Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Sliding Sharapova

Maria Sharapova lost to Serena Williams at the Sony Ericsson yesterday. It not only was Sharapova's second loss to Williams this year, but her second straight embarrassingly drubbing by the younger Williams.

Let's take a look back at Maria's hiccups over her career; that is, the ten - yes, ten - matches in which she has won just four games or less:

1. 2002 Indian Wells R64 Monica Seles (4) 6-0, 6-2.
2. 2003 Seat Open Luxembourg SF Kim Clijsters (2) 6-0, 6-3.
3. 2004 Indian Wells R16 Anastasia Myskina (5) 6-2, 6-1.
4. 2004 FRENCH OPEN QF Paola Suarez (14) 6-1, 6-3.
5. 2004 China Open Beijing SF Svetlana Kuznetsova (5) 6-2, 6-2.
6. 2005 Indian Wells SF Lindsay Davenport (1) 6-0, 6-0.
7. 2005 Tour Championships RR Nadia Petrova (10) 6-1, 6-2.
8. 2006 Pan Pacific Tokyo SF Martina Hingis (UR) 6-3, 6-1.
9. 2007 AUSTRALIAN OPEN F Serena Williams (81) 6-1, 6-2.
10. 2007 Sony Ericsson Open R16 Serena WIlliams (18) 6-1, 6-1.

This list should come as no surprise to any of us. The names on it are all familiar - Suarez and Petrova being the only slam-less females here - and the losses usually occurred late in a tournament when Sharapova can often be tired (how fit is she?) or be questioning her body in one way or another.

What did surprise me was that six of these ten losses came AFTER her breakthrough slam victory at Wimbledon '04. Along with that, four of the six matches in which she has lost three or less games fall in that same category. My hypothesis upon beginning this research was that Sharapova would have several crushing losses early in her career and they would thin out as her game developed, but the facts prove me wrong.

So what does this say about the Russian? What can we gather about Maria Sharapova, her game, her head and her ability to compete at the top? Perhaps it is solely that her high-risk games produces peaks and valleys. Or is there a pattern here I'm not seeing? Hmm.

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