Thursday, May 9, 2013

Russia's late bloomer finesses her way into Madrid quarterfinals

What's not to like about Ekaterina Makarova? She has a way better-than-average serve, she's a very clean striker of the ball, she can  really hit the angles, introduce touch, think on the court--and she's left-handed. She also has a demeanor, both on and off the court, that makes you want to cheer for her. For years, I wondered why Makarova wasn't ranked higher (people also wondered that about Angelique Kerber, and at age 23, she started turning her career around), but the reality was that she was one of those talented players who just wasn't consistent, and who wasn't good at winning.

Now, at age 24, the "forgotten" Russian is turning into an authentic threat, especially at big events. My favorite photo of Makarova is this one from the 2013 Fed Cup semifinal because it embodies all the belief she has acquired in the past couple of years. That recent Fed Cup performance can't hurt, either. Like Kerber, Makarova is title-poor; her only title came in Eastbourne in 2010.

Makarova is a good doubles player, too, and her current partnership with countrywoman Elena Vesnina has been productive. Makarova was half of the runner-up team at the 2010 Australian Open mixed doubles competition, and she was half of the championship mixed doubles team at last year's U.S. Open.

Currently ranked number 24 in the world, Makarova reached her highest ranking, 19, earlier this year. The tall Russian is having a good week in Madrid (and, like another tall Russian, she supposedly doesn't favor clay courts), starting with a straight sets win over Lucie Safarova. In the second round, Makarova ended Victoria Azarenka's 2013 18-match streak. Today, she brought her best game to beat Marion Bartoli. In the quarterfinals, she'll play clay expert Sara Errani (seeded number 7), and if she keeps up the good serving, she could find herself in the semifinals.

I like watching her, and hope that she becomes even more of a threat in the near future.

Here is the rest of the Madrid quarterfinal draw:

Serena Williams (1) vs. Anabel Medina Garrigues
Angelique Kerber (6) vs. Ana Ivanovic
Kaia Kanepi vs. Maria Sharapova (2)

The doubles quarterfinals were played today, and there were a couple of upsets. Wild cards Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Carla Suarez Navarro defeated 4th seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, and Kristina Mladenovic (there she is again) and Galina Voskoboeva defeated 3rd seeds Makarova and Vesnina.

In the semifinals, Soler-Espinosa and Suarez Navarro will play Cara Black and Marina Erakovic, and Mladenovic and Voskoboeva will play Lucie Safarova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.


Jim Lumpkin said...

Serena is very good, as we know. She's also lucky when it comes to early-round opponents. It's amazing to see how often she gets the powderpuff draw.

Diane said...

I it that, or is it just that otherwise threatening early-round opponents suddenly appear harmless to us when we see their names opposite Serena's in the draw? Now you've got me thinking about it, Jim.

Karen said...

Jim, this morning while I was Serena's match, I tweeted that it was amazing that as a tournament went on her game basically cleaned up. In her first 2 matches, her ROS, movement, serve, FH, BH and every aspect of her game was in the toilet. This morning she came out and it was a different player.

By the same token Sharapova and Vika will start strong and as the tournament progresses their games break down. It is something that I have been paying attention to over the past few months and it is really true when people say that Serena's game gets better as the tournament progresses. Saw it this morning with my own eyes.

In her match against Lourdes, she struggled on her serve, return and movement. Today against Kiri she was hitting BHDTL on the run. It was amazing. She lost 2 points on serve in the second set. Kiri won 6 points in that second set. Crazy performance.

Karen said...

By the same example, in yesterday's match Maria was blowing McHale off the court, until she wasn't. This morning she was struggling against Lisicki. It was painful to watch. Same with Vika. She came out firing in the 1st set against Makarova & then just self destructed. 41 UFEs, that is as much as Vika makes in a whole tournament

sabey said...

Jim Limpkin, It is Sharapova who always gets the easy draw not Serena.

Anonymous said...

Sabey, Serena has been lucky to get fairly easy EARLY round draws. Everyone's draw gets tougher by the quarters.

sabey said...

Annonymous, easy early round draws are part of the priviledge of being ranked #1. Sharapova on the other hand often has the easiest draw all the way through.