It wasn’t her best match of the tournament, in fact it may have been her worst. That’s a pretty scary thought considering Maria Sharapova didn’t lose a set in beating the new world No. 2 Ana Ivanovic in Saturday’s final. Mighty Maria was firing big serves again all day, but she was also helped by a nervous Ivanovic who tightened up on the important points.
Sharapova started off with three love service games, and broke serve once to go up 4-2 in the first set. She couldn’t hold on to the lead, as a rare loose game at 4-3 was the start off a small surge from Ivanovic, who came within two points of winning the opening set, when she was ahead 0-30 in Sharapova’s next service game. She got into a rally at 15-30, but then failed miserably in hitting a drop shot that barely reached the bottom of the net. Where have we seen that before? At 30-all, Ivanovic took a forehand mid-court in her stride, but played it too long. Sharapova won the game on a service winner and benefited from some more nervous misses by her opponent in the next game to force the break herself. She held at love to win the set.
In the second set there were no more weak service games from Sharapova like the one at 4-3 in the first set. She only lost two points on her serve in the entire set. Again, this also had to do with the fact that Ivanovic missed a lot of returns she shouldn’t have missed and was often late getting to balls. She admitted herself after the Hantuchova match that when she gets nervous, it mostly affects her movement. She sometimes doesn’t move her feet at all and just gets stuck to the ground. It’s a normal situation though that when the tension builds, the worst part of your game takes the blow. In the case of Ivanovic, it’s her footwork, which she did improve a lot over the past year.
Ivanovic stuck with Sharapova until 3-all in the second set, when she double faulted and netted a forehand to hand the Russian the break. She didn’t win another game, as on Sharapova’s third match point, Ivanovic hit a forehand passing shot wide.
Sharapova and Ivanovic are both 20 years old, but they are worlds apart in experience. Sharapova has now won three Grand Slam titles, but also injury-wise, she’s already had to deal with a lot. It’s no surprise that the mentally tougher Sharapova won the final over the still insecure Ivanovic, who is becoming a better match player, but probably needs another year before she wins her first Slam. That she’ll start winning majors someday is something I don’t doubt. She has developed a lot over the past year and there’s still room for improvement. You can’t blame this emotional girl for needing some time to get used to being a Top 5 player and playing in the latter stages of Grand Slams against the world’s best, and most experienced players. I believe Ivanovic is in fact mentally quite strong, or she wouldn’t have beaten Venus Williams in the quarters. She’s just taking little steps in developing that champion’s mentality.
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