Friday, November 9, 2007

Madrid semifinals--no surprises expected here

The Sony Ericcson WTA Tour Year-End Championships are down to four players: Justine Henin, Anna Chakvetadze, Ana Ivanovic, and Maria Sharapova. The semifinals break down like this:

Henin v. Ivanovic: They have played only twice, both times on clay, Henin's best surface. The first match, in Warsaw in 2005, was close. The second one, the final of this year's French Open, was a huge disappointment: Ivanovic, realizing the moment, simply went to pieces.

Ivanovic, who does not yet have the experience to shrug off bad times, is probably feeling somewhat demoralized by the thrashing she got from Maria Sharapova in their YEC match. All she needs now is to face Henin, but that is exactly what she gets. If she can take a set off of Henin, she will have reason to feel very proud, but I don't think that is a likely scenario.

Sharapova v. Chakvetadze: For her part, Chakvetadze has an 0-5 record against Sharapova. Three of their matches have been close and very competitive, so statistically speaking, Chakvetadze has a chance. But if Sharapova comes out with the kind of tennis she used to obliterate Ivanovic, she will have another straight-set win. Unlike some fans, I do not believe that Chakvetadze's problem is that Sharapova overpowers her; her problem is that she has mental lapses. Though she dislikes comparisons with Hingis, Chakvetadze does have the kind of court sense that made Hingis successful. But she is not consistently mentally tough, and is prone to making unforced errors when she is under pressure.

If Henin and Sharapova do win, as expected, and Sharapova's shoulder continues to behave, we should get a high quality final.

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