Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sharapova wins Madrid Open

Down 1-4 in the third set of the Madrid Open final, Simona Halep broke Maria Sharapova at love, then held, creating the possibility that the set was still quite competitive. But that would be the last game that Halep would win. Sharapova defeated her 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 to win her 31st tour title. With wins in both Stuttgart and Madrid, Sharapova has solidified herself as the woman to beat on clay (that still sounds so odd). At the same time, Halep remains a major threat to anyone who competes against her on clay (or on any surface).

Halep ran over Sharapova in the first set, attacking her from all angles and serving beautifully. It seemed obvious that the Romanian was in the Russian's head, but it was no surprise when the tables turned in the second set. I thought that Halep became too passive, and it wasn't until her situation appeared almost hopeless in the third set that she turned the aggression on "high" again. But it wasn't enough, and one hopes that Halep can use her loss today as a lesson in what happens if one backs off of offensive play too much--especially against the likes of Sharapova.

Sharapova converted 83% of break points; Halep converted only 40%. That's the most accurate match summary I can provide.

Before the trophy ceremony took place, there was a tribute to Dinara Safina, who retired this week. I was under the impression that Safina was going to present the winner's trophy, but that didn't happen. I think it would have been really nice if it had happened. Safina delivered her speech in Spanish, and I was able to follow very little of it. (Anyone who is fluent in Spanish, please feel free to provide comments.) 'Pova was a bit emotional in wishing Dinara well, thanking her for being a strong woman. She was also full of praise for her opponent.

I liked it that these two were in the final. I would like to have seen Halep win it, but I'm always glad to see Sharapova lift a trophy, so, for me, it was all good.

Tennis writers, commentators and editors/producers are driving me crazy (what else is new?). Please stop showing those "old" photos of Simona Halep. They pop up on tennis blogs, tennis sites and on television, and it isn't because there aren't plenty of more current ones to show. The WTA should have put a stop to this the moment it started occurring.

Also--tennis writers and commentators, here's a news flash: The USSR stopped existing in 1991. That was 23 years ago. Do you think you could stop referring to Ukraine as a Soviet province? It's inappropriate under any circumstance, but especially right now.

On to Rome. Ula Radwanska has fallen to Belinda Bencic in the second round of qualifying. No surprise there. Julia Goerges and Kristina Mladenovic were also both defeated in the second round of qualifying. There are some really interesting first round match-ups in the draw:

Dominika Cibulkova vs. Camila Girogi
Belinda Bencic vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Eugenie Bouchard vs. Francesca Schiavone
Sabine Lisicki vs. Samantha Stosur


Todd.Spiker said...

Diane, I missed the start of the trophy ceremony. Did they anything about Safina being pregnant? I wonder not just because she appeared a bit heavier than normal, but because Sharapova said something afterward to Safina about her "starting a family."

(No connection to anything here -- but I got a laugh just now as the random word combination I have to type in to post this on the comment page is "anyToot similar." Heehee.)

Diane said...

I didn't hear anyone say anything, and it was all in Spanish, anyway. But when I saw her, I immediately assumed she was pregnant, and that comment of Maria's seemed to confirm it.

It wasn't just that she was heavier; to me, she looked pregnant. But on TV, those things might appear anyTOOT similar.......

Karen said...

I was very disappointed in the final outcome. I really wanted Halep to win this one if only to consolidate her position in top 5 of the WTA. She really pushed Sharapova hard. I don't particularly care for Pova's tactics on court when she is under pressure. She is a champion with nothing to prove. All the histrionics and arguments with the chair umpires when she is under pressure does her a disservice.

That being said, yaay Halep for being the No. 4 ranked player in the world. Well deserved.

Diane said...

Simona is old school. No drama, no frills. I've been a fan for a long time, and am thrilled for her for her current success. I'm especially glad to see how much she has improved her serve lately! She's playing at such a high level. If she can take care of those feet, her ascent should continue.

She's a joy to watch, and her attitude is one that younger players would be advised to emulate.

sunny nine said...

Karen, just a correction-Halep is still no 5 per the rankings that just came out.

I enjoyed the final and the 2 people in it. Because of that I was able to just sit back and enjoy the match and what each woman did well. I didn't feel that Sharapova argued that much.

I think Halep has solidified her position as a top-flight player. Such a thing doesn't always end in titles. Her quarterfinal at the AO, her semi at Indian Wells, and her first Mandatory Prem final are all important. It is just that top players run into each other at the business end of a tournament-you win some and you lose some. It is going to get more difficult for her in big tournaments because she is at the top and is expected to win.

I thought a turning point for Sharapova was when she started coming forward more in the 2nd set. I have seen that when she moves forward taking volleys out of the air and on the rise is when she plays better.

Karen said...

Sunny, we will agree to disagree on this one. challenging your opponent's serve every chance you get is a tactic used by players to put doubt into their opponent's head on their serve. If you keep challenging serves enough, your opponent will start slowing down the first serve and that way returners get an advantage. It is something that I see happening with increasing frequency on the women's Tour. I started noticing it with Vika and shortly after Pova. They keep challenging the serves especially of Serena. It does not work against Serena as all it does is annoy her, but for other women it does. In today's match, Halep was serving exceptionally well. In the second set, not so much and part of that had to do with the constant arguing with the linespeople, the umpire, the challenging, asking the umpire to come down and check ball marks etc. I found it extremely infuriating and Halep did as well. In that game where she was up 40-0 and lost serve, much of it was due to her losing focus because of what was happening with Sharapova and the umpire.

Diane, you are right that Halep has no drama and no frills. I am also happy that the tennis media has taken her seriously. Pete Bodo described her as a tennis player's player. No coaching. No drama. No long time between points. No rituals. Just take the ball, serve and start playing. I love her and I really hope she continues in the way she has done and start winning these big matches.

sunny nine said...

Karen, I agree to disagree. Tennis players need to learn not to lose focus because of what their opponents do; this includes an injury or arguing or being streaky and not knowing what is coming next. I wasn't defending Sharapova, I just saw a different match than you. Literally, I did not see those things even though I was watching. Actually I am not disagreeing or agreeing, I just didn't see it.
I have been a fan of Halep way before she started winning so there is no bias for me.

Sabey said...

I am sad that Halep lost. It was a great match though and both players gave us some tennis worth watching.
I cant help feeling that if not for on court coaching Halep would have taken this match - possibly in straight sets.

Diane said...

Halep can beat Sharapova. but she needs to do it before Maria chalks up too many wins against her and turns it into more of a mental thing. Halep continues to improve her game. Makes you wonder: Why don't some of the others keep improving?

With Simona, there's nothing to not like. The improvement in her serve is a big deal. The movement and court intelligence were already superior. She certainly seems to be handling the dramatic ranking rise well; I hope that continues as she becomes "the hunted."

Karen said...

Diane, funny you should mention about players not improving. I had the same thought about Radwanska. Aga and Halep are about the same size even though Halep is much more sturdily built than is Aga. The thing though is that Aga is still playing tennis the way she did circa 2007. She got a bit aggressive when she made the finals of Wimbledon, but for whatever reason she has not stepped up in the way I thought she would after getting to the final of a Grand Slam.

Her second serve needs work. Frankly, it does not have to be big but it does need to not sit up in the box like a club league player's serve. People think that Serena has a huge serve. She actually does not. What Serena has is disguise and placement on her serve. Yes she can hit it hard when she wants to but she is no Lisicki when it comes to serving.

If Aga had a better second serve than she has now, I am sure that she would be in contention for the bigger titles on Tour. Right now she is becoming fodder for the other women.

Karen said...

Sunny, sorry about that. I misread your post.

Diane said...

Yeah, I don't understand the Aga thing at all. She's a brilliant tennis player with this one huge flaw, and why isn't someone doing something about it?! It makes me sad because she brings so much to the sport and she deserves better results. But it doesn't take a sports scholar to know what the problem is. Just fix it--please.

sunny nine said...

Karen, you are correct about Serena. (Federer is the same on the men's side). Disguise, placement and what I call-a little pop are just as important as strength. Halep's coach said she is one of the smartest women out there. I do like when she gets spirited though. I have been watching almost every match of hers on and enjoy when she starts talking loudly to herself in Romanian and swipes her racquet on the ground. I think this gets her going. I like the main 2 things about her game-well I guess it is 3 since she has improved wonderfully on her serve. She both counterpunches and presses her opponent into an error but also is aggressive to the end the point, often coming forward. In fact she said that one of her favorite shots is the drive volley.
So yes, it has been wonderful to see the "switch" turned on and stay on.

Karen said...

Steve Tignor said that what makes Halep dangerous is the fact that you have no idea what she will do next. she moves exceptionally well but apart from that she is not afraid to take risks with her shots and yes sunny I love it when she swips her racquet and goes off on herself. There is another Romanian who I liked who was like and it was Dulgheru. Must be a Romanian thing.

On another note, anyone else think Genie has kind of regressed from early in the season? Watched a bit of her match today against Fran and she was just given a lesson. Same thing happened in Madrid last week. She does not seem to have the ability to think her way outside a paper bag. Seems like she only gets going when the Genie's Army is around. She needs to fix whatever it is that ails her

Diane said...

I want to say that it's the clay, but the Madrid court plays fast (JJ says most of the big clay courts play faster than the green Charleston court, at this point--a good discussion for another time), so it probably isn't a surface issue.

I can overlook the Schiavone thing because when Schiavone is "on," she's a genius. That stuff happens on clay. (I once saw Patty Schnyder do it to Radwanska--just left her standing there clueless.) But otherwise, you do have to wonder whether Bouchard's early stardom is getting in her way.

In Charleston, Bouchard was too quick to take the media bait to set her up as the "anti-Stephens." Who's Sloaney now?

Todd.Spiker said...

Meanwhile, Stephens has been rather quietly putting up some good wins in non-slam events (Jovanovski in Rome 1st Rd., most recently). It's good to have gazes straying elsewhere for a while.