Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunshine in the desert

World number 1 Caroline Wozniacki won her 14th WTA title today, and it's a big one: Wozniacki defeated 15th seed Marion Bartoli 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 in a highly entertaining final that had just about everything a fan could want. Wozniacki's speed and Bartoli's aggression created a good deal of drama on court, at least in the two final sets.

Bartoli's on again-off again serve failed her in the first set, and as a result, all her otherwise-good effort could not save her from a 1-6 loss. But she came roaring back in the next set, serving in high form and spending a lot of time at the net, where she hit a number of successful volleys that she set up with the aggression that marks her game when she is in top form.

But in the third set, we saw a tired Bartoli. Broken right away, she was down 0-2, 0-40, yet held, which seemed to put breath back into her. Down 2-4, Bartoli went up 40-0, then found herself at deuce, but she held then, too. Wozniacki's forehand became shaky in the third set, and Bartoli--broken twice--got one of the breaks back. But the Frenchwoman looked too exhausted to continue playing at the high level necessary to compete against Wozniacki. The top seed got frustrated a few times, and she looked fragile now and then, but she was so fast and got back so many balls, Bartoli just couldn't stay with her.

Despite its ups and downs--maybe because of them--this match displayed, at various times, the very best of both players. Bartoli now returns to the top 10, though she will be busy defending semifinal points in Miami next week.  As for Wozniacki--she has now won a very big tournament, which puts her an important step closer to winning a major. The world number 1 is a model of fitness, and when I say that she's a human backboard, I mean it in a very good way. Like the great Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Wozniacki rarely meets a ball she can't run down, and she almost always appears energized. Shots that would be clear winners against most other players find their way to the Dane's racquet, and--more often than not--she returns them cleanly.

Last year, Wozniacki lost to Justine Henin in the Miami quarterfnals. Anything can happen, of course, but it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to say that she will do better this year.

6 comments:

bill said...

aperceptive writeup, Diane - thak you. I really enjoyed this final. The scoreline says a lot about Bartoli's fighting spirit as well well as Wozniacki's fitness. Flashes of great creativity on both sides.

bill said...

Oops! That first line should have read "A perceptive writeup, Diane - thank you." Got distracted.

Diane said...

Thanks, Bill. I enjoyed it, too.

PokerFiend said...

That's exactly the kind of blog I've been looking for, cheers!!

TennisAce said...

It was a wonderful match and Wozniacki showed us that while she is a defensive player, when pushed to the limit, she will go on the offense and strike. I had to laugh on twitter when I saw people moaning and groaning. I told them to watch the match and rather than talking about Wozniacki being a pusher, look at how she places the ball. Look at how she manipulates her opponent to putting the ball where she wants it to be on the next shot.

People have become so accustomed to watching the hit hard and then harder style of play that they are not appreciating the subtle nuances in Woz's game. I have to confess that I was one of those, but it was not until recently, when I watched her match with Sharapova and saw how she was placing the ball in positions where Sharapova had to extend herself in order to make a shot and not just any shot but a better shot that I realised just how good Woz really is.
However, and this is a big one, one of the reasons why she has not been able to beat people like Henin and Kim etc., is because they are a lot more experienced than she is. They are bigger, stronger and faster and I would dare say that they have a kill shot. Until Woz develops her kill shot she will not have much luck against players like Kim, Serena etc.

Diane said...

Thanks, PokerFiend.

Yes, Wozniacki is very clever, and there is hardly ever a "wasted" shot. I think, by the way, that the "kill shot" that would help her a lot would be serve that is above and beyond what she has now.