ANNA!)
* Jelena Kostanic Tošic v SAMANTHA STOSUR [24]
* Alicia Molik [WC] v Kaia Kanepi (go Alicia!)
* Peng,Shuai [s] v PATTY SCHNYDER [8] (jia you Shuai!)

* Akiko Morigami [s] v KIM CLIJSTERS [4] (ganbatte Akiko!)
* ALYONA BONDARENKO [29] v Virginie Razzano (davai Alyona!)
* Ashley Harkleroad v ANNA-LENA GRÖNEFELD [17] (go Ashley!)

* DINARA SAFINA [9] v Youlia Fedossova [WC] (allez Youlia!)
* Lourdes Domínguez Lino v LI,NA [19]
* Sania Mirza [DF] v Aiko Nakamura [s] (my loyalty is to Sania)
* Alla Kudryavtseva [Q] v MARTINA HINGIS [6]

9. Third-round draw
9.1 Bottom half (to be played on Friday)

* NADIA PETROVA [5] v Serena Williams
* Victoria Azarenka v JELENA JANKOVIC [11]
* TATIANA GOLOVIN [20,DF] v SHAHAR PEER [16] (both nice; my loyalty is to Tatiana)

* ELENA DEMENTIEVA [7] v Maria Elena Camerin (my loyalty is to Maria Elena)
* Lucie Šafárová v Anastasiya Yakimova (pojdme Lucie!)
* Eva Birnerová v AMÉLIE MAURESMO [2] (pojdme Eva!)

12. Order of Play for Thursday

Vodafone Arena (start 11:00 AEST = 00:00 GMT)
WS 2r: Alla Kudryavtseva v MARTINA HINGIS [6]
WS 2r: Kaia Kanepi v Alicia Molik [WC]
MS 2r: ANDY MURRAY [15] v Fernando Verdasco
WS 2r: MARIA SHARAPOVA [1,EF] v Anastassia Rodionova

The cretins in charge of BBCi have decided to show Murray v Verdasco live, then shut down (presumably) and then show a repeat at 08:30 GMT instead of live women's tennis!

I have nothing against Murray personally, but I hope he gets knocked out so that the BBC won't be able to use him as an excuse to show no women's match on Saturday, when Anna Chakvetadze v Samantha Stosur could well be the women's match on the Rod Laver Arena evening-session - or will it be Maria's turn?

Full order of play:

Dr. Andrew Broad
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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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 09:15 PM   #3
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Andrew's second-round report

AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Rebound Ace); Grand Slam)

This message is a Maria-filtered subset of my Day 4 round-up...

1. Photos
3. Second-round report

...merged with a Maria-filtered subset of my Day 5 round-up:

4. Third-round draw: Top half
5. Fourth-round draw: Bottom half
8. Order of Play for Saturday

1. Photos (Maria-filtered)

Maria Sharapova:

Various players on court including Maria:

Search Getty Images for "sharapova"

3. Second round (Thursday 18th January)

+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [1,EF] d. Anastassia Rodionova, 6-0 6-3

I'm very relieved to see that Maria came through this one just two days after her three-hour ordeal in the extreme heat. This match was played in the early evening, when it was much cooler, and it took just 58 minutes.

Maria's starting to look like a genuine title-contender again. As long as she doesn't suffer in the heat again, that first-round aberration will seem a long time ago when she's in the semi-finals once again (with all due respect to Vera Zvonarëva and Anna Chakvetadze, who are also members of my Eternal Fanship, and are playing well enough to make life difficult for Maria in the fourth round and quarter-finals, respectively).
Maria stormed through the 1st set without dropping a game and won the set on a strong forehand winner in only 23 minutes.

Maria broke to lead 3-1 in the 2nd set and just dropped*2 more games on her way to the 3rd round.*Maria won the match on a swinging forehand volley.

Second set: Maria 4-1, 5-2, 6-3.
Two days after overcoming somewhat of a disastrous first round test, Maria Sharapova was back on court and sharper than ever, notching a routine 6-0 6-3 second-round win over Russian compatriot Anastassia Rodionova.

Sharapova, the No.1 seed at the year's first Grand Slam, needed just 58 minutes to win. Her -1 winners-to-errors differential (20-21) was far better than her -21 from the aforementoned first-round ordeal (44-65).

Ed Osmond (Reuters):
Sharapova, who was within two points of defeat by Frenchwoman Camille Pin in searing midday heat on Tuesday, looked much more comfortable on a cooler evening, and clinched victory in 58 minutes.

Sharapova started strongly, picking off her 24-year-old opponent with trademark booming groundstrokes, and putting her under constant pressure with her serve.

Rodionova, world number 100, raised her game in the second set but, struggling with a thigh-injury that required treatment, she was powerless to stop Sharapova from beating her for the third time in three meetings.

PA SportsTicker:
However, Sharapova was never threatened against Rodionova, winning 26-of-29 points on her first serve to take the match in just 58 minutes. She capped the victory with an overhead slam at the net.

Maria quotes

"All my brain-cells were restored today, so I was able to think a little bit out there, unlike the previous match.

"It was nice to get a quick one in there today. It was very important to get out there and get off to a good start then end the match on a good note rather than dragging it out.

"It was good - I'm glad I got off to a good start, and I'm glad I was able to finish the match quickly. I wanted to make sure, you know, I finished it in two this time. I thought I played a little better today, but I still think I can play a lot better. I'm nowhere near my top level. But I think I can definitely get better as I play more matches here.

"It's hard to take much away from the first match, because I didn't think it had a lot to do tennis-wise. Today, I felt like I could work on a few things, and really see how I was playing. I'll take a few things from this and improve for my next one.

"I'm definitely recovered from it. I just rested a lot, stayed inside, drank - just try to recover. There's not much you can do except try and rest as much as you can. I feel good physically.

"Yeah, I mean, it's of course unfortunate because heat, it's probably one of the most dangerous things, you know, an athlete can get. So, yeah, I'm happy that I was able to get through it and win that match, and win today.

"It can't get hotter than it was the other day. Somehow, I managed that one. Hopefully, I can manage another one if it gets to that point. Hopefully I'll be lucky if it does get to that point, the roof will be closed before my match even starts.

"I think when it gets to a certain point where it's extreme heat, players should probably stop. Even if there is a 20-minute delay, I think that's why the roof's there. Heat is one of the most dangerous things for players."

[Re. the success of Russian women]
"There's not one secret potion to how we're doing so well. If you look at all the girls, basically all of them are developing their games in different parts of the world. Some are in Russia, some in Spain, some in the States. It's not like they're bundled up and go to Siberia, and hide away from everyone and train. Everyone does their own thing in their own different ways, and it works."

4. Third-round draw: Top half (to be played on Saturday)

* VERA ZVONARËVA [22,EF] v ANA IVANOVIC [13,DF] (both nice; my loyalty is to Vera)
* ANNA CHAKVETADZE [12,EF] v Jelena Kostanic Tošic (DAVAI ANNA!)
* Alicia Molik [WC] v PATTY SCHNYDER [8] (go Alicia!)

* ALYONA BONDARENKO [29] v KIM CLIJSTERS [4] (davai Alyona!)
* DANIELA HANTUCHOVÁ [15,EF] v Ashley Harkleroad (both nice; my loyalty is to Daniela)
* DINARA SAFINA [9] v LI,NA [19]
* Aiko Nakamura [s] v MARTINA HINGIS [6] (ganbatte Aiko!)

5. Fourth-round draw: Bottom half (to be played on Sunday)

* JELENA JANKOVIC [11] v Serena Williams (ajde Jelena!)
* SHAHAR PEER [16] v SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA [3] (kadima Shahar!)
* Lucie Šafárová v AMÉLIE MAURESMO [2] (pojdme Lucie!)

8. Order of Play for Saturday (Maria-filtered)

Rod Laver Arena (start 11:00 AEST = 00:00 GMT)
WS 3r: Aiko Nakamura [s] v MARTINA HINGIS [6]
Evening-session (start 19:30 AEST = 08:30 GMT)
WS 3r: Alicia Molik [WC] v PATTY SCHNYDER [8]

As in the first round, Maria has to play in the heat of the day, with the roof open all the way. I believe more extreme heat is forecast for Saturday, which may favour the Italian if Mestre is anything like Brindisi!

Once again, I'm disappointed that (a) Maria has yet to play on the Rod Laver Arena evening-session this year, and (b) BBCi aren't going to televise it anyway, because Andy Murray is playing at 08:30 GMT!

Full order of play:

Dr. Andrew Broad
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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Andrew's third-round report

AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Rebound Ace); Grand Slam)

This message is a Maria-filtered subset of my Day 6 round-up...

1. Photos & videos
3. Third-round report

...merged with a Maria-filtered subset of my Day 7 round-up:

1. Photos & videos
4. Maria to become #1
9. Fourth-round draw: Top half
10. Quarter-final draw: Bottom half
15. Order of Play for Monday

1. Photos & videos (Maria-filtered)
1.1 Photos (merged)

Maria Sharapova: (to 531)

Maria Sharapova and Vera Zvonarëva:

Maria Sharapova, Vera Zvonarëva and Ana Ivanovic: (click "Day Six highlights photo gallery")

Maria Sharapova, Vera Zvonarëva, Nicole Vaidišová, Lucie Šafářová, Shahar Peer, Elena Dementieva, Martina Hingis:

Search Getty Images for "sharapova"

1.2 Video

Sharapova v Garbin highlights (low quality, 32 seconds):

3. Third round (Saturday 20th January)


I don't really know Garbin; describe her as having a "unique mix of spins and slices".

Reuters describe Maria's performance as a "ragged display"; there were six breaks of serve in the first set - two against Maria!

However, Ashley Browne ( is far more positive, describing Maria's win as "effortless" - "Sharapova was far too powerful from the back of the court against Garbin".

Maria had a positive W:UE ratio of 24:22, while Garbin's was a woeful 5:18. But Maria only got 52% of first serves in, winning 78% of the points when she did so, and 48% on second serve - she'll definitely need to improve those percentages if she's going to win this tournament.

The Russian top seed was broken twice in the opening set, but hit back four times herself to seal it with a scorching forehand winner down the line.

Playing under a closed roof on Rod Laver Arena due to rain, Sharapova switched into a different gear in the second, and moved the hapless Garbin around before clinching victory in 69 minutes.

Ed Osmond (Reuters):
With no play possible on the outside courts due to heavy rain, top seed Sharapova was made to work hard by Italian Tathiana Garbin before reaching the last 16 with an unconvincing 6-3 6-1 victory.

Russian Sharapova, who survived a three-hour battle in searing heat in the first round, rarely played her most fluent tennis against the 30th seed, but seemed unconcerned after the 69-minute match.

The match started on Rod Laver Arena at 11:14 AEST, and I caught up with live scores from: (pp. 4-19)

First set
SHARAP __@*@ @*@ 6
GARBIN *@___@___ 3

[Game-by-game updates for BBC Sport by Caroline Cheese]

Garbin serving 0-0: 15/0, 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30, held.

BBC: "Lovely start for Garbin who flicks a forehand past Sharapova at the net to take the first point. It look like Sharapova fancies a bit of volleying-practice today because she makes a few approaches."

Maria serving 0-1: 0/30, 15/30, 15/40 (2 BPs). Ace. 30/40, 40/40, ad Garbin (BP #3), broken.

Well, this was certainly a worrying start if I were following this live!

BBC: "Garbin is happily rallying from the back, waiting for Sharapova to make a mistake, and the Russian is obliging a bit too often at the moment."

Garbin serving 2-0: 0/30 -> 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40. Return-winner. Ad Maria (BP #2), broken.

Maria, like all great champions, breaks back immediately.

BBC: "Stung into action, Sharapova breaks straight back, hitting two crunching forehands to get back in it. She and dad Yuri punch the air."

So now they're going to accuse Yuri of coaching her to punch the air?

Maria serving 1-2: held to love.

BBC: "It's raining so the roof's on Rod Laver Arena but such is the humidity that both players have got ice packs to cool down during the changeovers. Meanwhile, Sharapova has abandoned the idea of attacking the net and is back to smacking groundstrokes from the baseline."

Garbin serving 2-2: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15 -> 40/40, ad Maria (BP), broken.

Maria is so good at pegging back her opponent's lead in a game and then winning it!

BBC: "Right then, since she's not going to be in this tournament much longer, let's learn a little bit more about Tathiana Garbin before she leaves us. First up, her nickname is Tax although on her fansite they call her Tathy."

Maria serving 3-2: 0/40 (3 BPs), 15/40, broken.

Annoying, Maria getting broken twice!

BBC: "What was I saying? This is great stuff from Garbin. A swinging forehand return-winner earns her three break-back points. Sharapova puts a terrible forehand into the bottom of the net and suddenly we're back all square."

Garbin serving 3-3: broken to love.

eck: "Garbin gets aggresive when Maria's serving, and then crawls back to her shell when she serves"

BBC: "Does anyone want to hold serve? Sharapova breaks to love and now the pressure is right back on the Italian - whose best career win was an upset of Justine Henin-Hardenne at the French Open 2004."

Maria serving 4-3: 0/15, 40/15, held.

BBC: "Sharapova may be the number-one player in the world, but she's not above a superstition or two. The Russian has a routine when she serves which involves only taking balls from a certain side. At one point, her favoured ballboy doesn't have any balls to give her, and Sharapova gives him a glare."

Garbin serving 3-5: 0/30 -> 30/30, 30/40 (SP #1), Maria won the first set 6-3 at 11:54 AEST (40 minutes).

BBC: "A 12th forehand winner from Sharapova brings up a first set-point. Her 13th completes a surprisingly difficult first set for the top seed."

Second set
SHARAP * *@*@* 6
GARBIN _*_____ 1

Maria serving 0-0: 0/15, 15/15, 15/30, 30/30, 40/30, held.

BBC: "Sharapova's focus is frightening. She holds serve in the opening game and shouts 'Come on' like she's won Wimbledon. That'll be why she's the world number one..."

Garbin serving 0-1: 30/0, 40/15, held.
Maria serving 1-1: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, held.

BBC: "A bit of comedy on Rod Laver Arena. First up, Garbin hits a dreadful overhead wide of the tramline then a linesman wakes everyone up with his extremely loud calling. He might quieten down a bit now though, as Sharapova rightly challenges one of his calls."

Garbin serving 1-2: 30/0 -> 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad Maria (BP #2), broken.

BBC: "Sharapova breaks when Garbin nets a forehand and surely the Russian is well on her way now."

Maria serving 3-1: 15/15, 40/15, held.

BBC: "Still completely focused on the job still to be done, Sharapova holds to 30. She has hit 24 winners today - compared to Garbin's five."

Garbin serving 1-4: 0/40 (3 BPs), 15/40, broken.

BBC: "Sharapova's dad Yuri looks to have a relaxed a little bit now - he's clapping enthusiastically now instead of clenching his fist."

Maria serving 5-1: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15 (2 MPs), Maria won 6-3 6-1 at 12:24 (second set 30 minutes, match 1h10m).

BBC: "It took longer than many expected thanks to a determined effort from Garbin - particularly in the first set - but Sharapova is through to face either fellow Russian Vera Zvonarëva or Ana Ivanovic."

Maria quotes

"I thought it was pretty good. I was a bit slow in the beginning of the match. I was letting her play her game a little too much, but as the match went on, I moved a lot better - I saw short balls a lot quicker and put more pressure on her.

"With every single match, you know it will get tougher, and you know that you have to improve. I don't think I'm anywhere near as good as I can be playing - I hope I can still improve and get better with every match.

"It's not a matter of thinking, 'It's the second week, here we go, you've really got to step it up' - obviously that's normal - but it's about trying to focus on those little things that you think you can still improve."

[Re. rope-swinging through the jungle in Costa Rica]
"It's so fun, so surreal; you're on a different planet when you do those kind of things. I am very adventurous, I am pretty fearless at those things, and I love to get an adrenaline-rush. It's so fun: you see the trees and the waterfalls. There's only so much sitting on the beach you can do."

Fourth-round preview


This really is the most mouthwatering match-up of flairsome power imaginable; it's got contrast of styles, I expect it to be very competitive (as per their head-to-heads and recent form), and I will be most upset if BBCi uses Andy Murray or anyone else as an excuse not to show it either live or recorded.

If Maria's third-round performance was indeed as unconvincing as Reuters claim, then she'll need to step it up in the fourth round as Vera is a brilliant player who thrashed Ana Ivanovic 6-1 6-2, and beat Maria twice in 2004! (Maria leads their head-to-head 3-2.)

Maria's struggle against Camille Pin is too long ago to be relevant on Monday, but Vera has the form and history to give Maria a very good match, perhaps even win!

Maria: "Vera is tough physically, gets a lot of balls back, makes you hit a lot of balls. Just a matter of giving her another ball to hit."

As an Eternal Fan of both Maria and Vera, who do I want to win? My Reason says Maria, because she's the only one of my players I can see beating Clijsters in the semi-finals and going on to win the title. The last thing I want to see is a final between Mingin' Clijsters and Muscular Mauresmo! [edit: Mauresmo lost on Sunday]

But my Passion says Vera, because it would mean so much for her to reach only her second Grand Slam quarter-final - and very possibly her first semi-final - whereas Maria reaches the semi-finals of every single Grand Slam outside of the French Open.

I've actually written to the BBC begging them to show it! I'm not optimistic that they will, given that their coverage of women's tennis these first six days has been a disgraceful 7%.

Time definitely to put the "vera" back in "coverage"!

4. Maria to become #1

And as if I needed any more good news, the losses of Mauresmo and Kuznetsova have guaranteed that Maria Sharapova will reclaim the #1 ranking on 29th January!

Reaching the fourth round was enough for Maria to overtake Henin, who will have 3311 points after the Australian Open. If Maria loses in the fourth round, she will have 3358.

Mauresmo needed to win the title with Maria losing before the final. Kuznetsova needed to win the title with Maria losing before the quarter-finals.

Maria was #1 for seven weeks in 2005 - the least time ever for any player ever to top the WTA rankings. She needs to stay #1 for four weeks to equal Venus Williams's reign of 11.

Weeks at #1:
1. Steffi Graf* (377)
2. Martina Navrátilová (331)
3. Chris Evert (262)
4. Martina Hingis (209)
5. Monica Seles* (178)
6. Lindsay Davenport (98)
7. Serena Williams (57)
8. Justine Henin-Hardenne (week of 22nd January will be her 56th)
9. Amélie Mauresmo (39)
10. Tracy Austin (22)
11. Kim Clijsters (19)
12. Jennifer Capriati (17)
13. Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario (12)
14. Venus Williams (11)
15. Maria Sharapova (7)

* Günther Parche stabbed Monica Seles so that Graf could regain the #1 ranking, and they just let her!

9. Fourth-round draw: Top half (to be played on Monday)

* MARIA SHARAPOVA [1,EF] v VERA ZVONARËVA [22,EF] (mouthwatering match!)
* MARTINA HINGIS [6] v LI,NA [19] (hopp Martina!)

10. Quarter-final draw: Bottom half (to be played on Tuesday)

* SHAHAR PEER [16] v Serena Williams (kadima Shahar!)
* NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [10,EF] v Lucie Šafářová (both nice; my loyalty is to Nicole)

15. Order of Play for Monday

Rod Laver Arena (start 11:00 AEST = 00:00 GMT)
WS 4r: MARTINA HINGIS [6] v LI,NA [19]
Evening-session (start 19:30 AEST = 08:30 GMT)

The moment Lleyton Hewitt lost, we knew that Murray v Nadal would be on the RLA evening-session. Maria v Vera need to be first on that session to be televised on BBCi, but this wasn't for sure because there wasn't a women's match there on Friday or Sunday. So when the order of play for Monday was announced, I was even happier than when I first saw Sunday's results!

Just to confirm the good news for UK viewers: Maria v Vera will be televised on BBCi (Freeview-channel 302) at 08:30 GMT on Monday. It's time to put the "vera" back in "coverage"

For UK viewers without access to BBCi, it may even be possible to catch the end of the match live on BBC Two from 10:00 GMT - a special programme intended for Murray v Nadal.

Full order of play:

Dr. Andrew Broad
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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Old Jan 23rd, 2007, 11:19 PM   #5
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Andrew's fourth-round TV-report

AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Rebound Ace); Grand Slam)

This message is a Maria-filtered subset of my Day 8 round-up...

1. Photos
3. Fourth-round TV-report
6. Quarter-final preview

...merged with a Maria-filtered subset of my Day 9 round-up:

1. Photos
4. Quarter-final draw
5. Semi-final draw
9. Order of Play for Wednesday

Sections 4 & 5 have been renumbered 7 & 8 so that they're singly defined and in the correct order.

1. Photos (merged & Maria-filtered)

Maria Sharapova and Vera Zvonarëva:
(searching for "zvonareva" turns up more photos for some reason)

Maria looks better in the photos, but Vera looked better on TV.

Maria only:

Maria Sharapova, Daniela Hantuchová, Anna Chakvetadze: (Day eight highlights)

Maria Sharapova, Anna Chakvetadze and Martina Hingis added:

Search Getty Images for "sharapova"

3. Fourth-round TV-report (Monday 22nd January)

Very nice winner, very nice loser:

I saw the whole match live on BBCi.

As Maria v Bepa contests go, IMO the first set was excellent, but the second set left much to be desired - I didn't really get the feeling that the UK viewers who had tuned in expecting to see Andy Murray would be amazed by what they saw.

Played in a mildly warm temperature of 23°C, this match was very tight and competitive in the first set, but Bepa reacted to the loss of the first set with a bad service-game at the start of the second - you just can't afford to do that against someone who holds serve as reliably as Maria.

The atmosphere went rather flat after that as Maria cruised towards victory without much resistance to her brilliant tennis - although a late surge from Bepa made Maria work very hard to push herself over the finish-line, trimming her lead from *5-2 to *5-4.

Maria and Bepa are two of the best fighters in tennis, so this was very tough and long in duration for a two-setter. And it could have been very different if that tight first set had gone Bepa's way, if she hadn't had that lapse at the start of the second, or if she'd capitalised at 0/40 on Maria's serve in the last game (the general consensus in the VZ community is that Bepa was too passive on those break-points).

The winner-counts were a bit low by Maria v Bepa standards. Maria had just 33 winners, Bepa just 11. I remember that when they played at the WTA Tour Championships 2004, Maria had 58 winners in the same number of games!

It was not a good day for Vera. Playing against Maria Sharapova she made too many unforced errors and was not agressive enough against a great serving Sharapova who went for her shots and never looked back. In the first set Vera could save 9 BPs, before getting broken in the eleventh game of the set. Till 2-5 in the second set, Vera didnt have a single BP, but then she could break and hold for 4-5. Serving for the match at 5-4 Sharapova went down 00-40, but could save all three Bps with great winners. Shortly after, Vera lost 57 46.

After a promising first week of the Australian Open, the last two days were not good for Vera who suffered from a cold and didnt have enough energy to play as she wanted herself to play. Still, the 4th round at a Grand Slam is a great achievement and Vera can be proud of herself. She now has little to defend till Roland Garros and should be able to move up further in the rankings... go Vera !!

Bepa won the toss and elected to receive. She looked absolutely delectable as she warmed up - even when they split-screened Maria and Bepa, I couldn't take my eyes off the lady in red!

My Reason says Maria, but my Passion says Vera.

The match started at 19:45 AEST.

I have incorporated some of Ben Dirs' game-by-game updates for BBC Sport <>.

First set
SHARAPOVA _* * * * *@* 7
ZVONARËVA * * * * *___ 5

Bepa serving 0-0: Bepa backhand just wide. 0/15. Maria forehand just long & just wide. 15/15. Maria forehand just wide. 30/15. Bepa backhand long by a whisker. 30/30. Maria sprayed a forehand long. 40/30. Maria netted a forehand.

A really rather inauspicious start for them both.

Sam Smith: "Potentially a very difficult match for Sharapova. Carnage in the women's draw!"

Sam Smith: "[Bepa] had the largest pasta known to man before she came out here! So she's expecting a long match."
John Lloyd: "She's not afraid of Sharapova with two wins against her - that's the main thing."
Sam Smith: "Sharapova quite nervous about this match."

Maria serving 0-1: Bepa forehand volley-winner after a beautiful spreading rally & net rally. 0/15. Maria off-forehand + crosscourt forehand winner. 15/15. Maria netted a forehand. 15/30. Bepa backhand return just long. 30/30. Service-winner. 40/30. Bepa forehand smash-winner behind Maria after a well-constructed point. 40/40. Bepa netted a forehand. Ad Maria. Bepa backhand return just long.

Ben Dirs: "Zvonarëva, a US Open doubles champion, comes to the net and puts away a forehand volley to go 0/15 up. But Sharapova loosens the shoulders and gets the serve working to move to 40/30. However, Zvonarëva hustles well and converts another volley to make it deuce before Sharapova wins the game with an ace."

Bepa really let Maria off the hook there with two cheap errors at the end.

Bepa serving 1-1: Maria netted a forehand under pressure. 15/0. Let serve not called! Maria off-forehand return-winner. 15/15. Bepa backhand just long (Bepa wasted a challenge). 15/30. Virtual ace out wide, on the junction! 30/30. Bepa came to the net, but a dipping shot at her feet made her earth a forehand half-volley. 30/40 (BP). Maria netted a forehand under mild pressure. 40/40. Service-winner. Ad Bepa. Maria netted a backhand return.

Sam Smith: "Fully pasta'd-up and ready for battle!"

Maria's grunt is rather quiet today - and according to the commentators who weren't denied the opportunity to watch her early rounds, this tournament!

Maria serving 1-2: Maria came to the net and Bepa netted a backhand pass. 15/0. Double fault (second serve just long). 15/15. Bepa forehand long. 30/15. Maria went for a big swinging second serve ace down the middle - was called out, but Maria correctly challenged. No replay, even though I got the impression Bepa had a play on that serve? 40/15. Maria deep error-forcing crosscourt backhand.

Bepa serving 2-2: Maria crosscourt forehand winner. John Lloyd: "The depth so good." Sam Smith: "Fearless - never runs away from tense situations." 0/15. Maria forehand winner down the line (three strokes after a weak second serve). 0/30. Maria netted an easy forehand off a short ball. Should have been 0/40! 15/30. Bepa netted a forehand under pressure. John Lloyd: "First(?) serve has to be more accurate than that, or it's gonna get punished!" 15/40 (2 BPs). Maria forehand wide. 30/40. Maria forehand long by a whisker (Maria made an incorrect challenge). 40/40. Maria forehand just wide. Ad Bepa. Maria backhand wide by a whisker, and she didn't want to risk losing her one remaining challenge.

A let-off for Bepa after 15/40!

Maria serving 2-3: Bepa hit a crosscourt forehand winner onto the sideline, leaving Maria flat-footed at the back of the court! 0/15. Ace down the middle, on the centre-line (outside edge). 15/15. Bepa forehand long. John Lloyd: "Got to not give freebies away." 30/15. Maria came to the net behind a deep shot, forcing Bepa to hit an early forehand long. 40/15. Bepa backhand just long.

No breaks, but Maria holding serve more easily than Bepa.

Bepa serving 3-3: Bepa came to the net, forcing Maria to balloon a backhand wide. 15/0. Maria forehand just wide. 30/0. Bepa forced Maria to net a forehand. 40/0. Maria netted a forehand.

Sam Smith: "Real quality about Zvonarëva."
John Lloyd: "If she was from any other country, she'd be much more famous.
"If this was Federer v Nadal, side to side, we'd be raving about it!"

Ben Dirs: "More fine hustling from Zvonarëva, moving Sharapova around the back of the court on the opening three points before taking the game to love. Zvonarëva is scrapping and hanging in there well at the moment."

Maria serving 3-4: Maria backhand winner down the line, on the baseline. Ben Dirs: "Sharapova leaves her opponent striking the teapot pose after hitting the baseline with a vicious backhand winner." Sam Smith: "It's automatic. She's so polished." 15/0. Virtual ace out wide. 30/0. Ace down the middle. 40/0. A deep return forced Maria backhand wide. 40/15. Ace out wide, in the corner.

John Lloyd: "In terms of the mental strength, she's the number one."

Bepa serving 4-4: Maria off-backhand return-winner. 0/15. Maria backhand return just wide. 15/15. Bepa hit a loose backhand long. 15/30. Maria netted a backhand after "gigantic" groundstrokes from Maria. 15/40 (2 BPs). Maria forehand long. 30/40. Maria netted a backhand. 40/40. Maria backhand just wide. Ad Bepa. Maria aggressive return + forehand drive-volley winner. Deuce #2. Maria forehand return just long. Ad Bepa. She netted a backhand and made a gesture of frustration & muttered. Deuce #3. Double fault. Bepa looks anxious now. Ad Maria (BP #3). Bepa saved it with an error-forcing backhand. Deuce #4. Maria backhand just long. Ad Bepa. She netted a forehand. Deuce #5. Maria backhand drive-volley winner. Ad Maria (BP #4). Bepa saved it with a brilliant pinpoint backhand winner down the line off a sliced backhand from Maria! Deuce #6. Maria off-forehand winner. Ad Maria (BP #5). Maria forehand long. Deuce #7. Bepa hit a brilliant crosscourt backhand pass-winner just inside the sideline. Sam Smith: "Where did she find that angle from?" Ad Bepa. Service-winner.

Ben Dirs: "Zvonarëva is really digging deep here, and doing exceptionally well not to crack under the weight of some gigantic groundstrokes. Lovely bit of touch from Zvonarëva, whipping a backhand down the line to save another break-point, and she then excels herself again, hanging on for dear life before leaving Sharapova rooted to the spot with a dipping crosscourt backhand. Five break-points saved in the game by Zvonarëva - gutsy, very gutsy."

Sam Smith: "They breed them tough in Moscow, and that's what Zvonarëva's all about."

I'm feeling a very strong loyalty towards Bepa right now. If she'd lost that game, it could have turned into a routine win for Maria, and my Passion wants these two to be out here till Christmas!

Sam Smith: "The sheer totality of commitment from Sharapova and the team is beyond belief."

Maria serving 4-5: Service-winner. 15/0. Bepa backhand long. 30/0. Bepa's forehand clipped the netcord and fell wide. She looked very frustrated. 40/0. Maria virtual crosscourt forehand winner.

Bepa serving 5-5: Ace down the middle, on the centre-line. 15/0. Maria backhand just long. 30/0. Bepa backhand just wide. 30/15. Maria hit a thunderbolt of a crosscourt forehand winner just inside the sideline. 30/30. Ace down the middle - Maria challenged it, and used up her last remaining challenge! 40/30. Maria forehand return-winner just inside the sideline. 40/40. Double fault. Ad Maria (BP). Maria crosscourt backhand winner wide by a whisker, but no challenges left. Deuce #2. Maria forehand wide. Ad Bepa. Maria error-forcing forehand down the line. Deuce #3. Maria virtual forehand winner down the line. Ad Maria (BP #2). Bepa finally cracked under the strain and netted a tame backhand, allowing Maria to break at the 10th opportunity! Bepa smacked the court with her racket.

Sam Smith: "You have to feel for Zvonarëva - just having to battle so hard through these service-games."

I do, Sam, I do!

John Lloyd: "That's the problem with playing other Russians - they're almost as tough as [Maria is]."

Maria serving 6-5: Maria crosscourt forehand winner just inside the baseline. 15/0. Maria forehand wide. 15/15. Bepa netted a backhand, and whacked her hips with her racket. 30/15. Bepa backhand wide. Sam Smith: "Zvonarëva goes into meltdown." 40/15 (2 SPs). Maria forehand just long. 40/30. Serve + off-forehand winner, and the first real fist-pump and "c'mon". Maria won the first set 7-5 at 20:46 AEST (61 minutes).

This match has me both shivering with excitement, and almost with tears in my eyes right now, as Bepa sits with her head in her towel.

Second set
SHARAPOVA @* * *@__* 6
ZVONARËVA __* *__@*_ 4

Bepa serving 0-0: Maria error-forcing crosscourt forehand. 0/15. Bepa backhand long. 0/30. Maria forehand long. 15/30. Maria forehand on the line forced Bepa backhand wide. 15/40 (2 BPs). Double fault. Groans from the crowd.

Poor Bepa. She's just gone away from this match after being broken at 5-5, and now she's crying. I can almost emote with her.

Sam Smith: "No need for Zvonarëva to beat up on herself - she's playing a good match. But there's someone down the other end who's playing better."

Maria serving 1-0: Maria netted a backhand. 0/15. Ace down the middle. 15/15. Maria forehand winner down the line. 30/15. Maria forehand just long. 30/30. Bepa netted a backhand - her footwork has gone, along with her belief. 40/30. Maria netted a forehand off a deep return onto the baseline. 40/40. Bepa forehand very long - she broke a string in that rally. Sam Smith: "Her contact is so high up the frame." Ad Maria. Maria hit an error-forcing crosscourt backhand.

Good resistance from Bepa in that game, but I'm still getting a very negative vibe from her. Sam Smith: "Nowhere to go."

Bepa serving 0-2: Bepa forehand just wide. 0/15. Maria backhand long. 15/15. Maria netted a forehand under pressure. 30/15. Maria backhand long. 40/15. Maria netted a forehand.

Maria serving 2-1: Bepa netted a forehand. 15/0. Ace down the middle. 30/0. Double fault. 30/15. Bepa netted a backhand volley. John Lloyd: "Didn't quite direct that approach-shot well enough." 40/15. Maria forehand drive-volley winner.

Bepa threw her racket. She's looking more fired up now, but there's an air of inevitability for Maria now, and not much noise from the crowd.

Sam Smith: "The life has just drained out of this match momentarily."

Bepa serving 1-3: Maria forehand long. 15/0. Maria forehand return just long. 30/0. Bepa came to the net, forcing Maria to hit a backhand pass wide. 40/0. Second serve: Maria off-forehand return-winner. 40/15. Bepa hit a well-placed forehand drive-volley winner.

Ben Dirs: "Good hustling from Zvonarëva, who hasn't given up the ghost by any means."

Maria serving 3-2: Service-winner (Bepa backhand lob-return just long). 15/0. Service-winner out wide, just inside the sideline. 30/0. Double fault (second serve just long). 30/15. Ace down the middle. 40/15. Maria forehand volley-winner after a spreading rally set up by a kicking serve out wide.

John Lloyd: "The winners have been stunning today, and there's been a lot of them."

Bepa serving 2-4: Maria netted a forehand under pressure. 15/0. Double fault. 15/15. Bepa netted a backhand. 15/30. Bepa forehand long. 15/40 (2 BPs). Double fault.

A tame break there, but Maria just seems so solid now - not giving Bepa any opportunities to get back into the match. All too clinical now.

Maria serving 5-2: Maria netted a backhand. 0/15. Maria crosscourt forehand winner after a good spreading rally. 15/15. Maria hit a crosscourt forehand onto the baseline - Bepa challenged, and Hawk-eye showed that it caught the very outside edge of the line! 30/15. Maria netted a forehand volley after three slices from Bepa on the stretch. 30/30. Maria missed a forehand smash from no-man's-land, running backwards, with a loud aeroplane above. 30/40 (BP). Maria sprayed a forehand long, handing Bepa her first break on her first break-point of the match!

Bepa serving 3-5: Bepa hit a backhand long, and swatted a ball away in frustration. 0/15. Maria opened up the court with a crosscourt backhand, and hit a blazing off-forehand winner just inside the sideline - lovely delay. 0/30. Service-winner. 15/30. Maria netted a forehand return. 30/30. Maria hit an error-forcing forehand. 30/40 (MP #1). Maria hit a forehand long off a short ball from Bepa. 40/40. Maria netted a forehand return. Ad Bepa. Ace down the middle.

Suddenly I sense a lifeline for Bepa! Maria's throwing in quite a few unforced errors now, and it's never easy to serve for the match when you've already failed.

The commentators said Bepa's attitude was much better now than at the start of this set.

Ben Dirs: "Emotional girl, Vera, and she looks like she's having a bit of a cry between ends."

Maria serving 5-4: Maria forehand long. John Lloyd: "Breaking down a lot earlier in these rallies than she was." 0/15. Bepa hit a breathtaking short-angled crosscourt backhand - only her 11th winner of the match. 0/30. Maria forehand just long under pressure. 0/40 (3 BPs). Maria forced Bepa backhand long. 15/40. Ace down the middle. 30/40. Maria hit a blazing crosscourt backhand onto the sideline! 40/40. Bepa earthed a mishit forehand. "C'mon!" screamed Maria. Ad Maria (MP #2). Double fault. Deuce #2. Maria hit a "sledgehammer" of an error-forcing crosscourt backhand. Ad Maria (MP #3). Maria netted a forehand off a deep forehand from Bepa that clipped the outside edge of the baseline! (Maria incorrectly challenged). Deuce #3. Maria backhand winner down the line. "Vamos!" Ad Maria (MP #4). Maria closed it out with a forehand winner down the line after an amazing final rally with Bepa retrieving for all she's worth! Maria won 7-5 6-4 at 21:32 (second set 46 minutes, match 1h47m).

My bladder is extremely relieved that Maria closed it out in that game, and I'm also glad I didn't have to change my video-cassette, which is within ten minutes of the end!

Andrew Castle described this match with "clang, clang, clang" with no changes of pace or spins - did he even watch it with more than "when's this court going to be free for Murray?"!

Sam Smith said at one point during the second set that Maria used to be one-dimensional (according to the hard-to-please Fred Stolle), but not anymore, which is what I've been trying to tell everyone in the last year or so.

And Bepa, of course, is an extremely versatile player, although she didn't get much chance to show the full range of her talents today because Maria kept her on the defensive.

Maria quotes

"I felt like it was going to be tough. I challenged myself. I wanted to see what I could come up with today, because I felt like I needed to come up with something better than I did in my previous rounds. It was good to go out there and just finish the match. I was definitely lucky to get out of it the way that I did.

"Probably some of the longest rallies I've had this week. Tougher situations point‑wise, holding your serve, again being break-points down.

"I thought I definitely stepped it up. I had to. I felt like I was a lot looser. I was going for my shots a bit more. I felt like I was a little tentative in my previous matches - just trying to find my rhythm.

"Today when I came on the court, I knew she was going to be a challenge. I just had to go out there and step up to it."

[Re. serving for the match at 5-2]
"I don't think I played that bad. I did, I made a pretty easy error. I should have hit a volley when the whole court was open. I decided to hit a swing volley at 30/15. From that point on, I didn't think that I really just gave it to her. I mean, she worked hard for that game. She earned it. It was a little bit of up and down from that 5-2."

[Re. serving for the match at 5-4]
"I mean, look, I was down Love/40 on my serves, and I think I hit like three or four backhand winners. I can say that I'm pretty proud that I could come up with that in that sort of situation, because that's basically what it's all about.

"It was very good to win in two sets today, because I've had some tough matches against her. I came up with three really good shots to win it at the end there.

"I thought I played a lot better today than in the previous rounds. But I will definitely have to step it up again.

"I do think that men's fashion is a little boring on the tennis-court. I'd like to see them spice it up. You can't do white on white - that's just too boring."

It would be so cool if Maria and Bepa played each other in the Birmingham-final this year (as they would have done last year, but for Maria's aberration against Jamea Jackson).

6. Quarter-final preview

I said in my tournament-preview that I would love a Maria v Anna quarter-final, and it's so cool that Anna has upset the seedings to make my wish come true, just as Vera Zvonarëva did to become Maria's fourth-round opponent!

Maria v Vera was a mouthwatering match of flairsome power, and Maria v Anna will be more of the same. I think Anna could do even better against Maria than Vera did, perhaps even win, although Maria was just too solid - especially on her serve - for Vera to put her in any serious danger of losing.

Maria and Anna are both now members of my Eternal Fanship, so where is my loyalty? It's difficult to say in advance, because it boils down to the following question: Could Anna stop Kim Clijsters in the semi-finals? That's what would make it worthwhile for me to sacrifice my queen, because if Anna lost to Clijsters, I would be thinking, "I wish Maria could have had a go at her!"

Maria quotes

"I thought I played a lot better [against Vera] than I did in my previous rounds, but I'll definitely have to step it up against her [Anna].

"I don't know her game that well... she's had some great results in the last couple of months. And she's a big hitter, and another young Russian that's coming up, so I look forward to that."

[Re. Los Angeles 2005]
"I think she's more of a developed player than she was then. She's definitely a lot more experienced. She's played more top players, has had great wins over top players.

"I mean, look, I don't think I'm going to look back at that match too much. Obviously I've seen her play here and there. Just got to go out, and if I play like I did today, I think my chances are pretty good."

Anna quotes

[Q. Are you a much better player than the last time you played Maria?]

Anna: "I think so, because now I have more confidence and I know how I should play, and if I use my game-plan right then I can win, I think.

[Re. other Russians]
"Of course we're friends, because we spend so much time on the Tour, but you can't be friends with everyone because we're different personalities. But most of them are very nice and I'm friends with them.

"I just want to play one more match and win one more match. I'm not thinking, 'OK, she's Russian, I have to beat her.'"

[Comparing Maria with Vera Zvonarëva]
"They both play pretty similar. They hit very flat, good serve. Better backhand, I think. Well, I played against Vera on grass and I lost very close match. I don't know. They both very tough opponents. I have to be ready."

As a fan of all three, I think Maria and Vera have the biggest contrast of styles - Maria with more power, Vera with more versatility and retrieval-skills. I think Anna and Vera are the most similar, and that Anna is more similar to Maria than Vera is.

Any match between two of the three is absolutely mouthwatering to me!

7. Quarter-final draw
7.1 Top half (to be played on Wednesday)

* MARIA SHARAPOVA [1,EF] v ANNA CHAKVETADZE [12,EF] (another mouthwatering match!)
* MARTINA HINGIS [6] v KIM CLIJSTERS [4] (hopp Martina!)

8. Semi-final draw (to be played on Thursday)
8.1 Bottom half

* NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [10,EF] v Serena Williams (pojdme Nicole!)

9. Order of Play for Wednesday

Rod Laver Arena (start 11:00 AEST = 00:00 GMT)
Evening-session (start 19:30 AEST = 08:30 GMT)
XD 2r: (BOB BRYAN/MIKE BRYAN)[1] v Chris Guccione/Casey Dell'Acqua

It's so disappointing that there are no women's quarter-finals on the evening-session = no BBCi-coverage!

Full order of play:

Dr. Andrew Broad
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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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 12:18 AM   #6
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Andrew's quarter-final report

AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Rebound Ace); Grand Slam)

This is a Maria-filtered version of my Day 10 round-up:

1. Photos & videos
3. Sharapova v Chakvetadze quarter-final report
4. Sharapova v Clijsters semi-final preview
5. Semi-final draw
6. Andrew's wishes
8. Order of Play for Thursday

1. Photos & videos (Maria-filtered)
1.1 Photos

Maria Sharapova and Anna Chakvetadze: (

Maria Sharapova:

Search Getty Images for "sharapova"

1.2 Video

BBC Sport's round-up of Wednesday's quarter-finals:

3. Sharapova v Chakvetadze quarter-final report (Wednesday 24th January)

Very nice winner, very nice loser:
+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [1,EF] d. ANNA CHAKVETADZE [12,EF], 7-6 (7/5) 7-5

A very similar match to the one against Vera Zvonarëva, but even tougher than that. Straight sets, but it took 2h15m!

Statistically it wasn't a very high-quality match: Maria with a W:UE ratio of 32:41, Anna 14:28. It sounds like Anna had to rely on her retrieval-skills - which are very good because she anticipates so well, and knows how to make her defensive shots awkward for her opponent. And Maria struggles the most against opponents who get a lot of balls back.

And the media don't describe it as a high-quality match either, describing Maria's performance as "lacklustre", "unconvincing", "failed to find any rhythm" and "a slew of errors", while Anna looked "painfully nervous on some easy putaways" [Miles Evans for Reuters].

But, as puts it, Maria "played clutch-tennis at the most critical junctures," as she so often does.

There were a lot of breaks in this match, and while Anna broke Maria twice in each set, those lucky enough to watch the match said that Anna's serve was weak, as though that was a general weakness. But I know that Anna's serve is usually very good - not a huge serve like Maria's, but she does place it very well and set up a lot of one-two punches. In this match, Anna had a right-shoulder injury.

Anna had her chances: she served for the first set at 5-3, had Maria serving to stay in it again at 5-6, and had two separate mini-break leads in the tiebreak.

In the second set, it was Maria who failed to serve it out at 5-3, and she also had to recover from 5-5 (0/30) before sealing victory.

Anna may have been nervous in her first Grand Slam quarter-final, but to come away with 11 games against the pending world number one, despite a shoulder-injury, is something to be proud of, along with winning her first nine matches of the year!

Yeah, not a great match. Anna served a lot better in Moscow than here but I think maybe that was her shoulder. But all those short balls that she didn't put away - I think it was nerves, otherwise she really needs to work on that. For the whole first set she just pushed the ball straight back to Maria instead of taking it in the air into the open court. Smashes weren't good either.

Maria made lots of errors and while she didn't get a lot of rhythm I think this is because Anna was not letting her have any.

Derek (re. Anna):
Nerves may have gotten to her, because she definitely was not agressive enough.

She couldn't put away short balls, especially off the forehand side.

Miles Evans (Reuters):
Both parents started the match with anxious, uneasy faces as if their daughters were preparing for the opening night of an ambitious school-play.

Chakvetadze's silver-haired father Djambuli grimaced and winced with every error, roared with approval at every winner, and pulled his baseball-cap over his eyes when an easy put-away for his 19-year-old daughter went begging.

Yuri Sharapov, the 19-year-old Maria's combustible father, was even more emotive, punching his fist with delight at each advantage eked out, and shaking his fist in frustration every time the top seed failed to meet expectation.

The match started at 11:14 AEST, and with no day-session coverage on BBCi, I followed live scores at

First set
SHARAPOVA _* *__@ @* * 7(7)
CHAKVETAD * * *@ @__*_ 6(5)

Anna serving 0-0: 15/0, 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad A, held.

Well recovered by Anna. Important to get that first game on the board, especially as Maria is such a good frontrunner (although she has been known to squander 5-0 leads in third sets!).

Maria serving 0-1: 0/40 (3 BPs) -> 40/40, ad Maria, held.

And what a start by Anna! But Maria so good at saving break-points, and generally pegging her opponent back to deuce so that she can win the games in which she was behind.

Anna serving 1-1: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, 40/30, held.
Maria serving 1-2: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, held.
Anna serving 2-2: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, held.

This is intriguingly similar to Maria's first set against Vera Zvonarëva - just as Anna herself is intriguingly similar to Vera: cute, flairsome power, very emotional, and a tremendous fighter.

But Anna is holding her service-games more easily than Vera was doing...

Maria serving 2-3: 0/15, 30/15, 30/30, 30/40 (BP), broken.

First blood to Anna!

Anna serving 4-2: 0/30 -> 30/30, 30/40 (BP), broken.

But Maria, like all great champions, breaks back immediately. Maria is renowned for her terrific serve, but she also has fearsome returns, eating up first and second serves.

Maria serving 3-4: 15/0, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken.

Well well! Maria and Anna are both reliable holders of serve, so I wasn't expecting this match to degenerate into a pattern of break-and-counterbreak - although Maria will certainly be hoping that pattern continues for one more game!

Anna serving 5-3: 0/15, 15/15, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken.

It was a lot to ask of Anna to come through that test against as fierce a competitor as Maria.

My loyalty is to Maria at the moment: Anna has shown her that she means business - which is great - but I don't want Maria to lose, because with her proven track-record, she has a much better chance than Anna of winning this title for my Eternal Fanship.

Maria serving 4-5: 30/0 -> 30/30, 40/30, held.

Anna giving Maria a taste of her own medicine there: pegging her back on her service-game. Maria didn't pay for it there, but that can be the kind of thing that gets into your head and makes you nervous in later service-games.

Anna serving 5-5: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, held.

Maria again serving to stay in the set, but this time the momentum is more in Anna's favour, because this time she won the game before.

Maria serving 5-6: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, held.

And now we have what the Maria v Vera match lacked: the Russian Roulette of a tiebreak... Mental strength will be important, but luck plays a greater role as there's no time for Maria to dig in.

6-6 tiebreak: Maria *1/0, *1/1; Anna *2/1, *2/2; Maria *3/2, *3/3; Anna *4/3, *4/4; Maria *5/4, *6/4 (2 SPs), 6/5* (SP #2). Anna netted a shot. Maria won the first set 7-6 (7/5) at 12:14 (60 minutes).

What a curious pattern! Each player then the other getting a mini-break, but unable to consolidate.

Wintermute: "Anna's forehand isn't working too well now. She gifted Sharapova a couple of points by putting some tame forehands into the net during the tiebreaker."

Who should I support in the second set?

* My Passion says Anna, because matches between members of my Eternal Fanship should be three-set thrillers!

* My Reason says Maria, because I don't want her tired for her semi-final tomorrow - nor do I want a tired Anna (she'd have to win in three now) in the semi-finals instead of Maria.

Six-minute delay after the first set - that's about the time it takes for a bathroom-break. But I later learned that Anna took a medical time-out for her right shoulder (the trainer rubbed some anti-inflammatory cream in - I wouldn't mind that job! ).

Second set
SHARAPOVA *@__* *@__*@ 7
CHAKVETAD __@* *__@*__ 5

Maria serving 0-0: 40/0, 40/30, held.

A bit of pegging-back by Anna in that game, but Maria will be looking to step it up after that tough first set.

I hope Anna doesn't have a lapse of concentration, as Vera did in the fourth round after losing the first set. I want Maria to win in straight sets so that she's not tired for the semis, but I want Anna to give a good account of herself in the second set too.

Anna serving 0-1: 0/30 -> 30/30, 30/40 (BP), broken.

A blow across the bows for Anna, going a set and a break down. I can imagine her in tears and chewing wasps at this moment, but she's such a fighter - and on-form - that I wouldn't write her out of this match yet.

Against Vera, there was an air of inevitability about Maria's victory as soon as she went a break up in the second, but Anna has already broken Maria's serve twice, while Vera at the same stage hadn't even had a break-point.

Maria serving 2-0: 15/0, 15/15, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken.

She's a fighter all right! This match needed that break back, or the atmosphere could have gone very flat, as Maria v Vera did in the second set.

Wintermute: "Anna's making quite a few errors on her forehand and keeps feeling her shoulder - it's really bothering her. But Maria's making tons of errors herself and keeping Anna in this. Atmosphere is a bit flat in the arena, not a pretty match."

cosmoose: "trainer out for Anna again, massaging her right shoulder. This could be the reason for Anna's weak serving."

Anna serving 1-2: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, held.

cosmoose: "Lack of pace from Anna is driving Maria crazy. Maria has no rhythm on her strokes = zillion UE"

Anna still has a 25% chance of winning this match if we assume that each remaining set is 50/50 - which seems quite reasonable after the first set went to a tiebreak, although Maria is the mistress of the decisive moments.

Maria serving 2-2: 15/0, 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad Maria, Deuce #2, ad Maria, Deuce #3, ad Anna (BP #2), Deuce #4, ad Maria, held.

If I wasn't also an Anna-fan, I'd be breathing a huge sigh of relief after Maria saved those break-points! Being broken twice in a row is not what this doctor ordered.

As an Anna-fan, I'm so proud that she's giving the top seed such a tough match. As a Maria-fan, I'm concerned about her rising fatigue-levels because the last thing I want to see is Kim Clijsters in the final.

Maria took a medical time-out for a blisters on her left foot.

Anna serving 2-3: 0/15, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30, 40/40, ad Anna, Deuce #2, ad Maria (BP), Deuce #3, ad Maria (BP #2), Deuce #4, ad Anna, held.

Again, I'm so proud of Anna's resistance there - two break-points saved!

Wintermute: "Anna is lucky to get out of that game. She has made astonishing errors on short balls that she should have easily put away."

A set and *4-2 would have been a very commanding lead for Maria, but 7-6 3-3 is the tightest possible scoreline for this many games played - they're absolutely in the thick of battle!

Maria serving 3-3: 0/30 -> 40/30, held.

Well recovered by Maria! Of course, it's not just her fatigue-levels I have to worry about if this goes to a third set, but my own - half an hour more, and this will be the third night in a row I've had less than five hours' sleep!

It was around this time that Yuri Sharapov got his daughter a code-violation for coaching. The officials always watch him very closely at Maria's matches these days - especially after the Sharapovs' monkey-see monkey-do antics at the US Open 2006 (the media-reaction to which, IMO, was blown out of all proportion).

Anna serving 3-4: 30/0 -> 30/40 (BP), broken.

You have to feel for Anna there. Looked like she was cruising to an easy hold at 30/0, and suddenly, almost out of nowhere, Maria's serving for the match!

Can she close out this match more smoothly than she did the one against Vera, where from *5-2 she needed two tries at serving for it? She won't have that luxury in this set.

Maria serving 5-3: 15/0, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken.

Well well! This failure of Maria to serve out matches is becoming quite a worry! It happened from 5-0 in the third against Camille Pin in the first round (Maria won 9-7!), again against Vera, and now this.

This is a major lifeline for Anna. Is she tough enough and good enough to make Maria pay the ultimate price? I think she is - the onus is on Maria to save herself, because I don't think Anna's going to roll over for her.

Anna serving 4-5: 15/0, 15/30, 30/30, 30/40 (MP #1), 40/40, ad Anna, Deuce #2, ad Anna, held.

There's a lot of baggage building up for Maria now: a failed attempt at serving out the match, and now a missed match-point. Would be amazing if Anna could turn this match around and win, and the greater part of that amazement is already behind us!

My Passion is beginning to overtake my Reason now. I'm so excited for Anna: if she wins this match - especially from a losing position - it would be such a major landmark in her career, and would make her that much more famous (not that Anna likes a lot of attention, but I as a fan crave more media-coverage).

Maria serving 5-5: 0/30 -> 40/30, held.

Maria steadies the ship after tremendous danger at 0/30, and is once again within one game of victory. She needs to win this in straight sets to conserve her energy for the semi-finals - if it does go to a third set, I might as well support Anna for all the good it would do for Maria to reach the semi-finals with an empty tank.

Anna serving 5-6: 0/30, 15/30, 15/40 (MP #2), 30/40 (MP #3). Anna netted a forehand. Maria won 7-6 (7/5) 7-5 at 13:29 (second set 1h15m, match 2h15m).

That was a very long two-setter! I'm concerned about Maria's fatigue even now, without a day off to recover for the semi-finals. At least it wasn't played in extreme heat - only 20°C in Melbourne right now.

Maria quotes

"Overall I thought I was up and down - a bit scratchy. First set, I'm down a break. The tiebreak was up and down. We broke each other quite a few times. Then when I got a break in the second set, I gave it back to her - let her back in it.

"It was very difficult; I didn't feel like we had a lot of easy rallies. I felt I had to work on every point. When you're a set and a break up, it's still tough - I'm glad I got through.

"But I was just very competitive. Against a girl like that, who gets a lot of balls back, it's just a matter of who can be a little bit smarter, who can get an extra ball back, who is a little tougher. I thought I did the job really well today.

"I still feel like there's more room for improvement. But against her, she's not a player that's going to make you feel great about your game, either. I feel like she doesn't give you much rhythm.

"Coming out with a win against her - someone who's playing well, someone who beat Schnyder 4 and 1, someone who's playing with a lot of confidence - if you can beat them in straight sets, it definitely gives you a lot of confidence."

[Re. the problems with holding serve]
"It was strange. I warmed up indoors. I came out. It's always pretty gusty on that court. The wind just blows one way. I got broken most of the time from that side because my serves were going long.

"On the other side, I didn't feel like I was getting enough pace on the serve. I'm not sure if I just didn't adjust quickly. It just took me a long time. Then when you start thinking, it's like a little snowball.

"Yeah, uhm, you know, didn't serve as well as I did my previous round. But it's tough to get a lot of easy points from her. She gets a lot of balls back, and she makes you work even if you do hit a pretty big first serve.

"I could have served a little bit better if I didn't give her too many looks on my second serve. When you give your opponent those chances - even when you break them - they feel they can break back, because you're not completely confident in your service-games."

[Re. Anna]
"Sometimes I feel like I don't know if she knows what she's doing! I feel like she tricks herself into her own game. She definitely has a lot of variety. If she wants to step in, she has a lot of power behind her strokes."

[Re. their fathers]
"I mean it's normal, I've been with my dad every single day. I'm sure Anna has as well. They both want you to win; they're both very excited over the opportunities you have."

[Re. the code-violation for coaching]
"I asked the umpire if it was in between those points. I didn't see anything - I didn't even look at him [Yuri]."

Anna quotes

"Maria won today; she played better than me. She is stronger. I guess she played very well. She's a great fighter. I think she deserved this win. I can just wish her good luck in semis.

"I think I need to improve to be more aggressive on important points especially because, yes, she was a little bit more aggressive than me. Definitely I will work on it. But, you know, it's tough to be aggressive because Maria, she's hitting the ball so hard! Especially in the warm-up, I thought, 'She will kill me!' <laughing>

"I couldn't put one ball on court, because she played one ball on me, and the other ball like somewhere. I couldn't, you know, get where is the ball going, she was hitting so hard.

"It's tough to play aggressively against these kinds of players because they play aggressive, and you should mix your game a little bit more. But, on important balls, you should be more aggressive.

"My game-plan was to move her. If I would play all balls to her, it will be very difficult. I was running well today. But my hands and my arms was little bit sore and stiff. You know, especially those easy shots, I couldn't put it where I wanted. That was the problem, especially important points.

"I think she won all the important balls. I didn't use my opportunities in the first as well as second set, because it was like two or three games Love/30 on her serve. I just didn't use them. That's why I lost.

"It was a close match, but Maria won. I think she played better than me today and she deserves it, definitely.

"I wasn't nervous at all - not at all. Maybe on the tiebreak, because I was up like 5-3 and I had so many opportunities. I just didn't use it. That's, you know, a little bit strange because on the tiebreak, so many points are lost so easy balls. I don't think it's because nerves. I just need to be more aggressive on the important points."

[Re. her right-shoulder strain]
"It was tight in the morning. I had some treatment on it. During the match I felt pain, strain from the backside. I definitely should call the trainer earlier - not after first set. I think I should call it before I'm serve on that game at 5-4. Maybe it would help me. I got some anti-inflammatories, and pain gone in second set after few games. But maybe Maria's hitting so hard, my shoulder was getting tighter.

"It's amazing, because something is happening when I'm playing important matches. Like against Hingis in Montréal I had injury, again, my right hand. Here, as well. I should do something to myself. Should stay healthy, you know, to beat these kind of players.

"I mean, it was my tenth match in a row. I felt tired. I just need to stay healthy, and maybe not play tournament before a Grand Slam."

[Re. the first time she ever saw Maria]
"I just remember her dress, that's it. It was a pink dress. I just remember the colour actually."

That would be the US Open 2003 then.

Anna quotes before the match

[Re. comparisons with Martina Hingis]
"Martina is a great player - a former number one - and it's a compliment that they say that, but I think I hit the ball little harder than Martina.

"My groundstrokes are okay, and when I feel my return, I'm really okay. I'm trying to play smart, but I don't always do it.

"After I beat Petrova in San Diego, I started to believe I can beat top players. Then I started playing better and better at every tournament. I didn't play well against Golovin at the US Open, but she played great. But I already believed by then that when I got on court, that I could win. It's all confidence.

"I'm concentrating more now, not losing easy points.

"I am pretty hard on myself. That's how I'm thinking. I don't want to talk like some of the players: they like to say, 'I will win a Grand Slam.' All the players want to win a Grand Slam. I just play.

"I'm happy to play in second week. It's different, because the pressure is on. I'm just trying to stay calm because when I don't - when I'm excited - I can't play tennis. I'm still working on that. I start to think more about the next point, how to beat my opponent and not get frustrated after the point I lost. Now I have more confidence, and I know how should I play. If I use my game-plan right, then I can win."

[Re. Djambuli]
"He's not like my coach - he's just my dad. He helps a little, but I'm trying to think by myself about my game."

Barbara Schett about Anna

"She's a little bit in the shadow of the others - Sharapova, Petrova, Myskina, Kuznetsova - and that probably suits her. The attention is not that big on her, and she can just quietly slip through the draw.

"When I played against her [US Open 2004], her serve was not good, but now it's a lot better. She's a pretty consistent player out there now."

Tracy Austin about Anna

"It's the way that she uses the court, the way she is always balanced. She doesn't really look rushed.

"Some people seem to put a lot of effort into everything they do. Someone like Janković, you feel like she is working so hard every point, digging and grinding. Chakvetadze, she just seems to kind of be there."

A telling snapshot

From The Age - full article at
Chakvetadze reads the game beautifully, as if she's already watched it on TV and knows every line in the script.

Schnyder jumped out to a 4-1 lead, at which point Chakvetadze said she found some rhythm against the Swiss' heavily spun balls.

Schnyder had been to the last eight here in each of the previous three years, but her body-language soon smacked of resignation, and the realisation that she was up against a player who was already her equal, perhaps better.

She won just one more game for the match, becoming visibly distressed by the precision of Chakvetadze's anticipation, as if she were tapping into her thoughts.

Schnyder turning to her entourage, arms outstretched and asking, "What can I do?" was a telling snapshot.

It's so great to see that the media are really starting to analyse Anna now, and confirming the observations that I have already seen for myself. I'm so proud to have known her before she was really famous.

4. Sharapova v Clijsters semi-final preview


Clijsters has reached the semi-finals with the following results:
1r + Vasilisa Bardina, 6-0 6-0
2r + Akiko Morigami [s], 6-3 6-0
3r + ALYONA BONDARENKO [29], 6-3 6-3
4r + DANIELA HANTUCHOVÁ [15], 6-1 7-5
qf + MARTINA HINGIS [6], 3-6 6-4 6-3

Clijsters leads their official head-to-head 4-2:
- 2003 Los Angeles 3r: Clijsters 6-4 1-6 6-1
- 2003 Luxembourg sf: Clijsters 6-0 6-3
- 2005 Miami final: Clijsters 6-3 7-5
- 2005 US Open sf: Clijsters 6-2 6-7 6-3
+ 2006 San Diego final: Sharapova 7-5 7-5
+ 2006 WTA Tour Championships rr: Sharapova 6-4 6-4
(- 2007 Hong Kong exhibition: Clijsters 6-3 7-6)

I've been dreading this match-up since the draw came out - the last thing I wanted to see was Clijsters in Maria's half. Hong Kong may be only an exhibition, but Maria gave Clijsters an important psychological edge going into this match. Many people have said that Clijsters is the tournament-favourite.

But if Maria was unconvincing against Anna, Clijsters was even more unconvincing against Hingis, whom she beat 3-6 6-4 6-3 in what CEEFAX describe as "a dreadfully inconsistent display" with 62 unforced errors - more than in her previous four matches combined - which begs the question: how did she beat a player of Hingis's calibre then? "I don't want to see her in the quarter-finals ever again," said Hingis.

Pritha Sarkar (Reuters): "Wild backhands, mistimed dropshots, flying forehands and awkward volleys seemed to be on the agenda for Clijsters, as she barely resembled a player who had been installed as the title-favourite."

That match started after Maria v Anna finished, so Clijsters has much less time than Maria to recover for the semi-final which takes place without a day's rest for either player.

Clijsters also picked up a hip-injury against Hingis, which was very sore after the match.

The other reason for optimism is that Maria's will to win is much stronger than Clijsters'. Last summer, when Clijsters was losing to Justine Henin in the semi-finals of the French Open, Eastbourne and Wimbledon, the commentators were talking about Henin being so hungry and ruthless, while Clijsters was the sort of person who would rather win friends than trophies, and just couldn't wait to get off the Tour and start a family.

Maria's attitude is much more like Henin's than like Clijsters', even though Maria plans to retire herself at 24 and start a family.

Five years, stuck on my eyes
Five years, what a surprise
Five years, my brain hurts a lot
Five years, that's all we've got

[David Bowie, "Five Years"]

Maria quotes

"She makes you work for every ball. She gets a lot of balls back. But at the end of the day, I think it's mentally who is a little bit tougher.

"Obviously she's a lot stronger than I am, but other than that, I feel like I am definitely on a closer level to her than I was, say, a year ago.

"I feel like I'm doing smarter things in situations, being a little bit more patient when I have to. I feel like I have a lot more plans in my pocket. Also experience.

"Like you said, beating her for the first time, that definitely gave me a lot of confidence, that I can beat her. Beating Amélie and Justine on back-to-back days [at the US Open 2006], that definitely gives you a lot of confidence - tells you that you could beat No. 1 and 2 players on back-to-back days. As much as they're probably stronger physically than I am, I can still beat them."

Clijsters quotes {after her quarter-final}

"This could have been my last match here, so I'm very happy I get to play another one.

"I'm still asking myself [how I got through]. The only thing I did well today was I fought and I tried. I wasn't seeing the ball. All you can do is fight and work for every point - and I did.

"I have to be sharp against Maria: she's an incredible athlete and fights for every point. I can definitely not afford all the unforced errors against Maria - I have to make sure I play aggressive tennis and keep the unforced errors down. Hopefully, I will hit less than 62 unforced errors!"

5. Semi-final draw (to be played on Thursday)

* NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [10,EF] v Serena Williams (POJDME NICOLE!!)

6. Andrew's wishes (updated after Day 10)
6.1 Final wish


8. Order of Play for Thursday

Rod Laver Arena (start 11:00 AEST = 00:00 GMT)
WS sf: NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [10,EF] v Serena Williams
Evening-session (start 19:30 AEST = 08:30 GMT)
XD qf: Elena Likhovtseva/Daniel Nestor v (LEANDER PAES/SAMANTHA STOSUR)[3]

Full order of play:

Dr. Andrew Broad
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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Andrew's semi-final report

AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Rebound Ace); Grand Slam)

This is a Maria-filtered version of my semi-final round-up:

1. Photos & videos
3. Sharapova v Clijsters semi-final report
5. Final preview
10. Order of Play for Saturday

1. Photos & videos
1.1 Photos

Maria Sharapova: (pp.535-536) (Thursday 25 January)

Maria's on-court beauty was exceptional on Thursday!

Nicole Vaidišová: (to 67) (Thursday 25 January: two galleries!)

Nicole was quite possibly the hottest babe of the tournament!

Maria Sharapova and Nicole Vaidišová: (Semifinals - day 1)

Maria Sharapova and Anna Chakvetadze: (Quarterfinals - day 2)

Search Getty Images for:

1.2 Videos

Highlights of semi-finals:

Barbara Schett interviews Maria before the final:

3. Sharapova v Clijsters semi-final report (Thursday 25th January)


How times change! Going into the San Diego 2006 final, Maria was 0-4 in her head-to-head against Clijsters, and had lost five Grand Slam semi-finals in a row.

Now Maria has beaten Clijsters three times in a row (that Hong Kong exhibition is not recognised by the WTA Tour as counting towards the official head-to-heads). Maria 'Semipova' has now won two Grand Slam semi-finals in a row, while Clijsters has now lost four in a row.

It's the first Australian Open final for Maria - or for any of the Russian women, who between them have won all three of the other Grand Slams at some point.

Again, it wasn't a particularly clean match, Maria with a W:UE ratio of 27:33, Clijsters 11:23, and Maria served 8 double faults including 4 in one game! But 27 winners in 18 games is quite a lot, and Maria served 7 aces!

Like when Luke Skywalker removed Darth Vader's helmet, I almost feel sorry for Clijsters now that her AO-career is over. But the last time I felt sorry for Clijsters, she came back more powerful - and did more damage to members of my Eternal Fanship - than I could possibly imagine!

3.1 Articles

BBC Sport:
Maria Sharapova will meet Serena Williams in the final of the Australian Open after she brushed aside the challenge of Kim Clijsters on Thursday.

Sharapova was in aggressive form as she saw off Clijsters 6-4 6-2 in the second semi-final at the Rod Laver Arena.

The Russian's big first serve and powerful groundstrokes were too much for the popular Clijsters, despite the partisan support of the Melbourne fans.

Sharapova, the number one seed, had fallen at the semi-final stage in both of the last two Australian Opens.

But she sought to dominate Clijsters from the start, and the 2004 runner-up could not live with the younger woman's power.

Sharapova into final, Clijsters exits
by Bren O'Brien <>
Thursday, 25 January, 2007

Women's No.1 seed Maria Sharapova is through to her first Australian Open women's final after blitzing No.4 seed Kim Clijsters in straight-sets on Rod Laver Arena.

Sharapova had been a semi-finalist in Melbourne for the past two years, but finally cleared that hurdle at her third attempt. She ended Clijsters' Melbourne Park campaign with 6-4 6-2 win.

The Belgian began the match well enough, breaking in the third game. Sharapova squared up in the sixth, only to be broken immediately. But facing a first-set defeat, the giant Russian rallied to break her in the eighth and tenth game, and claim a surprise lead.

The No.1 seed then broke Clijsters in the second game of the second set to gain a stranglehold on the match. Clijsters had three chances to break back in the fifth game, but let them slip and Sharapova kept the pressure on her opponent. She sealed her berth in the final on her first match-point with a forehand winner on Clijsters' serve.

Clijsters bid farewell to Melbourne Park at the end of her match, as she plans to retire at the end of the year, while for Sharapova, she gets a shot at her third Grand Slam title.

Paul Gough at
The Sharapova-Clijsters semi was expected to go the distance, but instead was over in less than an hour-and-a-half - even though the match was closer than the scores suggested.

Clijsters paid a heavy price for failing to make the most of her opportunities as she converted just two of 12 break-points against Sharapova, while in contrast the Russian converted five of her eight opportunities.

Agence France Presse:
Sharapova was ruthless against Clijsters, showing no emotion to clinically dispatch the Belgian and become the first Russian woman to reach the tournament-decider in Australia.

Paul Alexander, Associated Press Writer:
Sharapova, last year's US Open champion, wasn't at the top of her game either, committing eight double faults and missing a number of easy putaways. But she was at her best under pressure, fending off seven break-points in the second set.

Ed Osmond (Reuters):
Sloppy Sharapova eases past Clijsters

The 19-year-old Sharapova struggled with her game against the Belgian fourth seed (making her last appearance at Melbourne Park), dishing up 33 unforced errors before sealing victory on her first match-point in 83 minutes.

Sharapova and Clijsters exchanged two early breaks each in a scrappy first set, before the Russian took the Belgian's serve again in the 10th game to secure it in 42 minutes.

Sharapova, the US Open champion, raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set, but served up eight double faults and missed a few easy passing-shots and volleys to keep Clijsters in the match.

The 23-year-old Clijsters, who is retiring at the end of the season, made fewer unforced errors than the 62 she racked up in her quarter-final win over Martina Hingis, but she was unable to raise her game.

Clijsters did hold serve to get back to 2-4 in the second set, and had chances to break Sharapova in the next game, but the Belgian double-faulted to give her opponent a match-point, which she took with evident relief.

Pritha Sarkar (Reuters):
The US Open champion had won just two of her six previous meetings with Clijsters, but did not let that - or sentimentality - blur her focus on Thursday.

She turned villain in front of "Aussie Kim's" adopted fans as she shoved the popular Belgian towards the exit with a dogged display from the baseline.

Clijsters had gained the first break in the match to nose ahead 2-1, and stretched it to 4-3 in the first set, but from then on her game became unhinged.

The fourth seed lost her serve two more times, and surrendered the set as she scooped a forehand into the net.

Despite fluffing numerous break-points in the second set, Sharapova stood firm and slammed the door shut after 83 minutes by cracking a sizzling forehand down the line on match-point.
The match was fairly scratchy in the opening set, as the players broke each other a total of five times in the 10 games - Clijsters was actually up a break serving 4-3, before Sharapova reeled off six straight games to go up 3-0 in the second; she held onto that break to go ahead 5-2, and then broke one more time to clinch the win. The Russian teen rifled a down-the-line forehand passing shot on match-point and raised her arms in triumph.

After the match Clijsters was given a standing ovation from the crowd, as well as Sharapova, in respect of it being her last appearance Down Under. She plans to retire from the pro circuit at the end of the season.

PA SportsTicker:
The 19-year-old Russian broke Clijsters' serve three times while losing hers twice in an opening set that lasted 42 minutes.

Sharapova fought off all seven break-points in the second set, and won the match with a forehand winner - her 27th of day - for her 13th straight triumph in a Grand Slam event.

Clijsters, who only came to the net once in the second set, made just 49% (29 of 59) of her first serves before leaving to a standing ovation.
Maria put up a very dominant performance today, hitting all shots with power and precision, and playing well both at the baseline and the net.

Maria raced into a 3-0 lead in the 2nd set. At 4-2 there was a very long deuce game where Maria faced a few break-points - this proved decisive for Maria to close the match as she took that game and then the next one for the set and the match on a winning forehand.

3.2 Scores

I caught up with live scores using the following thread: (pp.70-98)

The match started at 16:14 AEST.

First set
SHARAPOVA *___*@ @*@ 6
CLIJSTERS _*@*__@___ 4

Maria serving 0-0: 15/0, 15/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad Maria, held.
Clijsters serving 0-1: 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30. Double fault. 40/40, ad Clijsters, held.

azmad_88: "sharapova is appraoching NET AAA LOTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Maria serving 1-1: 0/40 (3 BPs), 30/40, broken.
Clijsters serving 2-1: 0/30 -> 30/30. Double fault. 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad Clijsters, held.

I'd be in a very negative frame of mind if I was following this live! Wasted break-point.

Maria serving 1-3: 30/0. Ace. 40/0, 40/15, held.

Maria has won 7 of 7 points at the net so far!

Clijsters serving 3-2: 0/15, 15/15. Clijsters UE. 15/30, 15/40 (2 BPs), 30/40, broken.

Already 3 double faults from Clijsters.

Maria serving 3-3: 0/15. Return out. 15/15. Maria netted an easy forehand. 15/30, 15/40. Double fault.

BK4ever: "Lord...Pova found her voice box. How come she didnt scream for the first 5 games????"

Clijsters serving 4-3: Double fault #4. 0/15, 15/15, 15/40 (2 BPs). Clijsters missed an overhead to get broken back.
Maria serving 4-4: 0/15, 15/15. Double fault #2. 15/30, 30/30, 40/30, held.

hablo: "Both players seem really nervous to me. Kim had started out better but is sucking now."
Cator: "wow, Maria is playing great at net."

Clijsters serving 4-5: 0/15, 15/15, 15/30, 30/30, 30/40 (SP #1), Maria won the first set 6-4 at 16:55 (41 minutes).

Second set
SHARAPOVA *@* * *@* 6
CLIJSTERS ___* *___ 2

Maria serving 0-0: 0/40 (3 BPs) -> 40/40, ad Maria. Ace.
Clijsters serving 1-0: 0/30, 15/30, 15/40 (2 BPs), 30/40, broken.

Cator: "Sharapova's net play has really impressed me."

Maria serving 2-0: Maria smash-winner. 15/0. Another easy putaway. 30/0. Double fault #3. 30/15, 40/15. Ace #4.

Cator: "seriously man, her serve/net play is whats killing kim right now."

Clijsters serving 0-3: 40/0, 40/15, held.
Maria serving 3-1: Ace #5. 15/0. Double fault #4. 15/15, 30/15. Double fault #5. 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40. Double fault #6. Ad Clijsters (BP #2), Deuce #2. Double fault #7. Ad Clijsters (BP #3), Deuce #3, ad Maria, held.

Cator: "Beautiful Maria, just Beautiful and fluid shots."
(This was written before Maria served 4 DFs in that game!)

GPlayer21: "Does Kim look a little fatigued to anyone else?"

Clijsters serving 1-4: held to love.
Maria serving 4-2: Maria missed a high volley to lose her fifth point in a row. 0/15. Ace #6. 15/15, 30/15. Double fault #8. 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad Maria, Deuce #2. Ace #7. Ad Maria, Deuce #3, ad Maria, held.

Clijsters serving 2-5: Big return. 0/15, 15/15, 30/15. Clijsters backhand long. 30/30. Double fault #5. 30/40 (MP #1), Maria won 6-4 6-2 at 17:37 (second set 42 minutes, match 1h23m).

3.3 Maria quotes

"I felt I played a much better match all round today. Couldn't quite get the serve and return together in the beginning, but overall I was really focused. I did the right things at the right time, and was patient when I had to be patient; I played a smart game.

"I served a few double faults at the wrong time, but I was able to get big first serves in when I needed to.

"It's kind of sad, because Kim's a great girl, but also such a great champion on and off the court. She has got a lot ahead of her in her off-the-court life, and I think we all wish her the best.

"She's probably the toughest opponent going into the match. I knew in order to beat her, I definitely had to step it up today. I'm definitely glad that I could come up with a two-set win against her.

"I'm happy I could step it up against Kim, which gives me a lot of confidence going into the final.

"When you're in the moment, you don't really worry about is it going to be easy or tough. You just try to do the right things.

"I feel like a more confident player, more experienced, and like I know I can beat top players and have the physical ability to do that."

[Re. the noise from a nearby outdoor concert]
"It was pretty loud. You definitely hear it. Be pretty deaf not to."

3.4 Clijsters quotes

"I have mixed feelings at the moment. It's kind of not really sinking in yet. Straight after the match, you are disappointed with having lost, and you are not really thinking about everything else. But I've never been the type of person who thinks it's the end of the world when I lose a match. I always try to look at the positive things, and then always try to come back stronger."

[Except that she's not coming back to Australia!]

"I'm going to miss it - it's been a pleasure to come here. It's always a lot of fun, and I'm sorry I couldn't come up with a better match today. I tried everything I had; I just came up against a better player.

"I was playing well at times, but she always came up with better things, played more aggressive, and served a lot better. She hit her backhand really well: very deep, which didn't give me a lot of chances to work my way into the points. I had a feeling I played a lot better than I did yesterday, but still not my best. That's the frustrating part about it.

"Quarter-final was definitely my worst match. I always try to look at the positive things and come back stronger. That's what you learn out of those kind of matches. I felt like I was playing better today. I was moving better, seeing the ball better. But not good enough today to beat her.

"I have so many great memories from my times in Australia - not just tennis-wise, but also all the friends I have made. I'm going to come back tomorrow, and take my time to say goodbye to everybody - just get everybody's email-address, number. There are a lot of people I want to talk to face to face, people that work here and people I want to keep in touch with. All the friends I made in Australia, as well. That to me has been very important, has been a great part of my life - something that will always stay with me.

"Tennis-wise, there's so many [memories]. It's so hard to just pick one that stands out. The one that was maybe the most frustrating one, where I was up against Serena [in 2003 semi-final] 5-2 in the third - that one was frustrating at the time.

"I will definitely come back. I don't just love to play tennis; I love to watch tennis. In a few years I'll be sitting in the stands, with maybe some kids and stuff. That's something I'm really looking forward to."

5. Final preview

* MARIA SHARAPOVA [1,EF] v Serena Williams (DAVAI MARIA!!)

Before the tournament started, I would never have believed that Williams was going to reach the final. She came in ranked #81, having lost to Sybille Bammer at Hobart! But she'll jump back up to #18 on Monday - #14 if she wins the final.

But she won't do that, because Maria is a massive step up from any of the opponents that Williams has beaten en route to the final. Maria has risen to the occasion in both her previous Grand Slam finals, and will rip Williams up like Freddy Krueger would a scarecrow made of straw.

Even if Maria doesn't "step it up" for the final, I can still see her beating an out-of-shape Williams handily on the form she was in against Vera Zvonarëva (the only Maria-match I've seen so far this AO, thanks to the BBC's reprehensible lack of women's coverage).

Williams at her peak was awesome - like an unsinkable buoy, all power and supreme athleticism. But when you've fallen as low and for as long as she has, you can't just get back up there overnight - not to the level required to beat one of the only three players who had a chance of winning this tournament when it started!

A victory for Williams would be unbelievable, so I believe in Maria.

Maria's route to the final:
1r + Camille Pin, 6-3 4-6 9-7
2r + Anastassia Rodionova, 6-0 6-3
3r + TATHIANA GARBIN [30], 6-3 6-1
4r + VERA ZVONARËVA [22,EF], 7-5 6-4
qf + ANNA CHAKVETADZE [12,EF], 7-6 (7/5) 7-5
sf + KIM CLIJSTERS [4], 6-4 6-2

Williams's route to the final:
1r + MARA SANTANGELO [27], 6-2 6-1
2r + Anne Kremer, 7-6 (7/4) 6-2
3r + NADIA PETROVA [5], 1-6 7-5 6-3
4r + JELENA JANKOVIĆ [11], 6-3 6-2
qf + SHAHAR PEER [16], 2-6 6-2 8-6
sf + NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [10,EF], 7-6 (7/5) 6-4

Their head-to-heads are tied at 2-2:
- 2004 Miami 4r: Williams 6-4 6-3
+ 2004 Wimbledon final: Sharapova 6-1 6-4
+ 2004 WTA Tour Championships final: Sharapova 4-6 6-2 6-4
- 2005 Australian Open sf: Williams 2-6 7-5 8-6

In their last meeting, it was Maria who did a major 'gagarooney': she served for the match at 6-2 5-4, and again at 5-4 in the third, and squandered three match-points!

But Williams has not won a title since the Australian Open 2005, and has only beaten one top-ten player since - and that was #6-ranked Petrova in the third round here, who did a 'gagarooney' of her own from 6-1 5-3!

And the heat won't be a problem, either, with a high of 20°C forecast for Melbourne on Saturday. Extreme heat would favour Williams, who in her prime could handle it better than anyone - but I'm not so sure about now, when she's far from her best shape.

5.1 Articles
On Saturday, Maria will play her third Grand Slam final against unseeded Serena Williams of the United States at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Maria has a 13-game winning-streak in Grand Slams, and this is Maria's second consecutive Grand Slam final.

She reached this stage not without difficulties, battling the hot weather and tenacious opponents. At points, Maria wasn't playing her best tennis, but the fact that she always found a way to win shows how much she has matured in the past year.

It will be a difficult match. Serena Williams went to Melbourne without many expectations - she hadn't played since the US Open, and entered an small warm-up event to try to get some matches under her belt.

She surprised everyone by reaching the final, and that says a lot about her ability and mental strength.

Maria comes to this match as a favourite, but the result is by no means guaranteed. Williams showed what she is capable of, and all the pressure will be on Maria's side; she has always handled it very well, and hopefully she will again.

Pritha Sarkar (Reuters):
While Sharapova will be the bookmakers' favourite for the title, seven-times Grand Slam champion Williams will have the crowd on her side after her stunning passage to Saturday's showpiece match.

On Saturday, she will be aiming to become only the second unseeded woman to win the Australian Open crown in the professional era, after Chris O'Neill achieved the feat in 1978.

To do that she will have to overcome the mighty challenge of world number one elect Sharapova as she looks to win the one major trophy that has so far slipped through the grasp of the Russian women.

Luke Buttigieg for
With their head-to-head ledger locked at 2-2, Russian No.1 seed Maria Sharapova and two-time champion Serena Williams look set for a battle royal in Day 13's women's singles final at Australian Open 2007.

They may have reached the decider in contrasting fashion, with Sharapova looking by far the more impressive as she has improved with each outing, but Williams has had to dig deeper throughout to stay alive, and is now match-hardened.

Her chances of reaching the final and a chance at a third Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy may have been doubted by many before the tournament began, but 2003 and 2005 champion Williams has taken much delight in proving her detractors wrong.

But to take the final step and actually break through for her first title-win since her last Melbourne Park triumph a couple of years ago, Williams will have to step her game up another level against her younger, fitter rival.


Notable in the previous meetings between the pair is that Sharapova has won both finals they've contested, when she won Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004, and also when she came from behind to triumph in three sets in the WTA Tour Championships later that year.

But in their only previous clash at Melbourne Park it was Williams who got the job done in the semi-finals two years ago. Sharapova had match points that day before Williams came from a set down to advance 2-6 7-5 8-6.

Regardless of their history on court, Sharapova says she has 'played her enough times to know her strengths and weaknesses' and that she is acutely aware that Williams will punish her if she doesn't make the most of her opportunities.

5.2 Maria quotes

"Serena came into this tournament without any expectations. She is playing great tennis, and she has won many of these titles before, but I will look forward to playing her.

"We've always had pretty good battles, exciting matches. I definitely enjoy the fight against her.

"I've seen bits and pieces of some of her matches, you know, but I've played her enough times to know her strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day, it's not about my opponent - it's about me.

"Physically, I feel good. It's normal to be sore in some spots after playing six matches on Rebound Ace. I expect that when I go into a tournament. But that's normal. I've dealt with it before.

"I think I'll have to serve well, obviously, against her. She has a big serve. That's one of her biggest weapons. High percentage of first serve. Not letting her get a look at too many second serves.

"I'm trying to move all my opponents around. There's not one opponent that I'm going to say I'm going to guide the ball in the middle and let her make errors. I'm the player that's going to win the match or lose it myself.

"I know I say this all the time, but it's also about chances. Taking the chances when you have them - especially against an experienced player like her. If you let too many get away, the more you're going let the match slip away.

"If you've played the opponent before and seen the opponent before, you know the strengths and weaknesses. You know what shots work well for you, and what shots work well for them.

"But really at the end of the day, I mean, when you go on court you've got to realise for yourself. I mean, I'm not really the type of player that's going to go into the match having two pages list of strategies. That's not really the way I play.

"I go into my matches knowing what I can do to beat my opponent, and my opponent's weakness and what I can attack. But for me, it's all about instinct: trying to realise it out there.

[Re. mental strength]
"A lot of the opponents I play are probably ten times physically stronger than I am. That doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to beat me. I have a lot more players in the game [who] have a lot more variety than I do, or are more smarter, or have better qualities or something. But I feel the mind has a lot to do with it. The mind controls the body - that's my theory.

"I don't necessarily think during the match that they're stronger than me. When I go into a match, I know what I'm capable of. I know what tennis I can provide. I know how good I can play, and what I can do on court, and that's the only thing I worry about.

"I don't think about how good the player across the net is. When you start thinking like that, your chances of winning are slim to none!"

[Re. her path to the final]
"It has been good and bad in a way. Because I feel like I got through my first round in a very tough way. When you get through a match like that, you're not sure if you're going to be physically ready to compete at the best level. Fortunately I was able to recover well, and get through to the next match.

"I didn't feel like I was playing my best tennis [in the early rounds]. I felt like against Kim [Clijsters in the semi-finals] it was a little bit of a turnaround. I felt a lot better out there, and felt like I did the right things at the right time and played good tennis, which gives me a lot of confidence going into the final.

"But it's going to be different ballgame in the final."

[Re. winning the US Open 2006]
"When you look back and you think that you were able to beat Amélie [Mauresmo], and come back and sort of provide the same sort of tennis the next day, yeah. It gives you a lot of confidence."

[Re. beating Serena in the Wimbledon 2004 final]
"Completely different. That was my first Grand Slam final. From the quarter-final on, I was going into every single match thinking I was booking a plane-ticket the next day.

"I was just out there enjoying - obviously, I'm still enjoying the way things have gone here. But there, I was surprising myself with every single match. I didn't think that I was ready to beat Lindsay, to come back from a set and a break down against Lindsay and beat her, and then beat Serena in the final. Never thought I was ready to do that!

"Now, I kind of more expect it for myself."

[Re. losing to Serena at the Australian Open 2005]
"It was just a loss in my career. It was just one match that I lost. Like I said, I had the opportunities to be in another Grand Slam final - I didn't take them. I've had wins against her. I've had losses against her. That was just a loss.

"I've had an extra couple years of experience since then. With the passing years I feel more confident, a more experienced player. I feel like I belong out there. and I feel like I can beat the top players day in, day out. Physically I'm a lot stronger. I'm able to come back and beat top players."

[Or even #81-ranked finalists! ]

"I'm going to be playing against a player who didn't expect too much coming into the tournament, so that makes her a dangerous opponent. I think she has nothing to lose - those are always dangerous opponents.

"When you don't play for many tournaments - and she only played a few last year - I don't think you go into a tournament... obviously your desire is to win it, but you don't really expect too much from yourself. I think that's why she's been improving with every match. She gained confidence from coming back from tough matches. Here she is in the final.

"It's hard in a way that I haven't played her for a while. But you just have to play your game, and have a game-plan. It's the final of a Grand Slam, and it's not going to be easy.

"Serena is improving with every match, gaining confidence. I'm not surprised she has got this far. Sometimes people play their best tennis when they least expect to.

"She has won many more titles than me, but I'm looking forward to catching up. I had a tough one here a couple of years ago with her, and I'm looking forward to my rematch.

[Re. nerves]
"I've been in two [finals] before, so no. I mean, it's normal to realise that you are in a Grand Slam final. It's normal to have butterflies. Unless you're a robot, you know, just it's absolutely normal. But I think it's the way you handle it - the way you go about it on the court tomorrow.

"I think the finish is going to be a lot more important than the start, to be honest. I'd rather have a terrible start and win the match than have a great start and lose it. With any opponent - it doesn't matter who it is, first round or final or anyone I play - it's always important to let them know that you're there from the beginning of the match."

5.3 Williams quotes

"I'm not nervous, I'm just relaxed.

"It's nice to be back in a Grand Slam final. I'm playing really hard. I'm fighting really hard. It's awesome to be back.

[What parts of Maria's game can give you the most trouble?]
"All parts of it!

"She's absolutely improved since 2004. She's definitely playing a lot bette - more consistent more than anything. I thought she played excellent yesterday [in the semi-finals]. That's how you have to do. Champs always pick it up in the last two rounds. She's shown she was able to do that. We have to see."

[Re. her two potential opponents in the final]
"Actually both of them get a lot of balls back: Kim because she's so fast, and Maria because she's so tall. She reminds me of Venus because she just reaches balls. It's kind of unfair, because they just got that extra height. I think they both have really solid serves. You know, they're both very mentally tough.

"I am the ultimate competitor. I've always been mentally strong. I think probably mentally stronger than a lot of players on the Tour. I think if you can get a grasp on that, then I've always had a grasp on that. I've believed in myself more than anyone. Even though it was hard, I really believed in me and in my game.

"If I play well - which I don't think I've even reached yet at all in this tournament - it's really hard for anyone on the women's tour to beat me.

"My stamina, my mental ability, my sheer desire. I played a couple of good matches but I definitely haven't peaked. I always say I've got to get into the finals to peak. Hopefully that's what I'm doing.

"I got to make sure I'm playing well. Sometimes I have a tendency to shank a few balls, to mis-hit, not be on. If I'm on, it's tough.

"I don't think anyone thought I would get this far except me and my mom.

"I love doubters. I have a lot of people even close to me who doubt. More than anything, what I love, besides obviously winning, is proving people wrong. Ever since I was young - even when I came out on Tour - it was 'Venus, Venus, Venus, Venus.' Oh, and the little sister. My whole goal in life was just to prove people wrong. And that's one thing I enjoy so much.

"I think that's something that I thrive on - people that don't believe. I think it just gives me strength. At the end of the day, it is something that helps me, which is awesome.

"I'm excited [about the final]; I have nothing to lose; I'm having a lot of fun. I'm back in the top twenty, and that means so much.

"I got to make sure I'm playing well. I don't have anything to lose. That's always fun. I've had a lot of comebacks in this tournament. I went from rock bottom to 'hey, there she is again'.

"I wouldn't say it's an astonishing achievement, because it's where I expect to be. But I rate this up with the highest achievements of my career, because this is the lowest I've been ranked in a long time, and it's great to get into a Grand Slam final with this ranking."

[Re. Hobart]
"No comparison. I was really excited that I went ahead to play Hobart because I was really rusty, and I can see the rust shedding from my game literally. I'm excited that I went there, because I would have hated to start two or three matches [here] the way I did in Hobart.

"I think whenever you've come back, you take two or three weeks off from not playing matches, you're still practising, you go to a match, you get sore, because in matches you do things totally different from when you're at practice. In Tasmania I was a little sore because I hadn't had the match-play. After that went away...

"I definitely am more fit now, 'cause I had a little more time to do some off-court stuff after Tasmania. Playing some long matches here, I don't know how much."

[Re. losing to Sybille Bammer at Hobart]
"I was really upset that I lost. Maybe it was for the best, because I was able to come here. The weather was warmer here. In Tasmania, it was really cold. I was able to come here and enjoy some warm weather. Maybe it was for the best.

"I was really angry. I just felt like I should have won. These girls are treeing on me. It was really frustrating. Like I said, maybe it was 'divine intervention,' I don't know."

[Re. losing to Daniela Hantuchová at the Australian Open 2006]
"I wasn't really here last year mentally at all. I probably shouldn't have come."

5.4 Kim Clijsters quotes

"I think if she [Maria] plays the way that she has been playing - if she plays aggressive tennis, I think she's the favorite. Obviously she's played a lot more. She hasn't been injured.

"But I think Serena can win, too. I think with Serena in a final, you can never expect her to play bad tennis. I think she's going to come out here and fight till the last point. That's what she's done here so far. I think it's incredible to see how well she's doing."

10. Order of Play for Saturday

Rod Laver Arena (start 13:30 AEST = 02:30 GMT)
WS final: MARIA SHARAPOVA [1,EF] v Serena Williams
BS final: Brydan Klein v JONATHAN EYSSERIC [2]

For UK viewers, there will be live coverage of the WS final on BBC One from 02:20 GMT, and extended highlights in Grandstand (BBC Two, 12:45 GMT: the tennis is from 12:50 to 14:00).

Full order of play:

Dr. Andrew Broad
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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Andrew's final TV-report

AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Rebound Ace); Grand Slam)

This is a Maria-filtered version of my final round-up:

1. Photos & videos
2. Final: Sharapova v Williams TV-report
3. Wooden-Spoon List
7. Jon Wertheim's parting-shots
8. WTA Singles Rankings

1. Photos & videos
1.1 Photos

Maria Sharapova: (the best photos from the final IMO, but you have to be clever to save them) (Saturday 27 January) (Women's Final)

Maria Sharapova added:

Search Getty Images for "sharapova"

1.2 Videos

Highlights of final + on-court interviews:

Maria's final press-conference (she seems so sad):

More Maria-videos: (and backwards)

2. Final: Sharapova v Williams TV-report (Saturday 27th January)

- MARIA SHARAPOVA [1,EF] lt. Serena Williams, 1-6 2-6

Well, I sure jinxed Maria with my arrogant prediction for this final, didn't I?

Sleigh-bells and snow
Send your colour-blazing glass
Some are bound to fail
Some will win too soon
[David Bowie, "Some Are"]

Maria had been considerably below her best form throughout the entire tournament - even in the semi-final against Clijsters, who was much worse.

Maria served very poorly by her own amazing standards, and she had two service-games (0-1 in the first, 0-2 in the second) where she led 40/15, only to serve two double faults and get broken. She also squandered two break-points (at 0-4 in the first, 0-1 in the second).

Maria looked nervous from the start, and shellshocked by the end, as Williams claimed her eighth - and by far the most improbable - Grand Slam Women's Singles title.

There's often a relationship between nerves and footwork, and I saw little evidence of Maria's vastly improved footwork that I observed last year. The weaknesses in her mobility were exposed on several occasions throughout the match.

But I never expected a performance like this from Serena Williams these days. I remember her beating up on Daniela Hantuchová in a Wimbledon quarter-final in 2002, when she was an unsinkable buoy of power and athleticism, but this Australian Open final was the best I ever remember seeing her play.

Williams was hitting the ball extremely hard, as heavy as a shotput, hitting it early to take time away from Maria, forcing Maria to hit weak, defensive shots, exposing Maria's relative lack of mobility, and hitting winners almost at will. I felt like I was watching Williams of old - when she was #1 - dismantling an #81-ranked first-round opponent, rather than old Williams against next week's #1!

Williams always tries to play like that, but in her few tournaments in the last couple of years, she has tended to self-destruct in a hail of unforced errors. Today, I was just waiting for the storm to blow itself out, but it never did, so hats off to her.

All I can say is that Williams was too good today - for anyone. It would be interesting to put her up against Roger Federer in a best-of-three-sets match, because she hit the ball harder than he does!

Maria may have lost, but she was a beautiful loser. Her sleek, slender body was a stark contrast to the fat and muscular Williams, her dress was attractive, and the flower in her hair was a nice little fashion-statement IMO.

And she was ever so gracious in defeat - in contrast to the cocky, arrogant Williams. No retiring at 1-6 0-2 down for Maria!

Sometimes it takes a defeat to remind me how much I do love this girl.

And sometimes it takes such a comprehensive defeat to highlight the weaknesses that she can now go away and work on - such as better court-positioning, better retrieval-skills, a better net-game, and the ability to counter power such as Williams's using topspin and slice. In fact Federer said after the men's final that Fernando González had added a sliced backhand that made him very difficult to attack.

I am happy with Maria's Australian Open 2007 overall. She reached only her third-ever Grand Slam final - and her first at the Australian Open after two semi-final defeats - despite playing well below her best. She played two mouthwatering matches against the other Russian members of my Eternal Fanship, and to beat her old nemesis Clijsters comprehensively in the semi-finals was sweet.

There are those who think that this loss will have such a devastating impact on Maria that she will never win another Grand Slam. I am not one of them. She bounced back well from losing 6-0 6-0 to Lindsay Davenport at Indian Wells 2005, and I expect her to do likewise after this.

The haters are clutching at straws if they think that this is going to burst Maria's bubble!

The odds were stacked against her and few gave her a shot at the beginning of the fortnight, but she never stopped believing. And on Saturday that remarkable self-belief paid off: an 81st-ranked Serena Williams became one of the most unlikely Grand Slam champions in the history of the game, winning the Australian Open - her eighth major - with a 6-1 6-2 rout of top-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova.

The final was completely one-sided from start to finish. Williams took first-strike tennis to a whole new level, dominating her service and punishing her returns against a bewildered Sharapova, who got on the board only by holding in the sixth game of the match and won her only other games with two more holds late in the match.

Sharapova didn't play badly - she had only one more error than winner (12:13). But a fierce Williams just wouldn't let up, compiling a +17 differential (28:11).

Miles Evans (Reuters):
Sharapova, who suffered her first defeat in a Grand Slam final, had looked far from her best throughout the tournament, and her frailty and inability to change her game were cruelly exposed by the supremely athletic Williams.

Neil Sands (Agence France Presse):
Any doubts about her fitness were dispelled as she leapt around the court, charging to the net to bludgeon the ball past Sharapova.

Pritha Sarkar (Reuters):
The Russian looked like her feet had been super-glued to the Rebound Ace surface as she failed to produce a winner until the sixth game of the first set.

PA SportsTicker:
Williams entered this event unseeded because of a 2006 campaign that saw her play just four tournaments due to a left knee injury. But despite appearing out of shape, the 25-year-old American defeated five seeded players en route to reaching the final, then gave arguably the greatest performance of her career against Sharapova, who will take over the world's top ranking from Justine Henin-Hardenne on Monday.

Mark Hodgkinson for The Daily Telegraph (UK newspaper):
Williams also admitted that she suffered from depression last season. As well as still coping with the death of her sister, she has had to deal with her parents' divorce, and a court-case with a promoter who accused her, her sister Venus, and her father Richard, of failing to honour a contract to appear in an exhibition-match.

Serena was in court almost every day during the lengthy trial. The court judged that Richard had fraudulently represented Serena and Venus, but the sisters were cleared of any wrongdoing. Serena Williams has long said that "nobody knows what I go through off the tennis-court".
Maria wasn't serving well throughout the match, and it put her on the defensive right from the beginning, which is dangerous against a very good returner and it's not Maria's game to defend.

My match-report

This report was written in one take, as I watched it live, so please excuse any misquotes! Actually, I am rather certain that I misheard two of the quotes in my report, but rather than correct them at this stage, I think it's more fun to leave them in as an exercise for the reader to spot them.

Andrew Castle praised Maria: "The timing, the way she sweeps through the ball. She's liable to be the reliable one today."

On her way to the court, Maria made the following brief comment: "Yeah, this is the final; this is a different ball-game; I'm looking forward to it."

Both players looked kind of anxious to get to it!

I'm just trembling with excitement and the coldness of an English January at 2:30am right now! Positive nerves and adrenaline for me.

The match was played with the roof closed due to rain, so we can't use that guy who was using his watch to shine the sun into Nicole Vaidišová's eyes as an excuse!

Maria won the toss and elected to receive. So she plans to take advantage of Williams's nerves and commit to a break of serve in the very first game. Otherwise, it can backfire if the set is serve-dominated and you're always having to catch up, and ultimately serve to stay in the set.

Chris Bailey: "These two are champions, and when it comes to the crunch, champions tend to produce their best."

Sue Barker and Andrew Castle tipped Maria for the big trophy - but only just!

Sam Smith: "Maria will be less nervous than Serena because she's just played in the final of the US Open."

The match started at 13:43 AEST.

First set
SHARAPOV _____*_ 1
WILLIAMS *@*@* * 6

Chris Bailey: "The one thing that's kept Williams in this championship is her serve."

Williams serving 0-0: Serve out wide + crosscourt backhand winner. 15/0. Williams netted a forehand after a longish baseline-rally. 15/15. Maria defensive forehand lob just long - footwork? 30/15. Wide serve + backhand winner down the line - athleticism. 40/15. Ace down the middle.

Chris Bailey: "Scrapped through the early round and found her shape, her fitness."

Maria's opening gambit (electing to receive) has failed.

Maria serving 0-1: Williams overhit a backhand just long. 15/0. Williams forehand long by a whisker (no challenge). 30/0. Double fault (second serve just long). 30/15. Williams forehand return just long - two-handed? 40/15. Maria netted a forehand on the third stroke - let serve not called! Sam Smith: "Lack of mobility exposed." 40/30. Williams attacked a second serve with a crosscourt backhand return-winner. 40/40. Williams blasted a wild forehand return just long. Ad Maria. Double fault (second serve just wide). Deuce #2. Woefully short second serve... Maria crosscourt backhand wide. Ad Williams (BP). Maria netted a forehand after a longish rally.

What a horribly nerve-wracking game! 40/15 to 40/40, and two double faults. But she was 0-2 down in the US Open final, so I'm not too worried yet.

Sam Smith: "For me, this is a personality-contest out here - it's all about will. Both rags to riches, both brought up by parents who tell them every day, 'You can do it.'"

Williams serving 2-0: Maria netted a backhand return. 15/0. Ace down the middle. 30/0. A big serve + huge forehand induced Maria to net a backhand. 40/0. Serve + backhand volley-winner.

Williams looks so settled, and is overpowering Maria at the moment. I can't tell any differences from the dominating Williams of 2002 at the moment!

Sam Smith suggested that the pressure of expectation may be getting to Maria, as she's made an unsettled start.

Maria serving 0-3: Maria slugged an off-backhand just wide on the third stroke. 0/15. Williams hit a great angled return + crosscourt forehand winner into the corner. 0/30. Forehand return-winner onto the sideline. 0/40 (3 BPs). Williams forehand return-winner down Maria's forehand-sideline - absolutely on fire!

This could get very embarrassing, but Williams is simply playing too well so far. I have to admire her performance.

Sam Smith: "Two classes above Sharapova right now."

Williams serving 4-0: Ace out wide, clipped the outside edge of the sideline according to Hawk-Eye. 15/0. Williams just long. 15/15. Serve + forehand volley-winner. 30/15. Williams backhand just wide. 30/30. Williams netted a backhand. 30/40 (BP). Maria hit a makeable forehand return long. 40/40. Williams hit a delectable backhand drop-volley winner. Ad Williams. She netted a forehand. Deuce #2. Williams ran Maria ragged with a five-stroke spreading rally ending with a forehand volley-winner. Ad Williams. Maria forehand return very long.

Sam Smith: "Sharapova hasn't been able to find her rhythm and timing. And Williams has played the best five games of a Grand Slam final ever."

Maria serving 0-5: Maria drilled Williams with a forehand smash. Williams mouthed, "You'll pay for that!" 15/0. Maria opened the court with a crosscourt backhand just inside the sideline, and hit a backhand volley-winner. That's what she's got to do - make Williams move. 30/0. Williams blasted a forehand return wide. 40/0. Serve + crosscourt forehand winner. Maria emitted a high-pitched "c'mon".

I'm extremely relieved that Maria has avoided the double bagel. If Williams can keep up this form, then I cannot hope for a victory; I can only count the games that Maria can win.

Williams serving 5-1: Maria hit a deep crosscourt backhand winner down the middle - Williams let it go. 0/15. Williams hit a crosscourt forehand winner off a netcord. Sam Smith: "Power with control, terrific court-coverage and unbelievable focus." Service-winner. 30/15. Williams lined up a backhand winner down the line. 40/15 (2 SPs). Maria hit a big forehand virtual return-winner. 40/30 (SP #2). Service-winner. Williams won the first set 6-1 at 14:09 (26 minutes).

Sue Barker said Maria was in shock - just not forceful. But I can see that Williams is just hitting with unbelievable power, not letting her into the match.

Second set
SHARAPOV ____* *_ 2
WILLIAMS @*@* * * 6

Maria serving 0-0: Double fault #3. 0/15. Williams blasted a forehand long. 15/15. Maria netted a grotesque forehand halfway up the net. 15/30. Maria's forehand clipped the netcord and fell back on her own side - even the luck going with Williams now. 15/40 (2 BPs). Maria caught her second-serve toss; Williams hit a backhand winner down the line.

The biggest disappointment for Maria so far is that she isn't matching Williams' serve with her own.

Williams serving 1-0: Maria forehand long. 15/0. Serve + crosscourt forehand winner. 30/0. Ace down the middle. 40/0. Maria hit a good return, followed by an off-forehand winner. 40/15. Williams forehand just wide, just long. 40/30. Double fault. 40/40. And another - second serve hit the netcord and landed way long! Ad Maria (BP). Ace out wide. Deuce #2. Maria forehand long. Ad Williams. A body-jamming serve forced Maria to hit a backhand wide.

Maria has now lost both games in which she had break-points.

Sam Smith: "Sharapova just not getting any room to breathe."

Maria serving 0-2: A huge, early forehand return forced Maria to net a forehand - Maria's serve out wide to the forehand is getting too predictable. 0/15. Williams slugged a backhand return just wide. 15/15. Williams netted a backhand return. 30/15. Virtual ace down the middle. 40/15. Maria's second serve hit the netcord and landed very long. Fourth DF so far. 40/30. Maria forehand long. 40/40. Williams hit a stunning crosscourt backhand pass-winner when she was off-balance, on one foot! Ad Williams (BP). Second serve: Williams forehand return long & wide. Deuce #2. Maria forehand just long. Ad Williams (BP #2). Ace out wide, on the sideline. Deuce #3. Double fault #5. Ad Williams (BP #3). Maria netted a forehand after a long rally.

Another horrible service-game for Maria - again 40/15 to 40/40 with two double faults. And the possibility of a bagelstick remains.

Sam Smith: "Never seen her have so many problems with the ball-toss or net so many serves."

Chris Bailey: "The start that Williams had, has rocked Sharapova right down to her foundations, and she's never recovered."

Williams serving 3-0: Maria netted a forehand return. 15/0. Williams hit a stunning crosscourt backhand winner just inside the sideline. 30/0. Williams netted a backhand. 30/15. Williams hit a pinpoint backhand winner down the line, just inside the sideline. 40/15. Ace #5, down the middle.

Maria serving 0-4: Service-winner down the middle, in the corner. 15/0. Maria backhand wide. 15/15. Williams wild forehand return wide. 30/15. Maria came in behind a forehand down the line - dominating Williams for once. 40/15. Double fault. 40/30. Williams forehand return wide.

Phew! When she double-faulted at 40/15, I thought, "Here we go again!" No 6-1 6-0, but Williams loves to win 6-1 6-1.

Timariot: "Well, at least Sharapova won't get bagelled but it's a little consolation. She has no game plan and her only Plan B is to hit harder, and that won't help now. She needs to get Serena to move, but her first shots are too bad and often put her into instant disadvantage. Plus, she's helpless against Serena's first serve."

Williams serving 4-1: Maria netted a tame forehand return. 15/0. Maria mishit a forehand return wide. 30/0. Williams spread Maria and hit a crosscourt forehand winner on the fifth stroke. 40/0. Maria hit a crosscourt backhand return-winner onto the sideline. 40/15. Maria forehand return just long: she challenged the serve, but it was good.

Sam Smith: "Taken so much time away from Sharapova, exposed her mobility."
Chris Bailey: "Most players improved their mobility over the off-season, but she's come in with more muscle - more bulk."

Maria serving 1-5: Stung into action, Maria hit a thunderbolt of a crosscourt forehand winner. 15/0. Williams punished a pathetically short second serve with a forehand return-winner. 15/15. Ace out wide, on the sideline. 30/15. Williams netted a forehand return. 40/15. Maria was forced to hit a forehand lob long. 40/30. Ace down the middle (it was very close, but Williams didn't challenge).

Goodbye 6-1 6-1!

Will we witness another 'gagarooney' from Williams now? It would be the most unbelievable recovery ever if Maria could win from 2-5* down, the way Williams has been serving!

Williams serving 5-2: Maria netted a forehand. 15/0. Ace out wide, on the sideline. 30/0. Ace down the middle. 40/0 (3 CPs). Serve + off-backhand winner. Williams won 6-1 6-2 at 14:46 (second set 37 minutes, match 1h03m).

I can only admire Williams's performance. I never imagined that she could play like that today - I don't even think I've ever seen her play better!

Maria looks shellshocked, but I hope she doesn't let this affect her too much. She didn't play well - but she wasn't allowed to because Williams played almost perfectly.


Maria got only 51% of first serves in, and committed 6 double faults - that's the biggest disappointment, that the one aspect of the game she had control over, let her down. I think that's the intimidation of Williams's returns today - so early, so hard!

When Maria did get that first serve in, she won 67% of the points - only 26% when she didn't. Williams served much better, getting 67% of first serves in, winning 79% of the points when she did so, and 63% on second serve.

Williams served 7 aces and 2 double faults, Maria 3 aces and, like I said, 6 double faults. That makes Maria the double-fault leader of the tournament with 34 DFs - ahead of Elena Dementieva who served 33 DFs, albeit in only four matches.

Williams served much faster than Maria in all departments: fastest 197-183 km/h, average first serve 178-167 km/h, average second serve 149-139 km/h. Williams is the service-speed leader of the tournament as well as the ace-leader.

Maria's W:UE ratio was 12:13, Williams 28:11, which says that Williams did beat Maria much more than Maria beat herself. And Williams forced Maria into error 20 times, while Maria forced Williams into error 12 times.

In points, Williams won 61-35 (first set 28-15, second set 33-20).

Williams came to the net quite a bit more than Maria, winning 9 of 11 points (82%), while Maria won 5 of 6 points (83%).

Williams broke 4 times from 6 break-points (twice in each set), while Maria was unable to convert either of the 2 BPs she had (one in each set).

Overall, then, more positives for Williams than negatives for Maria. Maria just couldn't come up with the goods to repel firepower of that magnitude, but she could have made a much better match of it by serving well, instead of letting Williams take the initiative right at the start of almost every point.

Presentation-ceremony and BBC analysts' post-mortem

Andrew Castle said Maria would need to develop a Plan B, a sliced backhand, and a kick-serve to the backhand in the deuce-court, as the one out wide to the forehand is too predictable.

Maria sat on her chair, looking down at the court, looking utterly humbled, tears welling up in her eyes. It's so sad to see her this way, because I'm at the stage where I can take this defeat philosophically - I fear much worse things in life than losing a tennis-match.

Maria's runner-up speech:

"I hope a few more [words] than the games that I won today! Congratulate Serena - never underestimate her. A lot of people didn't expect her to be in the final, but I definitely did. She's a great champion; she's showed it many times. I look forward to playing her many more times - and winning a few, I hope! I wanna say thank you to all of you. I didn't know if I would get past my first round - we need a roof! I remember playing in the juniors, on the same day as the women's final. I dreamed I could come out here and perform on the big stage; unfortunately I'm not holding the big one. We have many more years to go; this is definitely not the end. I'd like to thank all my Russian fans - thank you for bringing out all the flags! I'd like to thank all the sponsors, Garnier. I look forward to coming back next year and winning the big one."

Williams' champion's speech:

"I don't know where to start! Thank my god Jehovah for blessing me and allowing me out here. Thank my mom - I've been a bad student, said some bad things under my breath! Thank the rest of my camp for believing in me and never giving up. And the trainer - you saved me! I'd like to thank Maria for being a great sport, a great champion, a great attitude. I think she has a few more years than I do! She's always fighting to the end - that's what I like to see! I'd like to thank my dad, my sisters, just a few more - I'm enjoying this... Wilson, Nike for the great fit for both me and Maria! We're naughty girls. I'd like to dedicate this to my [deceased] sister Yetunde - I love you so much!"

At this point, she broke down in tears, and the speech was over. And I was worrying that Maria would break down when she had to give her speech!

Andrew Castle: "What I didn't understand was how unfit she looked coming in! No one could see how motivated she was."
Sue Barker: "She's a natural athlete."
Andrew Castle: "Confidence is everything, and once those shots started flowing against Sharapova... the main reason Williams won was Williams."

Sue Barker: "It's back to the drawing-board for Sharapova. She needs to have a serious rethink, develop a Plan B."

Williams quotes

"Serena Williams, yeah, she's back. And this time she's staying.

"This one is right up there with the top. Even I didn't expect to come in and win it all!

"I was driven. This morning I woke up and felt different - I felt good. I'm happy, I'm confident not nervous. It's an awesome feeling.

"I just went out there; I was focused. You know, I was really focused. I knew what I wanted to do. I'm insatiable. I still think there are things I could have done even better. I knew what I wanted to do when I went out there.

"My plan was to play my game and to stay relaxed - and I finally played it for the first time this tournament. I think if I can do that, and if I'm playing good, it's hard for anyone - it doesn't matter what they're ranked as long as they're on the women's tour, doesn't matter who they are - it's tough for them to beat me.

"That's how I was raised, to play that game of tennis. It's the Serena I've been trying to showcase for years and years: staying close to the baseline, playing aggressively. My mom and dad taught me to play that game. For some reason, I stay on the baseline.

"Like I said from the beginning: when I'm playing well, it's difficult for anyone to beat me - on the women's tour, just for the record! - because I have a unique style, a unique game. Tennis is what I was born to do."

[Re. off-court ordeals]
"It's definitely been tough. I think I've been there at the bottom of the barrel. I was that low, and that's what makes this awesome - that you could go that low, that you could lose faith, you could lose hope, and you could lose everything, and then you could just come back. I thank my god Jehovah for just helping me just to stay strong. I think that's really awesome.

"There's always times where you think, 'Am I ever going to be looking at another trophy?' Especially since I hadn't won a tournament - let alone a Grand Slam - in a long time. You're thinking about, 'Wow, will there be another time?' But since day one, my parents have always been so positive, Venus as well. They never stopped believing in me - and that helps me believe in me.

"It was an awesome win because I had so many critics, so many people talking bad and saying negative things and saying I wasn't fit when I felt that I was really fit, and could last three sets and two-and-a-half or three hours no worries. I actually did that throughout the tournament, so you tell me 'no' and I'll show you that I can do it.

"Because I'm larger in some areas than other girls - that I don't have a flat chest and a flat ass - people said I wasn't fit. I was looking in the mirror today, and it was just, like, my waist is still 28 inches and I think it's all because I have a large bosom and I have a large ass, excuse me. It always just looks like I'm bigger than the rest of the girls. I've been the same weight for I don't know how long, and I could lose 20 pounds and I'm still going to have these knockers - forgive me - and I'm still going to have this ass, and that's just the way it is."

^[For the record, my perception of Williams as fat has nothing to do with the size of her breasts or bottom - her body is just wide]

"I'm definitely fit. I was fit for this tournament from day one. I ran into a lot of bumps: I had the worst blisters you can imagine, I got sick, I had stomach problems."

[Re. her third-round and quarter-final matches]
"I was pretty down and out against Petrova and Pe'er - they were really playing well. Contrary to popular belief, those two matches helped. I lost the first set in both matches. I had to come back physically and mentally, and that really helped. Thank God I was able to go through a rough road before I got to the final!

"I get the greatest satisfaction just holding up the Grand Slam trophy and proving everyone wrong.

"I would like to dedicate this win to my sister, who is not here any more: her name is Yetunde. My sister was the ultimate human being, she was so nice. Nicest person you'll ever meet. I just love her so much. I'll try not to be teary-eyed, but a couple of days ago, I said if I win this it will be for her, so thanks Yetunde.

"Every match I wrote notes. Today my note was just, 'Yetunde'. That was all my notes. That's it. Usually I write, 'Look at the ball, move forward, do this, do that.' Today I just had one word. You know, every changeover I looked at it, and I just thought about how happy she would have been, you know, how much she always supported me. I just thought about what an amazing sister she was to me. I just said, 'Serena, this has to be motivating. This has to be more than enough to motivate me.' And I think it was.

"I still can't believe the tournament's over. I feel like there's another match to be played or there's something else. It's an awesome feeling.

"I'm ready for the claycourts. I want to ameliorate my game - take it to a new level. I'm definitely playing more than four tournaments this year.

"I don't know about you, but I saw two great men's semi-finals. I saw the No. 1 player beat the 'H.E. double hockey-sticks' out of another player. I saw Fernando González beat the 'H.E. double hockey-sticks' out of another player. Those were great matches. Today you saw the #81 player win a great final."

^['H.E. double hockey-sticks' refers to a four-letter word that Jehovah's Witnesses aren't allowed to use.]

"We all know I'm not really #81. It's exciting for women's tennis, but I think it's exciting that it's Serena Williams and not just anyone else. Because I've been number one before, and I've won seven Grand Slams before today. Today it's eight. It makes a difference, definitely. It tells people you can't sleep on anybody. They might not be here, or they might not be here for a couple of days, but they come back, and I'm here to stay.

"I believe my best years are yet to come.

"I would love to be number one and beating Maria on a regular basis. I think I played the best in this tournament, and I played like the number one seed. I've never been one to play 50 tournaments, 30 tournaments or even 20 tournaments. I always figured that if I play 12 to 15 tournaments and I win 10 of them, I'll be fine. The year I was number one, that's what I did.

"She's number one, she's consistent, she's either winning or in the final or semi-final, and that's what it takes to be number one. That's what I would have to do.

"I would like to thank Maria for being such a great sport, a great champion. Maria definitely has a very bright future. She's always fighting to the last point - that's what I like to see.

"Sharapova is probably going to go home right now and train on some things, and she's going to never want this to happen again - as I wouldn't either. Whether it was 7-5 7-5, if she had lost, she would still go home and train, as I would as well. I'm going to do the same thing because I know someone whose name is not Sharapova - like some other 'ova' and they're 12 years old in Russia, or wherever they're from, and they are playing hard to get ready for me. That's what I'm going to go train for."

Well, there is someone in Russia whose name is Sharapova, who's going to be 12 on 6th June: Maria's cousin Daria!

Maria quotes

"I'd like to congratulate Serena - not many people knew what she was capable of but I certainly did.

"You can never underestimate her as an opponent/performer. Not many people expected her to reach the final, but I did. I know what she's capable of, and she showed it today. She's an amazing champion - she's showed it here many times.

"She came out and she played really flawless tennis. I was trying to find ways to get into the match, get in the rallies, trying somehow to find a way to get an opening, through a door, but I wasn't able to do it.

"I wasn't getting frustrated or anything. I was just trying to tell myself, 'You can always find a way, even if you're down a set and two breaks.'

"The reason why she played that well might have been because I gave her those opportunities to play well, but on the other side, I think she still had to do it. She still had to go out and play well - and she did, you know.

"She was serving big, and was pretty consistent. We played some good tennis, but didn't have many long rallies because she was aggressive with all her shots, going for them and making most of them.

"I expected her to play well: she's won six matches here, and she had no reason not to be confident. Her first serve is consistently the biggest in the game. It's definitely her biggest weapon.

"My serving-percentage was not good enough. It was a matter of serving well and returning well, and I didn't think I did either today.

"I definitely felt like I could have served a lot better. I mean, during the match, you're trying to find a way to do that - either take some pace off and try to make your first serve, or just try to go for a big serve.

"Well, I think it started in the second game, when I'm up 40/15 and I give her that game. From then on, when she's serving pretty big and pretty consistent, it was tough to break her. So I think that was a key game in the first set. And she played some good tennis.

"Against other opponents, when I was down a break, I was able to get the break and find a way to get good serves in when I had to. And today I didn't feel like I could get an opening to break her, even though I did have a couple of break-points."

[Re. Wimbledon 2004]
"Two completely different stages of my career. At Wimbledon, I was going into every single match thinking that I should have been home already. As years have gone on, I feel like I expect to be in the later stages of the tournaments. I expect myself to be winning.

"Unfortunately, it was my mom's birthday today, and I couldn't win for her. But she still made me happy, made me realise this is just another loss.

"When I win or lose, I always call my mum. She always tells me, 'Look, you got a tournament next week [Tokyo], you've got to focus on that'.

"'You're going to remember this day in your future, in your career when you're going to look back and say, this really taught me something. This only made me stronger. This has happened many times.'

"I don't like losing - it's not fun - but these moments make you stronger. It has been a bit strange, because I could've easily been out of the tournament the first day - and here I am, losing in the final. But it's definitely not the end of the world. I got to the final of a Grand Slam in my first tournament of the year, and I have a lot to be proud of.

"The rankings don't lie. I had a great end to last year. I'm excited to get to number one, and hopefully I can keep it for many weeks to come.

"I look forward to playing her many more times - and winning a few more games, I hope!

"I have many more years here. This is definitely not the end."

^[Five years is 'many'?]

From her latest "doodle" at
I went down like China town in the final.......I know that absolutely makes no sense whatsoever but it rhymes and sounds funny....maybe not to anyone else.

What a strange two weeks it has been! From being two points away from losing in the first round to getting all the way to the final and basically not doing much the end everything took its toll and not only did I run into someone too good, but looking back I think I was emotionally a bit drained. It's all part of an experience process, and that's only going to make me stronger.

Ok so when the press asked me about retiring at 25, I said sure why not? I mean that's 6 more years of tennis!! I would love to try new things, particularly in fashion, and also someday have a family.......I did not however say I was going to be a mom at that age! Next day's headline..."MUM's the word for Sharapova"!

3. Wooden-Spoon List

1. Serena Williams
7. Lucie Safarova
16. LI,NA (19)
22. Jelena Kostanic Tosic
23. Anastasiya Yakimova
24. Aiko Nakamura
25. Victoria Azarenka
27. Maria Elena Camerin
28. Ashley Harkleroad
30. Alicia Molik (WC)
31. Eva Birnerova
33. Anne Kremer (Q)
34. Anastassia Rodionova
35. Milagros Sequera
36. Akiko Morigami
37. Meilen Tu
38. Laura Granville
40. Alla Kudryavtseva (Q)
41. Virginia Ruano Pascual
42. Tamira Paszek (Q)
43. Martina Muller
44. Emilie Loit
45. Monique Adamczak (WC)
46. Peng,Shuai
47. Olga Poutchkova
48. Lourdes Dominguez Lino
49. Gisela Dulko
50. Renata Voracova (Q)
51. Iveta Benesova
52. Virginie Razzano
53. Zuzana Ondraskova
55. AI SUGIYAMA (23)
56. Sania Mirza
58. Agnieszka Radwanska
59. Elena Vesnina
61. Julia Vakulenko (Q)
62. Kaia Kanepi
63. Julia Schruff
64. Youlia Fedossova (WC)
66. Camille Pin
67. Jill Craybas
68. Vasilisa Bardina
69. Romina Oprandi
70. Sybille Bammer
71. Alberta Brianti
72. Nathalie Dechy
73. Aleksandra Wozniak
74. Tzipora Obziler
75. Stephanie Foretz
76. Alize Cornet (Q)
77. Jessica Moore (WC)
78. Madison Brengle (WC)
79. Shenay Perry
80. Elena Bovina
81. Tamarine Tanasugarn
82. Emmanuelle Gagliardi
83. Casey Dellacqua (WC)
84. Stephanie Cohen-Aloro (Q)
85. Anna Smashnova
86. Sophie Ferguson (WC)
87. Laura Pous Tio
89. Yuliana Fedak
90. Vania King
91. Kirsten Flipkens
92. Yuan,Meng
93. Karolina Sprem
94. Chan,Yung-Jan
95. Martina Sucha
96. Ekaterina Bychkova
97. Michaella Krajicek
98. Roberta Vinci
99. Jarmila Gajdosova
100. Tsvetana Pironkova
101. Edina Gallovits
102. Yulia Beygelzimer
103. Sandra Kloesel
104. Emma Laine
105. Melinda Czink
106. Severine Bremond
107. Jorgelina Cravero (Q)
108. Aravane Rezai
109. Iroda Tulyaganova (WC)
110. Andreja Klepac (Q)
111. Marta Domachowska
112. Ahsha Rolle (Q)
113. Sun,Tiantian
114. Meghann Shaughnessy
115. Galina Voskoboeva
116. Nicole Pratt
117. Clarisa Fernandez
118. Klara Zakopalova (Q)
119. Sofia Arvidsson
120. Olga Savchuk
121. Vera Dushevina
122. Varvara Lepchenko
124. Sandra Zahlavova (Q)
125. Elena Likhovtseva
127. ZHENG,JIE (31)
128. Catalina Castano

Only the big upset in the final saved Zheng from becoming a seeded wooden-spoonist!

7. Jon Wertheim's parting-shots (Maria-filtered)

Jon Wertheim:
4. When Sharapova lost that heartbreaker to Serena here in 2005, she went on to win her next event. Be interesting to see how long Saturday's "statement match" sticks with her.

Full article at

8. WTA Singles Rankings (as of 29th January 2007)

1. Maria Sharapova (3918)
2. Justine Henin-Hardenne (3311)
3. Amélie Mauresmo (2900)
4. Kim Clijsters (2577)
5. Svetlana Kuznetsova (2554)
6. Martina Hingis (2139)
7. Nadia Petrova (2057)
8. Elena Dementieva (2013)
9. Nicole Vaidišová (1782)
10. Jelena Janković (1558)
11. Patty Schnyder (1544)
12. Dinara Safina (1527)
13. Anna Chakvetadze (1470)
14. Serena Williams (1269)
15. Shahar Peer (1209)
16. Ana Ivanović (1160)
17. Li,Na (1106)
18. Daniela Hantuchová (988)
19. Tatiana Golovin (950)
20. Anna-Lena Grönefeld (944)
21. Vera Zvonarëva (932)

Great to see Maria back to her career-high ranking.

Dr. Andrew Broad
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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Old Jan 30th, 2007, 02:28 PM   #9
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Re: Australian Open 2007: Andrew's TV-reports (completed)

Thanks for all this.

Maria's serve consistency let her down most in this tournament. She rarely got it up above 60%, and less than 50% in the Serena match. She has consistently lost more than one serve game per set. And one should be the limit for a top player. Her returning has generally been good, and she's relied on that to get through her matches. Overall, Maria was only playing at about 70% throughout the tournament - and she still reached the final.

Also Serena was playing top form for that day and had nothing to lose.

Official Hitman of the Maria Mafia
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 10:17 PM   #10
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Quarter-final TV-report / UK TV-alert (TWS)

AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Rebound Ace); Grand Slam)

Yes: I am still working on last year's Australian Open!

I have added a new TV-report of Maria's quarter-final with Anna Chakvetadze, which I recently acquired from Tennis Videos International.

My report is at:

I plan to add the semi-final and final next week.

UK TV-alert: Maria in Transworld Sport

There is an animated image of Maria in this week's Transworld Sport, to say that she made her Fed Cup début a success.

For those who are interested in catching this snippet, Transworld Sport is repeated with sign-language at 03:20 GMT on {Thursday night/Friday morning} on Channel 4. Maria is 6 minutes into the programme, so I recommend 03:25 as a safe start-time and 03:32 as a safe stop-time.

Dr. Andrew Broad
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

Last edited by andrewbroad : Feb 14th, 2008 at 10:24 PM. Reason: correct time at which TWS is repeated
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Old Mar 21st, 2008, 07:16 PM   #11
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Semi-final + Final TV-report

AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Rebound Ace); Grand Slam)

I have just uploaded my TV-reports of Maria Sharapova's semi-final and final at the Australian Open 2007:

I recently watched the semi-final (against Kim Clijsters) for the first time, having acquired it from Tennis Videos International. It's actually a much higher-quality match than the reports at the time had led me to expect.

My final-report is essentially the TV-report I posted here at the time, now with a proper transcription of the players' speeches at the presentation-ceremony, and links to the press-conferences. Obviously it's not a match of which Maria-fans care to be reminded, but Maria did "look forward to coming back next year and hopefully taking the big one"!

This concludes my Australian Open 2007 reports. My next stop will be the French Open 2007: I also acquired a DVD of Maria's quarter-final with Anna Chakvetadze. And after that, I'll release my long-awaited Wimbledon 2007 match-reports!

Dr. Andrew Broad
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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