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♥ All-American Reject
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Sharapova can beat Serena
Russian teen capable of beating Serena in final


Anja Niedringhaus / AP​


Russia's Maria Sharapova is playing in only her second Wimbledon, but she's got the game and the mindset to win the ladies' singles title, says Tracy Austin of NBCSports.com.

COMMENTARY
By Tracy Austin
NBC Sports
Updated: 4:10 p.m. ET July 02, 2004

WIMBLEDON, England - The Wimbledon ladies' singles final is a tough one to call, but I have the feeling that 17-year-old rising Russian star Maria Sharapova is going to pull off a stunner and defeat Serena Williams. That would prevent the top-seeded, two-time defending champion from becoming only the third woman in 35 years to win three straight Wmbledon titles.

Serena not the same
It's my view that Serena isn't the player she was a year ago, at least not on a consistent basis.

I don't think Serena played a great match in the semifinals against Amelie Mauresmo, defeating the fourth-seed in three sets. For one thing, Serena' forehand let her down. There was high drama and some great shots in that match, but Serena made 42 errors. If she does that against Maria, then she will have to wave goodbye to winning the match.

Maria's mental fortitude is a huge strength and so is her gutsiness and positive outlook. She doesn't get down on herself and she doesn't stop fighting, so Serena will not be able to afford the kind of slip ups she had against Mauresmo.

Calm, cool and collected
Serena will have experience in her favor because Maria is so young, but the teenager seems immune to all of the pressure and the attention. She feels like she belongs and she doesn't look surprised at all to be in the Wimbledon final. Her composure and her grit is amazing.

Against Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals, Maria showed incredible self-belief and she kept her head after being served off court in the first set. The rain came at the right time for Maria in that match, and that made me think that the gods were with her because she played a lot better after the break.

It's very rare to find a player of Maria's age and lack of experience with so much composure, but some players are just like that. You can see it on the court and you can see it the way she carries herself off the court.

She's clearly a very disciplined person in everything she does, in what she eats and how she looks after herself and she copes with all the attention paid to her so well.

A goal not yet reached
I don't think that Maria is satisfied by just getting to the final and that may be most important of all to her chances of winning.

There are some youngsters who get a certain distance in the tournament and there is a feeling of satisfaction, even if they are still trying their best.

Maria isn't going to be happy unless she wins, and the fact that she is playing Serena, who has six Grand Slam titles, won't affect her hunger at all. She certainly won't be awed by Serena's reputation. Her self-belief and hunger will be crucial in the final.

Key components to winning
Tactically what Maria needs to do is play to Serena's forehand, hoping it will be off like it was against Mauresmo.

Maria will need to serve well as the women's game has become more and more about the serve in recent years, kind of like the men's game was a few years ago, and that's particularly clear on grass.

Strong serving is vital for Serena too if she wants to have a chance of winning because Maria has shown in her last two matches -- against Ai Sugiyama and Davenport -- that once she gets ahead, she is very hard to stop.

She just starts hitting harder and getting better and better with every shot.

Maria will also want to keep being aggressive on the return of serve and so Serena may need both her first and second serves to be in top form.

Serena has a difficult second serve which has plenty of pop on it and lands very deep when she hits it well, but it can go off if she gets tight, and Maria won't be afraid to attack it.

I think that's a lesson she learned against Davenport. She will have gained so much experience and confidence from that semifinal. It will give her a lot to pull on.

The only weakness I can see in Maria is that tactically she doesn't have a plan B yet in her game and she may not be able to mix it up against Serena the way Mauresmo did.

Maria hit some short angles against Davenport, which worked very well, but they aren't going to be nearly so effective against a mover as good as Serena.

Davenport's Wimbledon farewell
I'm not surprised to hear Lindsay Davenport say that this was probably her last Wimbledon. It's obviously been on her mind for a while and once you make that decision, then it suddenly becomes harder to practice, harder to travel, and harder to do your job.

She had such a tough time coming back from all her injuries too, which I'm sure didn't help her motivation. She says she wants to finish out this year and end her career in Los Angeles at the WTA Tour Championships and that means the U.S. summer circuit will feel like a bit of farewell tour for her.

That could make it tough to motivate herself, but on the other hand she will be playing freely and without pressure and she could notch up some good results simply because after all these years, she can now relax and enjoy playing.

© 2004 NBC Sports
~~~~~~~~~~
Friday, July 2, 2004

Serena should win third title



By Pam Shriver
Special to ESPN.com

When I got to my one major final, I looked up at the U.S. Open board at my name. It's really awesome to see a draw of 128 and your own name as one of the final two. That's what Maria Sharapova sees at age 17.




Serena Williams was, of course, the favorite to get through to the final. She's been looking increasingly more determined and intense, so it's no surprise she's in Saturday's final.



It's not a shock Sharapova is in the final, but it is a surprise. When you have the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players out -- Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters -- that's a big enough hole to give someone who is playing well a breakthrough chance. Sharapova might have been here anyway, but it would be a much tougher draw with the top two in it.



In the quarterfinals last year, Sharapova showed she had a big serve and ground strokes suited to grass. Yet, when you've won two titles in a row and are in the final again as Serena is, you have a big advantage. But Sharapova can look at Serena's semifinal with Amelie Mauresmo and take some hope from that. Serena seems to have shown her best in the middle of the tournament and now is struggling a bit.



Sharapova will need to keep her forehand aggressive yet consistent to withstand the pressure Serena will send at her. In fact, because they are the breakdown shots, the forehands of both players in this final will be important.



Sharapova moves better than, say, Lindsay Davenport and she'll hang in on the demanding points Serena will offer up. Sharapova's ability to win enough of those physical points will be important for her.



We'll see what role the crowd plays as Sharapova will be the favorite. Serena's had crowds against her before, and this one is nothing like the vocal French Open crowd.



For Serena it's important to look across the net and not see her sister Venus. She's never been able to compete for the title here without the drag of facing her sister. And let's face it, it's a drag.



The pick is Serena to win, but it will be interesting to see how Sharapova handles it. Already, early in her professional career, she's handled every situation with great maturity. That shouldn't change here and because of that, this should be a fun final.



ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.
 

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Tracy is crazy. Serena played a bad semifinal? Is she on medication? Serena had so many errors and mistakes because mauresmo hit those tricky slices and gave her no pace!!! THATS WHY YOU IDIOT TRACY!!! She acts like mauresmo had no plan whatsoever and that serena was just off. No, sorry but serena was frustrated BECAUSE OF MOMO and serena still managed to pull off the win.


maria is no mauresmo. her game does not have the weapons to throw off serena like momo does. However maria still has a chance. Hell anyone who reaches the final has a chance because obviously they earned their place to be there.

Who really knows what will happen? There are too many variables with maria to predict how she will react. Look at the french final when the two russians reached their first slam final; it was a total mess. So really trying to predict how a 16 year old who never in her life reached a stage that big will react is impossible. Sat will know.

People who say experience doesnt count are crazy. Experience does count it gives you foreknowledge of what to expect. Serena and maria have played before and both know what to expect.

From all the variables I expect serena to win but in tennis who knows?
 

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I agree with Pam Shriver that Serena will win it for the 3rd time. Sharapova does not have the same type of game that Mauresmo has.
 

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Exactly...Momo´s game: slice, s & v threw Serena off....don´t know if Maria can do all those stuff.
 

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Tracy has watched them play. Pam has been having a baby.Pam always backs the American - shes a Republican.

Tracy's analysis makes sense. Serena isn't back to her old form. Its just a bit optimistic to think Maria can beat her yet though.Momo was ahead when she was serving tough - but lost when she felt her back. Maria hasn't got a bad back. Maria could handle Davenports serve by the end - even when it worked - serena may or may not be a step further to master. Momo didn't feed Serena pace - can Maria avoid this? Slicing Serena's knees to death might be the best option but I doubt if she can do that. Serena has become better on key points - partly because she can't maintain her game full time if pushed and would lose if she didn't - you would expect her to be better at this. Sharapova needs to stay out there long enough to allow Wild Thing to make a reappearance and help her out - a few rain interludes might help too and the crowd will have a clear favourite..
 

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Serena wants to win, and should be able to. Not because Sharapove is 17, but she is the reigning Queen of grass and has her title to degend. If her forehand fails her, and Maria gets really confident. Maria could be the new queen. Anyway, should be a worthy match.
 

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Go Pam
I liked your picks at RG so much:haha:
 

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Should I stop picking names out of hat for my predictions then??
 

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I'm sorry when a player's main hope is if their opponents Forehand goes off I don't think I like their chances. :lol:
 

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although we should beware.....there´s been a thing called kiss of the death lately when Pam picks you to win.
 

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bandabou said:
although we should beware.....there´s been a thing called kiss of the death lately when Pam picks you to win.
Kiss of death....but I've tried it on George and it just won't work...
 

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Pamela Shriver said:
Kiss of death....but I've tried it on George and it just won't work...
Suffocate him with your Pamfro girl, that should do the trick ;) ! Condolences on Marlon Brando's death, by the way, Pam: like the Lord got him before you could whip in there and marry him before he popped his clogs.

Tracy gets a Nobel prize for stating the bloody obvious with the line
"It's my view that Serena isn't the player she was a year ago, at least not on a consistent basis"

Guess what Tracy, a year ago, Serena had won 4/5 slams going into Wimbledon and was way out ahead of everyone else. She's been back for three months after a nine month lay-off, and during that time has had a minor injury problem, so is it really surprising she's not "the same"?

That said, she's shown in her last two matches that (a) she's capable of destroying a top 10 opponent by not even letting her in the match and (b) she's able to guts out a close, tense encounter against a player with many more tactical options and a much greater technical variety than Sharapova.

I'm not saying that Sharapova stands no chance - she is in the position of Serena in 99, Seles in 90 and Graf in 87 in that she's got nothing to lose and can just go out there and enjoy the abandon of youth and the advantage of being the underdog. However, you've GOT to go with Serena: she's got the experience of the big occasion, the experience of grasscourt play, the motivation (a three-peat) and the confidence of knowing she's come through against two of her three most realistic rivals (the other being Venus) for this title. She doesn't have a bad record in slam finals either (played 7 won 6)!
 

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Thank you Pam :bowdown:
I knew I can rely on you :haha:
 

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Nastyafan said:
Thank you Pam :bowdown:
I knew I can rely on you :haha:
Rollo said:
Pam-get out the prediction biz hon
Its my hormones!! They're giraffing it all over the place.

Uri Gella said:
Pam is obviously using my methods of psychic powers...
 
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