Friday, June 5, 2009

French Open final--expect a great match

Victory Column at Place du Chatelet
Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova have played each other thirteen times. Safina has won eight of those matches. However, they have won four each of the matches they have played on clay. This season, Kuznetsova is the only player to have beaten Safina on clay.

Technically speaking, Kuznetsova is the more skilled clay competitor. She can spin the ball very well, is comfortable at the net, and can sustain the stress of lengthy points. She is a good court thinker and a superb mover. Safina, on the other hand, is not as good a mover, but her entire strategy is to dictate points from the baseline--something she can do quite well. But Safina is no boring ball-basher; she has developed her own bag of clay court tricks over the past couple of years.

Kuznetsova is the more consistent server of the two; Safina's serve comes and goes. In the past, both players have shared the same major weakness--a fragile mentality. Whether one or both of them will
bring that mentality to the court tomorrow is a question I cannot answer, though it's hard to imagine either of them sustaining a cool head throughout the entire match. I am anticipating a good number of unforced errors from both of them, and Safina is also prone to double-faulting during big occasions.

Kuznetsova won the U.S. Open in 2004, and since then, she has been in the finals of two majors--the French Open in 2006 (defeated by Justine Henin) and the U.S. Open in 2007 (defeated by Henin). Safina has never won a major, but she was the finalist in last year's French Open (defeated by Ana Ivanovic) and in this year's Australian Open (defeated by Serena Williams). A win by either woman will bring about not only joy, but--undoubtedly--significant relief. The press is focusing on Safina's attempt to prove she deserves her number 1 status, but there is also pressure on her opponent to repeat a victory she has not experienced in five years.

Who will better hold her nerve and become the 2009 French Open champion?

Je ne sais pas.


Todd Spiker said...

Did you know that since the 12-10 3rd set match between Capriati and Clijsters in 2001, the last seven Roland Garros women's finals have finished up in straight sets (with the closest being the 6-4/6-4 Henin/Kuznetsova match in '06)?

Not sure if that means anything or not. ;)

Diane said...

I'm not surprised, Todd. I was thinking about the finals earlier today, and couldn't come up with a recent 3-setter. Perhaps tomorrow.

Andy A said...

I reckon it will be a cracking match, with Safina edging it 2-1.
They're both in awesome physical shape at the moment, and are both mentally strong (despite both suffering occasional "moments" of self-doubt, which seems to affect almost all WTA players these days!). Anyway, may the best woman win. I'm just hoping it will be my all-time favourite female sportswoman - Dinara Safina! Her on-court intensity is like a firework which has been struck by lightning, but off-court she's as lovely a person as you could ever wish to meet - charming, modest, and very very funny. Also incredibly quotable, which always helps when you're writing a blog ;)

Speaking of which... keep up the great work, Diane!

Andy A

Diane said...

Thank you, Andy.

I like both of these players and also expect a great match.

Anonymous said...

The match was a dud. In most of these GS women's finals, the winner is determined by who can choke slightly less than her opponent. Venus, Serena, and Sharapova are the only WTA players worthy of being called "mentally tough". The rest of the tour is comprised of jello-heads. Hopefully, the men can put on a better show tomorrow (they usually do).

Diane said...

It really was a dud. I was so disappointed. The same players who give us thrilling matches in other circumstances generally don't give us much in major finals (makes me miss the Amelie-Justine contests).