Sharapova Beats Injured Serena for WTA Championships Title, Federer Beats Rain at Masters Cup

Posted on November 16, 2004

Sharapova Sweeps Final Six Games Against Serena to End Bizarre WTA Championships

While it looked to be another three-set see-who-chokes-the-least final Monday at the WTA Championships, the Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova marketer's-dream showdown took a bizarre injury turn in the end, with the WTA's Russian poster child turning around an 0-4 deficit in the third to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Aggravating an already-existing abdominal injury at the end of the second set that limited her service motion, Williams compensated by swinging away from the baseline to begin the third, amassing a 4-0 lead against the stunned Sharapova who rolled her eyes and stared across the net in disbelief.

"After she got the medical treatment, I could tell that she had problems serving, but on the groundstrokes she was just teeing off on everything," Sharapova said. "Beside her serve, she didn't look injured once she was playing, so she was actually being really tough. I couldn't capitalize on the weak serves that she hit."

Once she leveled the match at 4-4 in the third, it was still not apparent whether the Russian could finish the job against Serena, who at this point was lobbing in the slowest of serves, grimacing with each delivery. Sharapova had spiked the choke-o-meter earlier in the match with some key double faults on game points on her own serve, and on one of Serena's puff-ball deliveries in the third buried the return in the middle of the net, but eventually screamed and pumped her fist to six consecutive games to end the match.

Williams left the court for a medical time-out at the end of the second set, treating the injury she said she felt as a slight twinge at the beginning of the match.

"It's definitely a muscle strain. I don't know how I stayed out there," Serena said. "I definitely thought about not finishing the match, but I like to fight, I guess."

While an abbreviated service motion initially served Williams well in the third with a handful off aces, she ended the set by just lobbing serves in play, mindful of the abdominal injury that sidelined her sister Venus for much of 2004.

"I was thinking, 'Oh my God, I'm not going to be out six months. I do not want this,'" Williams said. "I was thinking, 'Just go easy.' I wasn't going to go for any big serves. It's not worth it with the new year coming around the corner. I was just really trying to chill."

For the win Sharapova earned $1 million and a Porsche SUV she said she will donate to the survivors of the school shooting in Russian in September that left approximately 300 dead.

Serena for her part was gracious in defeat, only after the match lapsing into Serena Vision (c) to give her version of the reality of events. Before the match the tennis Diva said "I don't believe I played Wimbledon (her last loss to Sharapova), I don't know who it was, but that was someone else."

Who is was who lost to Sharapova Monday night remains to be seen, wrapping up a difficult injury-riddled year for the former No. 1.

"For a Serena year, it wasn't superb," Serena said. "It's been a really tough year for me."

Federer Opens With Win Before Rain Washes Out ATP Masters Cup

World No. 1 Roger Federer opened his Masters Cup campaign Monday with a 6-1, 7-6(4) win over No. 8 seed Gaston Gaudio in round robin play, throwing down eight aces and allowing the Argentine no break point opportunities.

Only one game was played before rain stopped the match for more than 2-1/2 hours, but the Swiss came out with a vengeance, displaying his all-court prowess in sweeping to a 6-1 first set. In the second set Federer failed to go for the jugular, converting just two of 14 break point opportunities for the match but escaping in a second-set tiebreak.

"I am quite relieved to play my first match, to have won it," said Federer, showing no signs of slowing after coming off a muscle tear in his thigh. "Coming back from playing no tournaments, no play, to win the first match, you know, I'm just happy it's over, won or lost. Now I can actually build from this and I'm in a good situation."

The win was Federer's 19th in a row over a Top 10 player, a streak that began with his title at last year's Masters Cup. Gaudio fell to 5-8 for the year on hardcourt, with the French Open champion amassing a tour-leading 31 wins on the red dirt in 2004.

The second match Monday between two-time Masters Cup champ Lleyton Hewitt and fellow former No. 1 Carlos Moya finally got underway after a 3-1/2 hour rain delay, then after two more rain delays was finally halted for the night with Moya serving at 4-5, 30-love. None of the doubles matches were completed, making for a big Tuesday in Houston, unfortunately for tournament organizers with more rain in the forecast.

On court Tuesday are (3) Hewitt vs. (5) Moya (to finish), (4) Safin vs. (6) Coria, (2) Roddick vs. (7) Henman, and in doubles Knowles/Nestor vs. Black/Ullyett, Damm/Suk vs. Xavier "X-Man" Malisse/Olivier "The Roach" Rochus, Bjorkman/Woodbridge vs. Etlis/Rodriguez, and Bryan/Bryan vs. Bhupathi/Mirnyi.

Brickbats to ESPN for not following up on what their camera was reporting after the wild Serena Williams-Maria Sharapova final at the WTA Championships. Maria's dad Yuri runs on the court afterwards for the congratulatory hug, then does some joyful running around accompanied by maniacal arm-windmilling ala Pete Townsend, but then seconds later the ESPN cameras show the dad angrily mouthing f-bombs to someone else in the crowd and being restrained by his posse. Hey Cliff and Pam and Mary Joe, way to pretend that didn't happen. Also among the highlights was someone from the crowd bum-rushing the on-court trophy presentation, much to the entertainment of Serena who was doubled-over with laughter at the WTA staff's inability to stop the intruder...Monday the ITF announced the line-ups for the Fed Cup semifinals on Nov. 24-25, with slam winners Anastasia Myskina and Svetlana Kuznetsova leading Russia against Austria, and France featuring the "Dream Team" of Amelie Mauresmo and Mary Pierce against Spain. Unfortunately early today, reinforcing what a non-event the Fed Cup is to the players, Mauresmo pulled from the semis not with an injury, but because she wants to rest-up for 2005. "It's never easy to give up a chance to play for your national team but my aim now is to win a Grand Slam event and I want to prepare myself for 2005," Mauresmo said. The Mauresmo pull is reminiscent of last year, when both Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters left the Belgian team high and dry in the semifinals in a protest of the never-ending WTA schedule. The semis later this month and the final, to be held two days later, are both in Moscow on indoor carpet at the Krylatskoye Ice Stadium...More on the divorced Yevgeny Kafelnikov, dumping tennis to globetrot on the world poker tour: "The most important things was not to disappoint my fans," said Kafelnikov on giving up tennis, speaking to the Independent. "It is very hard to earn a good image in Russia. Once you do you're a hero. But if you then do something wrong, you're treated like, like, I can't even think of a word for it. So when people on the street in Moscow ask why I stopped playing, I say 'because I don't want to see you people crying when I lose'. They understand that."...A news conference scheduled today in Houston will announce full details of the ATP putting nutritional safeguards in place for players, to be overseen by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which has bases in Britain and the U.S...Amelie Mauresmo taking the high road after Serena Williams said she wasn't nervous during their dual-choke affair in the WTA Championship semifinals: "I don't really pay attention to that, I don't really care. She says no (that she didn't get nervous). What can I say?" Say she choked too...Watch for changes coming out of Houston this week, with ATP CEO Mark Miles meeting with the disgruntled Masters Series organizers who want answers as to why the top players keep blowing off their events. Watch for the eventual resulting re-establishment of the year-end Bonus Pool on the men's side...Bud Collins is doing live radio commentary from the Masters Cup in Houston this week.