Saturday, March 19, 2011

The heat was hot, and the ground was dry

But the air was full of sound.

The screams of Maria Sharapova seemed to take on a new meaning last night in the California desert, as she won only three games and made 41 unforced errors in her semifinal match against world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Sharapova. seeded 16th in Indian Wells,  looked lost--almost from the first moment--and failed to hold serve in the first set. She waited longer than is her custom to strike, she flubbed what few volleys she set up, she had repeated service problems, and she missed the lines on many occasions. Wozniacki did not find it necessary to do much more than serve as a backboard for the Russian's errant shots. After an hour and 20 minutes, she advanced to the BNP Paribas Open final.

Yesteday's other semifinal match featured Marion Bartoli at her absolute best, serving and returning at a very high level against 23rd seed Yanina Wickmayer. Bartoli had a moment, at the beginning of the second set, in which she double-faulted three times consecutively, but other than that, her serve was on fire, and she ended the match with ten aces and an 83% first serve win percentage. The 15th seed defeated Wickmayer 6-1, 6-3.

Should Bartoli (who dealt with a stomach virus earlier in the tournament) play in the final the way she did in the semifinals, there will be an exciting contest tomorrow. But between Bartoli's physical fragility and the ever-changing success of her service game, all we can do is be optimistic that she repeats her performance. Wozniacki, on the other hand, has taken consistency to its highest level.

In doubles, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Meghann Shaughnessy will compete today in the final against Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina.  Mattek-Sands and Shaugnessy received a walkover in the semifinals from 6th seeds Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko. Mirza and Vesnina defeated Daniela Hantuchova and Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-4.


Anonymous said...

Lovely title and lead-in. Nice - poetic writing & tennis all in one bite :).

Personally, I'm glad I had the sound muted during the Sharipova match. I simply cannot tolerate her screaming. I do not call it 'grunting.' Mouth closed = grunt. Mouth open with ear-piercing noise = scream.

I look forward to the final today. After seeing a video interview with Bartoli on the Indian Wells website, I was struck by her charm and self-awareness and the love she appears to have for the game. (I can't say whether or not she loves it, that's her business.) I do wish someone professional would work with her on her service motion, to simplify it, but I can't fault that when it works it works brilliantly. And I've seen her decimate Venus's game, among how many others?, so she's got the goods. All this to say that she's winning me over.

Could be a very good match today.

Btw - I just finished reading a nice piece on Martina at Have you seen it?

She's still a goddess, imho,
Oakland CA

Anonymous said...

One more thing? And this may be redundant to any discussions you've had, here. Way back when Maria was making her comeback, post-surgery, Mary Carillo stated flat-out that it would be impossible for Maria's shoulder to hold up for any extended period of time, given the surgery she had had. (Carillo had the same injury).

Now? All I hear is about poor Maria should be in the top 10. Makes no sense why her serve goes off. Why can't she hit more consistently. She should be better than this. Poor Maria looks so dejected and it's SO unusual to see her that way, etc., etc., when it seems to me that she's looked exactly like she looked during this semifinal in every single tournament she's played -- when she hits the wall with her shoulder. She can go 3 or 4 matches and that's it. Sometimes less.

I had the sound up for all of 4 minutes the other night, and I had to listen to a discussion of when Maria might win her next GS. And this was near the end of the second, dismal set.


Diane said...

Rebecca, you have lyricist Dewey Bunnell (and--indirectly--Salvador Dali) to thank for the opener; I'm glad you enjoyed it.

The current service motion is actually one of Bartoli's more normal ones! I've seen her serve every which way imaginable.

Thanks for the link on Martina; I'll give it a read later.

bill said...

I watched about half of the Caro-Maria semi and had to turn it off. These are great athletes but it reminded me of the typical high school match in my area: one player retrieving, waiting for the other to self-destruct. And so it came to pass. I've seen two games of the Caro-Marion final (live-commenting, here)and they featured more creative shot-making than than what I saw in the semi. C'mon, players! Show us what you can do!

Diane said...

Corina Morariu had rotator cuff surgery, and I don't know what her serve was like before she had it (just don't remember), but in her last years of doubles play, it was almost non-existent. Does anyone know whether the decline began after the surgery?

I really don't know. So much of Sharapova's problem appears mental to me.

Anonymous said...

Carillo said the injury basically ended her career for all intents and purposes. She had no oomph left not only in her serve but her groundstrokes.

It looks to me that whenever Maria's shoulder is in the hit-the-wall-match, she starts pushing her forehand and it's got very little power, and starts spraying. (Even on her best days, it doesn't have anywhere near the power it used to have.)

I thought Caroline played Maria pretty smart in that she looped the ball to Maria's forehand, so Maria couldn't use power coming off the shot at all, and sure enough, she hit a slew of UEs.

I haven't searched out the stats for that match, so I could be talking out of my a** and the vast majority of her UEs were on the backhand side :).

It simply seems to me that this is a giant elephant in the room. It bugs.


Diane said...

Bill, imagine how I felt last night: I had just seen Liza Minnelli in concert, and then I went to the hotel and watched that :)