Friday, July 1, 2011

A Singular Sensation

I have to admit, I really would have liked to see Maria Sharapova square off with Victoria Azarenka for the women's singles title at Wimbledon tomorrow.

A few months ago, I watched those two face each other in a spirited match for the Sony Ericsson Open title — and I'm sure a rematch in a Grand Slam final would have been even more entertaining.

Sharapova held up her end of the deal — but, as Oliver Brown writes in The Telegraph, her opponent played poorly.

That doesn't take anything away from Sharapova's performance — which was, I will admit, somewhat lackluster. She did what she had to do against Sabine Lisicki, and she'll be playing in tomorrow's final.

Mission accomplished ... so far.

Her opponent will be Petra Kvitova, the eighth seed who needed three sets to dispose of Azarenka. The 21–year–old southpaw will be making her first appearance in a Grand Slam final.

It's getting hard to remember when one could say that about Sharapova. It's been seven years since, as a 17–year–old, she defeated Serena Williams in straight sets in the Wimbledon final. She's kind of old news.

As Greg Couch writes for The Sporting News, the "casual sports fan" couldn't be blamed for looking at the other three names besides Sharapova's in Wimbledon's women's semifinals and say, "Who?"

Even Azarenka, who has enjoyed some success but is still looking for her first berth in a Grand Slam singles final, remains a virtual unknown in the sport.

But I watched her beat Sharapova three months ago, and I'm convinced the 21–year–old has a bright future in front of her.

It would have been fun, as I say, to watch the two of them go at it in tomorrow's final — especially considering that (a) Azarenka, like Sharapova, has a reputation for making loud grunting noises on the court and (b) Wimbledon has been trying to crack down on that sort of thing.

It would have been, as the Sydney Morning Herald speculated a few days ago, "[a] deafening Wimbledon final."

I know practically nothing about Kvitova. Does she make loud grunting noises, too — loud enough to match the so–called "queen of scream," Sharapova?

Or is she more quiet, like the legendary Martina Navratilova, who was very reserved en route to 18 career Grand Slam singles titles and doesn't think the grunting in today's game is necessary?

That would be a real contrast in styles, wouldn't it?

Today's players, Navratilova says, "are making sounds like they are lifting 300 pounds, and it's not the case. The ball is not that heavy."

Well, I guess that is a matter of perspective. It might feel like 300 pounds for either of these ladies — after all, Sharapova wants to prove she isn't over the hill and Kvitova wants to prove she belongs in the Wimbledon final. The weight of expectations for both must be enormous.

You can watch the final on NBC starting at 8 a.m. (Central) tomorrow.

No comments: