Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Maria Sharapova of Russia sits on the ground during her match against Viktoriya Kutuzova of Ukraine at the  Wimbledon tennis championships, in London June 22, 2009.

In Paris, she fought her way all the way to the quarterfinals. In London, she fought through her second-round match, but her opponent played better tennis. For the ball bashing WTA players, grass can't hide lumbering movement the way clay can. On the lawns, if you can't trust your shots, can't chase down all those angled, skidding, and dying balls, you need your opponent to gift you the match. She received no such gift today.

I'll have more on this match later, especially as the incessant excuses roll in from the pundits, but, for now, suffice it to say, we told you her seeding was utterly ridiculous.


Tennis Vagabond said...

You were right. I was wrong. I'm really shocked that she lost. I hope she can make it back into form, I think the tour is a weaker place without her and Amelie playing well. Its just Serena and the Ova of the Week. By the way, for those of us who don't follow personalities too much, is there something in particular you dislike about her? Other than being a robot who seems to have absolutely no interests or life experience outside of tennis...

T. Vag

Craig Hickman said...

I don't like her but that has nothing to do with my outlook about her comeback and game.

I don't think the tour needs what she brings to it, which is complete and utter blindness by those with the power to create the false propaganda about why she's needed.

I dislike that far more than I dislike her. She eats it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but she's not exactly responsible for her hype and her preferential treatment.

pompelmo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pompelmo said...

I don't think that has anything to do with Maria'a seeding. Dulko is dangerous for anybody, including your beloved Serena. It is not like she lost to some nobody.

I was not able to watch the match. I thought the surface would favor Sharapova by allowing her winners to win points more easily keeping the rallies short. She should have blasted Dulko off. Instead, it looks like her height and pathetic movement have worked against her because of the sliding low bounces.

These are what players are composed of: strengths and weaknesses. If Sharapova cannot dominate the game, she has many of the latter. But she is mentally a champion, which makes the difference. Most "good" players don't have that.

b said...

Pasting some of my thoughts from other thread as well as some added opinions:
ironically that was the best i've seen sharapova play in a long time..... only 2DFs in 1st 2 sets - she ran for shots, tried drop shots and basically played consistently from beginning to end and fought on all the match points

much better than what i saw from her at RG and even last year's wimbledon, where she pretty much wilted into her shorts

Anyhow - had Dulko been able to play consistently I think it would have been 2 hard fought sets.


The bigger question here is how the WTA as a whole is hurt and exploited for the sake of one player....

Whether Sharapova lost in the 1st round, 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc is not going to affect her income, fame, sponsorships, opportunities at other tournaments etc etc - she pretty much has the best of everything....

But what about concern for how this hurts players who worked hard all year, often with little to no fanfare and for whom getting through another 1-2 rounds would have made the world of difference. What about, Zheng, Tanasugarn, Hantuchova etc etc..... What about Kanepi (moved down a bracket) and Bondarenko (lost her seeding)..... Who knows how things could have turned out with a different draw

Imagine if Mauresmo, last year, had been given some consideration or her 2 year record, would have been seedied correctly and then would not have ended up meeting Serena in the 3rd round?

A 3rd round loss is 30,000 POUNDS (approx $45,000), 2nd round 17,750, 1st round 10,750.... The amounts are chump change for Sharapova but could cover a hiring coach or living expenses.... or better, renegotiating a clothing contract or attracting new sponsors.

b said...

@ TVag

"Other than being a robot who seems to have absolutely no interests or life experience outside of tennis"

In all seriousness, how much do you know about Sharapova? Have you followed her many interests the last few years - she does lots and lots of publicity and has really outdone Serena in the "multiple ventures" issue... Yes, her game (to me) is robotic but that's not how I would describe her or how she presents herself...

I can't speak for Craig but he has already listed why he doesn't appreciate her.... alongside why he does.

There are many many talented up and coming WTA players, have you been following their matches anytime in the last year? Plenty of great Chinese, Polish and French players (as well as many other countries) and many diverse personalities and games..... If you are willing to look Sharapova and the "ovas" you can see it. Not to mention that the "ovas" themselves come from many different countries, different styles and are not a monolith....

Craig Hickman said...

pompelmo, I never claimed your beloved Sharapova isn't a champion.

But earlier today, you claimed Dulko had no chance against Sharapova on this surface and, suddenly, this afternoon, she's a dangerous player for anybody?

Um. Okay.

And what exactly does my beloved Serena have to do with this post?

Nothing whatsoever at all.

I don't take personally most of what's said about Serena so go for it.

But Sharapova never lost more than a few games a set to her opponent before today. As far as the tennis world is concerned, Dulko is a nobody and you know it.

Sharapova was overseeded at this event and I'll keep writing it. She was the only player in the draw for which an exception was made, and she simply didn't deserve it.

Her tennis proved my point.

pompelmo said...

Maria Sharapova’s second-round match today was just her 15th match since her comeback from a shoulder operation in October. Our first match analysis of The Championships takes an in-depth look at how the former world No.2 performed during her shock defeat to the in-form Argentine Gisela Dulko.

Looking at the 2004 Wimbledon champion’s results since May, when she began her comeback, the three players that have defeated her prior to today have all been highly ranked and consistent performers. She lost to Alona Bondarenko, ranked 33, on clay in Warsaw and to Dominika Cibulkova, ranked 13, at Roland Garros.

Two weeks ago, it was China’s Na Li, ranked 18 in the world, who halted her progress, at the semi-final stage of Birmingham’s grass court event. Today it was the turn of the Argentine ranked 45th in the world.

It is never easy returning to the tour after nine months out of the game, but Sharapova is an exceptional talent, and her game is perfectly designed for grass. She is also a battler, something she proved today ¬ only going down after a strong fight.

In the opening set, Sharapova was under constant pressure and unable to establish a rhythm, particularly on her second serve, as Dulko camped out behind the baseline and used the Russian’s power to counter-attack whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Over the course of the match Dulko made slightly fewer unforced errors (23 to 27) than her opponent. In the end these made the difference, accounting for four of the five points that Dulko needed to swing the match in her favour as the Argentine eventually triumphed by 93 points to Sharapova’s 88.

In each of the three sets, Dulko hit 75% of shots from behind the baseline as she waited for the opportunity to step up the court to pressurise the Russian, who is not the quickest mover in between shots. Sharapova was far more adventurous, getting inside the baseline 52% of the time in the first set and 65% of the time in the second and third sets.

The key to the first set, and eventually the match, was Dulko’s ability to capitalise on Sharapova’s weak second serve, which was rolled in with spin at about 90mph. Her aggressive returns kept the former champion off balance, and for two out of the three sets helped her capture five break points to Sharapova’s four.

Dulko’s quick court coverage along with the accuracy of her groundstrokes prevented the attack-minded Russian from getting into the court at the earliest opportunity to finish off the point. However, in the second set, after going a break down, Sharapova’s rhythm slowly returned and she managed to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 advantage.

The Russian achieved the turnaround by improving her return rate, winning almost twice as many points on Dulko’s second serve than in the first set, and at the same time slightly improving her own win percentage on her second serve.

Unfortunately for Sharapova the renaissance did not last and in the third set Dulko raised her game and started to mix things up. The Argentine’s drop shot appeared more and more and she made six rushes to the net, all of them successful.

Sharapova did produce glimpses of her A-game but in the end it was not enough although at 5-3 nerves looked to be getting the better of Dulko as Maria rifled in some big forehands and backhands.

But the Argentine eventually kept her cool and after six match points clinched up a fine victory, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.


Craig, I didn't think Sharapova's lack of movement and Dulko's better movement would be a factor on grass. May be I underestimated the game on this surface. I thought strength and height would be enough.

Craig Hickman said...

That's the thing, pompelmo, Sharapova's movement in her comeback is simply not up to snuff. The best I've ever seen her move was in 2006 and in Melbourne 2008. Her results in Paris had everything to do with her opponents' lack and her will. But her game was just not there.

Graf_sampras said...

you are all missing one point....sharapove lost because she didn't grunt loud enough today!!

lilac said...

Imagine if Serena had lost in the Second round of a major (which has happened to her and Venus) after a long lay off -- what would we be hearing: "She's not fit." "She's not committed." "She looks awful." "Her outside activities are hurting her." Basically -- "she's a fat pig who doesn't care about tennis." That's what the commentators really want to say about Serena particulary. But what do we hear today from them, "Give Sharapova credit..." "This is only her 2nd tourny back..." "She'll improve." Basically -- "Damn if I wasn't married and old enough to be her father, I'd hit that." And Sharapova is not even dealing with the brutal murder of a mainstay in her supporters' box (the beloved Williams older sister Yetunde) like Vee and Serena were on their injury comebacks. This is why I'm celebrating Sharapova's loss right now. That is all .

Graf_sampras said...

Tennis needs Sharapova, dammit,



Graf_sampras said...

I think the main problem here was the Powers-that-be

got AHEAD of themselves.

they relied on Sharapova's championship qualities which are considerable , on her experience which already quite deep, and of course on the "faith" that her commitment to a game and her intensity woudl be , somehow , ENOUGH to get her through.

they didn't figure on the SLIGHT chance that some player JUST might not be THAT impressed as much as THEY were.

so - in the end - the draw didn't live up to "Their" expectations. and...

they gambled and they lost.

still sharapova has to be given credit for fighting as hard - in such a short time - and coming that far even.

Craig Hickman said...

I, for one, don't think Sharapova has to be given any credit at all especially since I could cite some of her interview quotes out of context and frame her as most ungracious in defeat, but I won't and gave her some credit to boot.

Mad Professah said...

I saw almost the entire match--Dulko played well, but it was Sharapova;'s own lack of match toughness which lost her that match.

Sharapova was down a set and a break (6-2, 3-0) when she won 7 games in a row as Dulko went walkabout.

Even at 4-5 Sharapova had break points to even the match and simply missed two SITTER balls which should have been enough to even the match.

i'm not a sharapova fan, but I do think Sharapova LOST this match more than Dulko won it.