Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - The Drive vs. the Slide
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The Drive vs. the Slide 05/30/2010 - 10:11 AM

Ms Slap slap slap.

That was the only sound inside Court Philippe Chatrier at 1:00 P.M. on Sunday as Justine Henin prepared to throw up her first service toss of the day. It should have been an afternoon of high tension and excitement in Paris, but the clouds that had settled over the stadium for the last 36 hours had done a good job muffling the crowd. Still, they hadn’t muffled Henin’s opponent, Maria Sharapova, who was set to receive serve on the other baseline. That slapping sound was the sound of her left palm hitting her thigh. Sharapova did it with such intensity, she almost looked like she was trying to draw her own blood.

The thigh slap is a move that used to be reserved for juniors, mostly juniors 14-and-under. It has migrated to the pro tour over the years, but I’d never seen a player go to it as often as Sharapova did on Sunday at Roland Garros. It’s almost a tic. One on point, Henin threw up a toss and caught it. Sharapova’s reaction was to take her left hand off her racquet and begin her slapping motion again, even though she didn’t have time to get her hand all the way to her thigh. In between slaps, Sharapova clenched her left fist. When a point ended, she began to pump it again, lightly but constantly, until the next point began. If Sharapova had a one-handed backhand, she would almost surely be the first person to play an entire match with a clenched fist.

In this sense, the third-round showdown between Sharapova and Henin was a battle between the two sides of the sport: the smooth and natural vs. the willful and manufactured. My preference for one or the other vacillates, but whichever side you choose, tennis is a stronger sport for being able to contain and show off both of them. On Saturday, my admiration shifted toward willfulness, toward Sharapova. When she and Henin came out in the early evening, it was cold and misting; walking around on the grounds, you couldn’t look up without getting an eye-full of water. The weather was right on the border of being playable—“it’s not just drizzling; it’s pouring,” Sharapova said—which, as Rafael Nadal mentioned in his press conference yesterday, can play havoc with the normal dynamic of a match. That’s what happened Saturday. Henin came out particularly sharp, and Sharapova came out flat. It was 3-0 in minutes and the rallies were so lopsided that there was no reason to believe that anything could change.

But Sharapova decided—you could see it in her face—that it was going to change. It began with a highlight-reel fist-pump after she finally held serve. From then until the end of the second set, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any player, in any round, at any tournament, will herself back into a match to the extent that Sharapova did in this one. By the time she won the second, she wasn’t just winning points; she’d gone one step farther, breaking Henin’s streak of 40 consecutive sets won at Roland Garros and breaking her vaunted clay-court game down as well.

In the third set today, the rallies pitted Sharapova’s drive and length vs. Henin’s angles and side-to-side sliding defense. Sharapova got the better of this battle early, winning the first two games and going up 0-40 on Henin’s serve. But Henin is a four-time champion here for a reason. She’s comfortable enough on this surface to beat Sharapova just by playing a solid version of her normal game. Sharapova, who can’t slide or play anything like the kind of defense that Henin can, had to push herself to her limit on offense to have a chance. She reached that limit at 2-0, 0-40, when she drilled a routine backhand into the tape. This looked more like a blip than an opening, but Henin made the most of it. Suddenly her angles were beating Maria's length, Sharapova was slipping along the baseline and reaching desperately with her left hand for backhands, and Henin was holding serve with a traditional “Allez!”

Henin won a point at the net in that 0-2 game. It was her first successfully aggressive foray of the day, and, according to her, something clicked after that. “I came to the net,” Henin said, “and that gave me my confidence back. I really needed that game. After that, everything was easier to go to the net and play more aggressive. It really helped me to feel free.” So coming in does still matter, maybe not as a tactic, but as a way to get the blood flowing. And it's true, nothing makes you feel more competent as a tennis player than constructing a point that you finish with a volley. It’s interesting that even a player of Henin’s accomplishments still needs that nerve-scattering kick start.

Jh Two more moments stick out for me from Henin’s subsequent 6-3 third-set win. At 1-2, right after she had held from 0-40, Henin played her first rally from on top of the baseline, rather than behind it. She won it with a confident, on the rise forehand. The battle of court position had shifted in Henin’s favor. The second, and more spectacular moment, came in Sharapova’s long, crucial service game at 3-4. On the final deuce point, Sharapova battered the ball from mid-court, while Henin slid from side to side, digging out balls that appeared to be past her. Finally, Sharapova put a forehand into the net. Henin’s superior clay game, her one-handed backhand and peerless sliding skill, had proved to be the difference at last. If the point had been reversed, there’s no way Sharapova, a self-described “cow on ice” on clay, with a two-handed backhand, would have been able to stay in that point.

Henin goes on to play another powerful opponent in Sam Stosur next, though you get the feeling Justine “freed” herself a little with this win and got her clay legs under her again. Her backhand, in its flair and its efficiency, was still a wonder to watch, and it’s hard to think of anyone, even Rafael Nadal, who looks more at home while working a clay court.

But it’s the loser, Sharapova, whom I’ll remember from this match. I've spent a lot of time this week admiring the smooth and the natural in tennis; seeing the pros move on clay does that to me. But in her ability to nearly do what seemed impossible through raw determination, Sharapova, who no one would say moves with particular beauty on dirt, made me admire the other side of the sport, the willful side of the sport, again. She refused to give in, for the simple reason that that’s all anyone really has the power to do. Down 3-5, 40-0, triple match point in the third, after having blown a 2-0, 0-40 lead, Sharapova walked to the baseline to receive serve. I was so accustomed to the sight by now that it took me a second to notice what she was doing as she bent to return serve. She was clenching her fist.


Posted by gliciouss 05/30/2010 at 10:32 AM


Posted by gliciouss 05/30/2010 at 10:33 AM

wanted to be the first to write second first...

Posted by bahanee 05/30/2010 at 10:43 AM

have always disliked Sharapova's type of play... but think I'm beginning to like her ... Her sheer fighting character was beautiful to watch... Even I a diehard Justine fan found myself rooting for her at some point during this game..

Posted by felizjulianidad 05/30/2010 at 10:51 AM

When it comes to tennis, it's the willful players who never back down that really get me going. So definitely felt a positive response to this piece.

Posted by Minh 05/30/2010 at 10:53 AM

Great post Steve, thank-you!

Posted by Paula 05/30/2010 at 11:01 AM

" She was clenching her fist." last line

wow.....this is the first time Ive been left speechless by an article

Posted by Evelyn 05/30/2010 at 11:02 AM

Great article!
I never seemed to root for Sharapova. Then, when she was out for so long I realized I misssed her. Why?
For exactly what you described, Steve. What a fighting player she is. And, unlike Justine's behavior before retirement, no one has ever questioned Maria's sterling sportsmanship, even when fighting so intensely for the win.

Posted by tellmeJO 05/30/2010 at 11:23 AM

I am an elite level gymnast for 15 years and NO player on the tour draws me into their matches like Maria does. Her intensity and will to win is something that I truly believe only elite level athletes can understand. It gives me a view back into the "moment" that we all lived for. And for this reason, she will always be my favorite player...

Posted by sans nom (The Kleybs has been activated) 05/30/2010 at 11:31 AM

" I don’t think I’ve ever seen any player, in any round, at any tournament, will herself back into a match to the extent that Sharapova did in this one."One word: Serena.

Posted by alejrios 05/30/2010 at 12:01 PM

This is one of the best articles i've ever read on this site. You captured exactly what we love about Maria. "She was clenching her fist".. "With this girl it's never over" - Henin. "Every point is like life or death for her" - Austin. I think for a player of her age, cause she's still young, to get that kind of praise is unprecedented. If you think that she is a manufactured player, I'm sure there are hundreds of others like her out there, but she's got the one natural thing that sets her apart from everybody else, together with Serena and Justine, and that's will. Will can make wonders, and I can't wait to see Maria, who has been through a lot especially high criticism from tennis fans and the press, to lift up another GS trophy. I know she will.

Posted by Gigi 05/30/2010 at 12:07 PM

I'll give her points for grit but it is still hard to watch her and root for her, with that unimaginative game and all the screeching and obnoxious fist pumps!

Posted by counterpoint 05/30/2010 at 12:20 PM

Thank Henin for sparing us of more howling stressing sessions and thanks Petrova for freeing the public from the vulgarity in tennis outfits.

Posted by Jerell 05/30/2010 at 12:21 PM

This is the thing though Steve (and another great piece).. Will she be willing to show so much heart against say, Venus or Serena in the next few weeks if she plays them, because she has always played well against Justine and had the belief to beat here.

That determination isn't really there against the other two once the "push comes to shove" and Sharapova gets tight. She can do that against Henin with nothing to lose on clay against an opponent she knows has had two of her biggest wins against.

Posted by Stewart 05/30/2010 at 12:23 PM

Was an incredible 3rd set, and one that Sharapova had in her power to win. I'm surprised, Steve, that you didn't mention Sharapova had ZERO double faults in that 3rd set, and served with fierce pace, placement and kick on 1st and 2nd serve. This, considering all that has been discussed about the loss of her serve, was by far the most impressive aspect of her play today.

Fantastic picture of her btw. I really like that outfit on her - it really suggests a serious non-nonsense purposefulness that her overly designed and more colourful lacy gear at the AO and USO masked.

Unfortunate Maria couldn't pull off the upset, but it's the best she's played since she won the 2008 AO. Credit must be given to Henin for decisively stepping up her aggression when down those break points, and then for staving off Sharapova's relentless attack in the 3-4 game. Not to mention those back to back aces in serving it out.

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Posted by Jerell 05/30/2010 at 12:29 PM

And Henin was not particularly "smooth and natural" in this match Steve, especially in the latter 2nd set and beginning of the third.

Based on from, she is trying to downplay her being the favorite here, as she has said in the press conference. Sam Stosur has a serious shot tomorrow, and Serena Williams, if she is able to recapture her form and not be sick like she was yesterday, will win this title.

Posted by Khan 05/30/2010 at 12:29 PM

I admired Maria's commitment and intensity so much. Yes she lost but not to anybody here and almost win.

I agree sith Steve, i will remember Maria for a while.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/30/2010 at 01:28 PM

"...nothing makes you feel more competent as a tennis player than constructing a point that you finish with a volley."

I couldn't agree more. Nicely said.

Posted by pov 05/30/2010 at 01:32 PM

An interesting perspective. Every time I notice Sharapova's clenched fist, I wish she'd relax some. That kind of constant tension may bolster her fighting spirit but it usually makes one's movements and strokes a lot stiffer and tighter than usual. I'd guess that tension could be part of the reason she's making so many unforced errors.

Posted by SRao 05/30/2010 at 01:54 PM


Even though I can never ever root for Maria,your writing makes me like her...just a wee bit.Beautiful piece!

What i do notice in Maria is-how much she has changed,post her surgery!She has become somewhat humble,more modest and respectful of her opponents! That's waht set-backs does to anybody.
Ofcourse that sheer will she possesses prevents her from displaying those traits in her.She is so arrogant,ruthless and wants to just crush her opponents[like her infamous father's hand-gesture!] just like Rafa.

I guess not many peers like Rafa,same goes with Maria too!

Posted by Markic 05/30/2010 at 01:55 PM

Gotta love Maria's determination, but she makes it hard for people to support her with the ridiculous screeching. Playing her must be like staring across the net at a 747 coming in to land. I know Justine's not above a bit of on-court coaching, but the screaming amounts to gamesmanship on every point.

Posted by Will 05/30/2010 at 01:57 PM

Excellent article. Maria played so well. If she continues at this level she will be a serious threat at the US Open. Congratulations to Justine, she is amazing on clay. I can't wait to see her against Serena in the QF. Saludos a todos y a seguir disfrutando del mejor tenis del mundo!

Posted by zolarafa 05/30/2010 at 02:03 PM

I did not like Sharapova for a long while because I cannot stand those shrieks. But I like her determination and her fighter spirit. I also like the fact that she never makes excuses for her losses. I too missed her when she was not playing. Tennis needs her. She played a great match against Henin.

Posted by daryl 05/30/2010 at 02:17 PM

Lets see Justine comes out yesterday and breaks twice. It begins to rain, and gets dark. At three-four in games Justine gets broke. And for the first time in 41 sets Justine looses one. Not so good when she can't see the ball, a pretty good equalizer. Ok now lets see if she can win while being the only one having to play 5 days in a row.

Posted by GEM Tennis 05/30/2010 at 02:30 PM

Excellent analysis Steve. Really enjoyed the article. Maria has always been a fighter and I think she's finally starting to come back from a tough period in her career. Hopefully she'll show good results this summer.

Posted by Roastie 05/30/2010 at 02:45 PM

Counterpoint said earlier: Thank Henin for sparing us of more howling stressing sessions and thanks Petrova for freeing the public from the vulgarity in tennis outfits.

Couldn't agree more!!!

Posted by Jerell 05/30/2010 at 03:04 PM

Pov, that's the reason why she just can't relax when things go wrong. She is so intense that she gets herself nervous at times in matches and becomes a wreck.

Posted by VE 05/30/2010 at 03:12 PM

It's a shame Maria's been out of commission (or virtually so) the last couple of years, because she was just hitting her stride when she won the Aussie in '08. It's always nice to see the press saying what I've said about Maria for so long. This girl is a warrior, end of story.

Posted by SimonSays 05/30/2010 at 03:18 PM

Henin has the most majestic backhand the game has ever seen.. better than Federer's in my opinion. i love Henin

Posted by eric 05/30/2010 at 04:01 PM

she's got will, but like the great wilander said, "she's a mindless basher of the ball." all the shrieking, awkward fist pumps, one dimensional strokes, and strange skipping/shuffling of the feet between points adds up to a very annoying player to watch. reminds me of mary pierce, with even more annoying tics. and her dad, i can't even keep myself from laughing when the camera gets on that guy. what a looney tune.

Posted by Cosi 05/30/2010 at 04:46 PM

hey Jerell, i think maria has a winning head to head vs
Venus, or least she used to until she got injured, and she has beaten serena, so,
YEAH I THINK sHARAPOVA WILL TAKE THE SAME FIGHTING attitude with the willys as she did with justine.She's shown it with everybody since she was a teenager.
you make it sound like she has this big winning edge vs Justine, truth is, i think justine has beaten Maria MORE times than either Venus OR Serena have, if anything she would be more nervous to face Henin than them.Sharapova has had a major physical issue for about three or more years, no wonder she's had some less than confident moments vs good players, how confident would u be if your shoulder was torn?

Posted by fedfan 05/30/2010 at 04:48 PM

Yes, it was nice to see Sharapova playing with confidence, although my taste almost always favors the 'smooth and natural' over 'the willful and manufactured.' Maria and Justine played a highly entertaining match, something I am not able to say for many of the women's matches. In her disastrous opening round match in the Australian Open against Kirilenko, Maria seemed terrified of re-injuring herself and lacked all confidence. The best part of Maria's game has always been her indomitableness. A healthy Sharapova will add a lot of much needed zip to the women's tour.

Posted by beachbum 05/30/2010 at 05:42 PM

Actually, Sharapova's H2H against Venus is 3-3; against Serena it's 2-5, and against Henin it's 3-6. So I'd say she doesn't have much more success against Henin than she does the Williams Sisters. Not surprising there, since she can't come close to matching their speed and agility. Sharapova's only real chance for a win comes on days when their serves are AWOL, as was the case with Henin in yesterday's second set.

Posted by Corrie 05/30/2010 at 06:13 PM

Thank Henin for sparing us of more howling stressing sessions and thanks Petrova for freeing the public from the vulgarity in tennis outfits."

Very true except I'd say that Venus and Serena, especially Venus, shriek just as loudly as Sharapova - this never seems to get mentioned in the US centred media of course. And at least Maria looked great in her outfit.

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 05/30/2010 at 06:53 PM

Another good read....thank you from a--much older than 14--thigh slapping tennis player.:)

Posted by Jbradhunter 05/30/2010 at 07:08 PM

Great article Steve. I agree with the earlier poster about wishing Maria would relax a bit with all that tension building fist pumping. So glad she's back.

And the constant complaining about her grunting... I don't hear the opponents complaining too much. And I've seen her live a few times, and her grunting was nothing like it sounds on TV. The courts are mic'd for TV, so every sound is exaggerated. Non-issue unless the opponents complain.

Posted by Sutemi 05/30/2010 at 07:12 PM

"Thank Henin for sparing us of more howling stressing sessions and thanks Petrova for freeing the public from the vulgarity in tennis outfits."

hmmm, funny but which public are you talking about?
Those who matter to her and were sitting right in the stadium were going crazy for her and supporting and encouraging her. But I think you are in a different realm, and might suffer from something else.... (cannot figure out what)

Rezai can play ball, and you are going to see more of this young lady in the future. So pay attention to the game and not the garments....


On a different topic; Sorry Mr Bodo, you are flogging a dead donkey & after all it's a surface your hero could not win anything on anyway, so why are you bleeding about it. Just let it go man! Rog has already got an RG and it's a wrap!!!


Posted by balkangirl 05/30/2010 at 07:34 PM

I really cant understand how a thing with such a pretentious name "tennis magazine" can have such unprofessional and incompetent tennis writers. I am sorry, but this article is just a perfect example of the shallownes of an average tennis fan. How can you say that the game of a former number 1 and a three times grand slam champion is not "natural", but "manufactured", which implies that she has no talent for tennis. That is just stupid. I never understood how can you even tell what is talent. How can you even dare to say what is natural and what is not. You have thousands of tennis players around the world who train every day and repeat the same shots, but never make it on the big stage - why cant they manufacture them into tennis champions? Maria and Justine play different styles of tennis which come NATURALLY to them, and they both have strong will and determination cause they have dedicated their whole life to perfecting those shots. By the way, both are pretty efficient styles - you play to win, everything else is just sheer rationalization on why you like someone and not the other. You spend so much time writing about the package that you miss the point. Judging by the comments I guess I am the only one who expects from tennis experts to look beyond the form and not to get stuck with the common misconceptions of tennis fans.

Posted by Veron Nunez 05/30/2010 at 07:41 PM

I have always admired Sharapova's determination. It cuts through every game she is in. Whether she wins or lose, the determination is there. The belief to win is there. I love this girl.

Posted by eli 05/30/2010 at 08:15 PM

Thanks for the article.

Sometimes the tennis intelligentsia gets so caught up in petty nonsense like grunting they overlook the essence of sport: The fight.

This kid is true fighter.

Great to have her back on tour, "screaming" and all. Feeling good about her chances in the future.

Posted by Ryota 05/30/2010 at 08:17 PM

I think this match showed what was lacking in WTA for the past 2 years.

Posted by joe 05/30/2010 at 09:23 PM

In 2007 at the AO sheer will took Serena all the way to the title! :)

Posted by Rafanatic (marguritaspecial ) 05/30/2010 at 09:33 PM

I am not sure which one I like less can't stand Henin cant stand Sharapova . I wish there was a result in tennis where they could beat each other in a match . I tried to watch but it was pure agony nuff said .

Posted by Lseckler 05/30/2010 at 09:59 PM

I wonder if Mr. Sharapov were present, would he would be biting his fingernails!!

Posted by emy 05/30/2010 at 10:11 PM

This article brought me in tears!!!sharapova is the only reason i started to like and watch tennis.Good luck to her.

Posted by Alex 05/30/2010 at 10:46 PM

Great article. The last line "She was clenching her fist" was so powerful. Really great. She is a fighter like none other. Serena is the only other player who I think fights like Maria.

I much prefer Maria's shrieks over Justine's allezs that come after unforced errors.

Posted by Stewart 05/30/2010 at 11:21 PM

So far the return of the WTA's top tier has dominated the highlight reel matches of the year. Clijsters d. Henin twice in 3rd set tiebreaks, Serena d. Henin in AO final, Henin d. Sharapova, Petrova d. Rezai, Jankovic d. Serena, Petrova d. Serena, Azarenka d. Zvonereva, Serena d. Azarenka

Incredibly compelling matches - such a switch from last year when the men had all the drama.

Posted by Dimitrios 05/30/2010 at 11:47 PM

A few comments:

First off, the third set DID NOT start off with Henin's angles vs. Maria's powerful shots. Henin simply didn't move Maria, and a large part of her problem attacking came from poorly executed approach shots that were predominantly down the middle of the court. Her shots were also short and when she added depth to her groundies that's when we saw the control of the court begin to shift in Justine's favor a bit, though barely.

I think another thing that impressed me about Maria -- in addition to her extreme determination, which Mr. Tignor cites -- was her quiet focus, her ability to play each point in such a mentally tough way. She never got too up or too down; you could see this on her face and in her body language. And yet on this front I think Justine matched her. And that's in large part what contributed to making this a special match.

Posted by observer 05/31/2010 at 12:13 AM

Really loved the article... and the positive comments about Maria were so surprising and nice.

Posted by Larry 05/31/2010 at 12:14 AM

I saw Maria practice at IW when she was about 16, on one of the practice courts opposite Stadium Court. She was there with her father and a hitting partner, a Russian guy. It was hot, and she might have been injured. I'd say it was about 6 o'clock and the site was pretty empty, being the first week of the tournament. What I remember, aside from the impressive nature of her groundies, was her constant whining. She was hammering away at Dad and the hitting partner in Russian, just looking extremely uncomfortable and as if she were there against her will. Maybe that explains the clenched fists and the shrieking.

I agree with an earlier poster that the supreme competitiveness is matched by a level of physical tension which actually cramps her strokes and causes her problems at big moments. I also think she's in the game more for the money and endorsements than for the tennis. I don't think she really enjoys tennis. I mean, she likes winning, not tennis. Just as imo Tiger Woods doesn't like playing golf, just vanquishing people.

There is a real difference between how she plays and, say, Fabrice Santoro played, or John McEnroe. Some people love to play the game. Some people have no choice but to suffer for the fame and money. :) (Of course McEnroe and others enjoy those things as well.)

Posted by Mike 05/31/2010 at 12:33 AM

I don't want to change the subject much, but I have to. This is a great article and everyone who is posting is raving about it, but it's not Maria's fighting spirit that should be so welcomed. It's her HEALTH. Let's face it. When Sharapova is fit and healthy, she is one of the two best women in the world, alongside Serena. She won three grand slams in no time because she was a woman among girls and was healthy. In this tournament, she looks like she's close to being healthy. I can't say she's quite there yet. What the women's side of the draw needs is top notch players who can play more than 8 tourneys a year. Serena, constant injuries. Clijsters, constant injuries. Venus, constant injuries. Henin is back and is solid as a rock. If Maria can regain her youthful health, she can once again be a top 4 player and win many GS's. She's going to need a little bit of bodily luck and she'll be there.

Posted by Ryota 05/31/2010 at 12:55 AM

BTW, Sharapova's back to her old service motion. I'm not sure if that's good or bad but there's a lot less double faults. Plus, she's hitting the ball cleaner. Movement's the same though - ugh!

Posted by Stewart 05/31/2010 at 02:33 AM

Larry I have to say I completely disagree with you completely. Federer, by all accounts, was a whiny and petulant junior player, and you can hardly call him that nowadays, so it's a little silly to ascribe the same behaviours to Maria based on one anecdote from 8 years ago.

Second - just because Sharapova has the fortune of of endorsements (both earned based on her success and blessed with her appearance) doesn't mean that's all she's here for. Do you really think she would have gone through what she has the last two years if all she did it for was the money? The drop in ranking, the serious shoulder injury and months of rehab, working hard on a new service motion, embarassing loses to Oudin and Kirilenko - and yet she expresses eloquently every presser how committed she is to competing and winning.

Today only proved her character - she's one of the best competitors in the history of the game. Not that she needed to - saving 5 match points against Clijsters at the 05 USO just for one example. She needs that extra little bit of versatility, but she proved today she's still capabale of winning majors, in both attitude and ability.

Plus, I seem to be the only one who's noticed - her serve was incredible today. When it's working it's right up there with Serena's.

Posted by Stewart 05/31/2010 at 02:39 AM

It's funny people are saying Maria's too tense. I see it as intense focus.

I really think she's grown up. Her father is nowhere to be seen, and she's stopped doing the hair tuck as part of her service motion thankfully. And it just seems to contribute to her being more relaxed.

Really sucks she couldn't pull off the upset.

Posted by d 05/31/2010 at 02:56 AM

Soderling can be as motivated as he wants but if Roger is on, then there is only one possible outcome.
tennis gold for a fed fan.

"If you recall last year’s FO final, Roger did the one thing that the Nadals, Ferrer, etc, had failed to do — he stepped forward to Robin’s shots, reducing the time Robin had to hit his shots. Nadal et al had stepped back to cope with the power, giving Robin enough time to swing. He was having an incredible week and wasn’t missing much. Roger reduced Robin’s preparation time and took his timing away. Robin started missing and you know the rest.

Incidentally, I also believe it is almost the only way for Roger to beat Rafa on clay. He has to reduce the time Rafa gets to prepare for his shots. Hurry him and take away his timing."

Posted by Nsquared 05/31/2010 at 04:04 AM

'If Sharapova had a one-handed backhand, she would almost surely be the first person to play an entire match with a clenched fist.'
Brilliant and funny!
Steve, you have a way with words.

Posted by Tennis Observer 05/31/2010 at 05:34 AM

Good riddance.

Posted by ilovetennis 05/31/2010 at 08:31 AM

Well, there's one thing I'm sure of...
SHARAPOVA is talented but she hasn't got what it takes to be a TRUE champion.
She is never going to be Henin or Serena

Posted by Andrew 05/31/2010 at 09:12 AM

Re. your last line - "... it took me a second to notice what she was doing as she bent to return serve. She was clenching her fist."

A female Jimmy Connors.

Once quoted as saying he never felt he lost a match. He simply ran out of time working out how to win it.
Great article - and I don't say THAT often!

Posted by masharaf 06/03/2010 at 12:03 AM

this match reminds me why i love this girl. you can't question her fighting spirit, up to the last point she'll fight for it.

Posted by price per head 10/17/2012 at 03:30 PM

At least Sharapova lost trying her best. One thing that it is important. It is determination that there aren't a lot of player that they don't have that kind of thing. They can play beautiful but they don't have that kind of spark.

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