How the Match Was Won/Lost
“When he has these patches of utter brilliance, the only thing you can do is try and stay calm, wait for the storm to pass,” Rafael Nadal wrote in his autobiography about playing against Roger Federer.
And that’s how Novak Djokovic beat Juan Martin del Potro in London to reach the World Tour Finals final. (What an awkward turn of phrase. Thanks, ATP!)
I’ve always been an advocate for players who win the coin toss to choose to serve.
Particularly if you’re a good returner. It just seems so obvious that if things go according to plan and both players hold serve, being the returner at 5-4 is a useful advantage. Earlier in the set, whoever serves second can drop his/her serve and know there will be a few chances to get the break back. On the flip side, the person who serves first always has the peace of mind of knowing that if they get broken at any point in the set, they will have at least one return game to attempt to get their serve back.
I was very tempted to make this a “How the Match Was Lost”. I really was. After all, Michael Llodra dominated the first set. Actually, “dominated” might be an understatement. Just look at the stats:
Despite all the the aces, the forehand winners and yes, those beautiful drop shots, what struck me the most about this particular semifinal was the difference in composure of the two men set to compete in it. Jerzy Janowicz played this match as if deep down he knew his time had finally arrived.
How do you lose a match in which you were up a set and a break…without losing a single game in the process?
That’s the question Novak Djokovic might be asking himself today.
The Valencia Final started two hours after the very eventful Basel final got underway, and at the same time as the very significant women’s final in Istanbul was starting. Basel and the WTA Championships had the big names, so Valencia received very little attention. Which is unfortunate, because it ended up being quite a fascinating final.
The point I want to make with the picture above is simple: Alexandr Dolgopolov could have very well spoiled the Ferrer-Ferrero-Valencia Bromance on Sunday and ended up with the trophy. He had clear opportunities to do so, and at 3-all in the 3rd set, he was looking like the better player. The upset seemed quite plausible.
The Russian followed up her impressive performance against her frequent tormentor Victoria Azarenka on Saturday by playing at a very high level today. She served well, played some incredible defense at times, and even dared to send more than a few return winners past Serena. The eventual champion even applauded one of them at 30-0, 4-3 in the second set. The forehand down-the-line missile was that good.
Sharapova never looked defeated, and always gave it everything she had. She fought like a madwoman. Yet all she had to show for her troubles was seven games. She didn’t create a single break point on Serena’s serve, and only got to deuce once.
Maria Sharapova had not beaten Victoria Azarenka in over three years when the two have played on hardcourts. Here, see for yourself. Sharapova knew she had to come up with something special today, and she sure did.
We know that there isn’t much subtlety to Sharapova’s game. Today was no different: she focused on doing everything she always does (attack, attack and attack some more), and every weapon in her arsenal looked good in doing so. She served well, she hit her FH well (particularly inside-out), but most striking of all was her movement. Particularly her movement towards the net.
Yesterday, Agnieszka Radwanska started her last round robin match against Sara Errani at around 6:30 pm Istanbul time. She then partook in the longest WTA Championships match in history. It lasted 3 hours and 29 minutes, and it was an epic struggle. So, she got off the court at around 10:00 pm. You know the drill: players have to wash up, get a massage and treatment for any lingering injuries, and face the press before they can leave. It usually takes around two hours for them to complete this process. So it’s safe to say Radwanska left the Istabul arena at around midnight.