Google Down the Line!: Learning to keep two left feet on the ground

Friday, April 1, 2011

Learning to keep two left feet on the ground

If you think everyone out there has sad face about the end of the Petko Dance and all it has given to society you would be...uh....WRONG. I mean, really wrong.

Just ask Maria Sharapova. Well, I guess you can't and somebody else already did so read on:
Q. She said that one of the things that makes you such a good champion is that you sense right away a weakness in the other player and basically you jump on that. She said that she felt that you sensed she was hesitating, whatever. Can you talk about that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, to be honest, I felt like I was just making a lot errors in the first set and I wasn’t moving my feet at all. And especially with the wind I wasn’t moving towards the ball and letting the ball come to me and not really being aggressive. That’s what’s won me so many matches in my career is when I step in and I hit my strokes and they come deep. I just wasn’t doing that.

So first and foremost I felt like I had to start doing that and making little steps and adjusting my game a little bit. More than anything, I sensed that she was tired probably a lot of the dancing that she’s been doing and I took advantage of it.

Q. She thought you would be tired in the third after the long match you had the previous night. Didn’t seem to be that way.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Because I didn’t do the dance after. I wasn’t tired.
Meow meow, kitty.

I wonder what got under Shrieka's Nike dress (hint: IT WASN'T ME)? Oh yes, it must have been their match at the Australian Open when the German torched her 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round then proceeded to rub Petko Dance all up in her post-match mug. I guess Shrieka wasn't feeling that. Or maybe it's because her moves aren't very, uh, dancey.

Speaking of that Oz Open match the 3-time Grand Slammer did say something back then that struck me after watching her reach her third Miami final:
I was happy that I was down the last two matches and able to find the level again and do the right things to win the match and pick it up. I wasn't able to bring that today. I didn't build on what I gained in the last two matches.
It seems Shrieka, with the help of Coach Hogs, has filled in that gap. She gave us an uber-scratchy performance against ever ready Alexandra Dulgheru, including those 17 DFs, and began the semifinal in the same way. But she made the right adjustment in the second set to her opponent and the conditions (windy, much?) and started moving her feet and cracking her trademark returns. Next thing you knew Shrieka was on a run of 11 straight games. Whatever she picked up in that last match she brought to this one and, as she said, built on it.

Speaking of returns I always think of it as being such a natural part of her game, that it would come much easier than say her serve since she's reacting to the ball, getting pace and not dealing with her all the intricacies of a service motion. Moreover, it sets her up for first strike tennis and dominating rallies - a winning game plan for her. But without the confidence it becomes another liability. But she learned and she gained from the Dulga match and even her Oz match with Petko and now she's in the Sony Ericsson Open final where she'll face Victoria Azarenka. Damn, that's gonna be loud as all hell.

[Photo(s): Al Bello/Getty Images]
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