Tenaciously Tennis


Serena, Sharapova Look Sharp; Stosur Struggles

Last year’s Wimbledon champion Serena Williams and 2004 teen sensation Maria Sharapova win in straight sets today to keep their collision course in the fourth round an exciting possibility. In the same quick fashion, Sam Stosur of Australia lost to Kaia Kanepi.

For Williams, the 6-0, 6-4 win was welcome revenge against her young opponent, the 17-year old Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal. The first time the two met, Serena dropped a set at Stanford in 2008 to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. This time, things were much different. Larcher de Brito’s, however, suffered from a shoulder injury throughout the match, probably adding to the pressure of coming out strong against such a powerful opponent. If healthy, I see Larcher de Brito raising the volume of her game another few notches in the future.

Get it? She’s loud. But, she also plays a loud, in-your-face type of game, and I have no problem with the decibels. Of course, that’s easy for me to say since I’m not her opponent. To tell you the truth, it’s more annoying to hear the commentators trash talk the teenager than actually hearing her. Yes, it’s 109 decibels, making her louder than both a…chainsaw, I believe, and Sharapova, but Monica Seles was loud, too. Larcher de Brito’s entitled to her grunts, and it should be left at that. Hopefully, the draw comes out kinder for her at the US Open. The backhand, which she powers through with a lot of left hand action, is a real beauty to see.

Sharapova’s 6-0, 6-1 win over Anastasia Pivovarova sends the clear message that she means real business this year. After a surprise second round let down last year, and a year marred by injury, Sharapova needs these next few wins to get her grass court confidence back. She hasn’t made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon since her run to the semifinals in 2007, a lackluster record for such a capable grass player. Interesting fact: Sharapova’s current ranking is at 17, the age she won Wimbledon. Could it be destiny that she repeats the performance, beating Serena in the fourth round? Probably not. But she’s playing like she can take on anyone at the moment.

In contrast to the success of Serena and Sharapova, the French Open runner-up Stosur disappointed with her loss to Kanepi, a virtually unknown player in the Grand Slams. Kanepi hasn’t advanced beyond the second round at Wimbledon, let alone any event in the past couple years (although she did advance to the third round of the Australian Open in 2009 and the quarterfinals of the French in 2008).

Stosur’s loss underscores the physical toll of the French Open-Wimbledon combination, and also provides insight into the Aussie’s mental game right now. Maybe she hasn’t yet fully recovered from the disappointing loss to Francesca Schiavone in straight sets. The highs that she felt after knocking out both Justine Henin in Serena at Roland Garros are being balanced out by her shoddy play since then. She’ll recover with time — it’s been a crazy month for Stosur, and she deserves the rest to recollect her form.

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