In varying degrees of timezone-based exhaustion, Lindsay and Andrew gathered to watch the clash between Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic in the final of WTA Brisbane. Here’s how the match went down:
Lindsay: Alright, Andrew–I’ve gotten about an hour of sleep and it’s 4:00AM. Aaah, Australian tennis. Anyways, Sharapova and Ivanovic are certainly worth it. Any predictions?
Andrew: 5 hours and 10am here, so if you fall asleep i’ll hold the fort, Linz. It’s tough, but I give Sharapova the edge in this one. The Russian in three tumultuous sets, I think.
Lindsay: My prediction is Sharapova in two tight sets, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Ivanovic won in straights either. Anything goes.
Andrew: There’s certainly lots of excitement for this one, given the drama of their Cincinnati encounter last year.
I hope Sven reminds Maria that she’s playing Ana Ivanovic again.
— Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) January 10, 2015
Andrew: In the first game Maria is already firing – her first serve missing but her second serves all finding the mark and proving too much for Ivanovic to handle. A quick love hold for Sharapova.
Sharapova – Ivanovic: 1-0
Andrew: On her own serve, Ivanovic just hit one of the luckiest net-cord shots I’ve ever seen. Landed smack on the line, just far away out of Sharapova’s reach to make life difficult. Sharapova immediately gets her own back with a return that just dribbles over the net – Ivanovic already seeing the funny side of this match!
Lindsay: Is it just me or does Ivanovic look like she’s put on a tad bit of weight since last year? In a good way. Looks closer to 2008 Ana.
Andrew: It definitely looks like she’s bulked out her muscles.
Lindsay: Sharapova’s first serve has not made it to Brisbane yet. Ana gets two BPs, but so far she hasn’t capitalized…
Andrew: Sharapova saves multiple break points, manages to hold.
Lindsay: Through two service games, Sharapova’s first-serve percentage is 36%. That sounds a bit high, too.
Andrew: The first serve is a disaster so far, but she’s really going for her second serve and it’s working a lot of the time.
Has Ana won a baseline rally yet in this match? I mean.. — Harry (@_harry91) January 10, 2015
Lindsay: I’m pretty sure the answer to that question is “no.” Ivanovic is going for the lines, which we know she needs to do, but Sharapova’s pace and depth are rattling her a bit.
Andrew: A lot of errors coming from Ivanovic early on, I think she just needs to settle in to the match. Often it only takes one great shot to bring her to life, so you never really know.
That said, too many errors from Ivanovic during that service game, and a forehand into the net gifts Sharapova the first break of the match.
Sharapova – Ivanovic: 3-1
Andrew: UMPIRE CICAK WATCH: she looks bored.
Lindsay: It’s amazing, because I was watching Venus/Caroline earlier – two huge stars – and it was a bit hard to get into at times. Just a flat match for the first couple of sets. This, though, is non-stop tension and intrigue from the first point. This might be an obvious question, but why do you think that is? What is it about this match-up that’s special?
Andrew: Wozniacki vs Williams was a pretty low quality encounter, all things considered. Wozniacki really had no place losing that match, and completely disappeared in those last two sets. Sharapova and Ivanovic are both fiery characters, both very highly strung on the court, which tends to make for good viewing if you like a bit of drama. I have to say though, I disagree with you that it’s been non-stop tension. I’m finding this very flat so far.
Lindsay: I think Sharapova matches are always a bit dramatic, even if just for the deliberate pacing. This has certainly not been a high-quality match so far, but perhaps it’s the history or the fact that both of these players are so hard-hitting and intense on court from the very first point that makes it captivating even when the tennis is lacking.
Andrew: Sharapova is starting to make more noise and get a little shouty out there though, her last service game had a few more quality ground stroke exchanges. Sharapova was threatened, but held firm.
First serve : Martha 29%, Ana 75%, so Martha is naturally 4-1 up.
— Vlado Skoko (@SkochkoMan) January 10, 2015
Andrew: We have our first “Ajde!” – the Serb looks like she’s waking up. And finally a solid hold from Ivanovic, taking advantage of her good serving stats (!), holds to love.
Lindsay: Ivanovic was actually ready for the returns to come back in that game, a big improvement. She is waking up.
Andrew: Now I’m starting to feel the tension a little more! It feels like there are two players on the court now – Ivanovic really threatening Sharapova on the return of serve which eventually draws two disastrous double faults in a row.
Andrew: Ivanovic gets the break back!
Lindsay: LOL we have a “IDEMO” double fist-pump combo.
Andrew: What a strange rally! Ivanovic with a great serve out wide, forcing Sharapova to hit a stretched forehand slice back to the mid-court. Ivanovic comes forward to fire it into the open court, which Sharapova somehow manages to get to, throwing up a lob. Ivanovic races back to the baseline and hits an awkward backhand slice right down the centre of the court – Maria hits the easiest shot she’s had in the rally…right into the net. Ivanovic with a wry smile, and a hold of serve.
Andrew: This is getting fun now. Sven just came on to see Sharapova for some on court coaching, it was incredible:
“You know you’re better. You know you’re better. You know the plan. You know the plan. Hit it cross court. Hit it. Hit it!” – Sven.
— Andrew Eccles (@BackSwings) January 10, 2015
Andrew: It worked, as Sharapova quickly holds serve, and then earns some set points against Ivanovic’s serve at 5-4, but can’t convert. Ivanovic hits the baseline at deuce, which Sharapova challenges incorrectly. Ivanovic holds.
Andrew: UMPIRE CICAK WATCH: still looks bored, maybe planning what to have for dinner.
Commentators discussing if Ivanovic is a better player now than when she was World No. 1 and winning her slam. I think she is, for sure. Same goes for Wozniacki (who didn’t win a slam) – they’ve got a more competitive field against them, but they’re both definitely better players now even though not as highly ranked.
Lindsay: I don’t know, it’s tough to say. I mean, the competition is definitely higher than 2008-2010, but I’m not sure it’s that much higher. I think they’re both more well-rounded players, and fitter, but better? I think the mental game accounts for a lot; when Ivanovic was coming up, her game was SO pure and simple and effective. She saw the ball, she hit the ball, and she beat top players. She’s never going to get that simplicity back – she knows too much now, haha. Consequently, I’m not sure we’ll ever see her have those results consistently again.
Andrew: I think you’re right about Ivanovic’s mental state, I must say. She’s all about confidence, and somewhere a lot of that got buried, and she’s worked hard to dig it all back out again.
Lindsay: I mean, it’s incredibly impressive that she’s gotten back to the top five and is relevant again. I didn’t see it coming after how far she tumbled. I’d say that Ivanovic at her best now is better than Ivanovic at her best then, we just still don’t see her best as often.
Andrew: That’s exactly it, yes. It’s a process!
Lindsay: And I’d say the same for Wozniacki, really.
Andrew: I think Wozniacki is on the verge of really being at her best consistently, though. Meanwhile, Ivanovic has managed to claw her way back into this set.
Andrew: Ivanovic gets the first strike in the breaker, up a mini break.
Lindsay: This is a pretty good tiebreaker.
Andrew: It’s all a bit nervy, and fun to watch. Ivanovic lost her minibreak but has it back now at 5-4. And Maria sends a forehand return flying long! Ivanovic with set point, which she takes with a very calm put away of a mid-court ball.
Lindsay: Wow–what a clutch play from Ivanovic, to steal the set.
Ivanovic takes the first set: 7-6(4)
Lindsay: The margins are so razor-thin between these two right now. At the end of the day, I think that’s why the serve actually did matter in the first set–it set them apart in that tiebreaker. Sharapova’s movement is brilliant at the start of the second and THAT NET PLAY.
Andrew: Incredible drop volley!
Lindsay: The depth that both of these ladies are getting is just superb.
Andrew: I’m really enjoying this now, I hope this becomes a big rivalry over the course of 2015 – it’s great box office.
Lindsay: RETURN PORN from Sharapova
We’re already at an hour and 10 minutes. I need more coffee.
Andrew: Maria tried a drop shot from a winning position in the court. It did not work. Lost her the first game of the second set.
Lindsay: She had some chances in that game, but every time she got a look Ivanovic came up with some clutch serves.
Sharapova – Ivanovic: 6-7 0-1
Andrew: Ivanovic hits the net, screams “UP UP UP” and makes a lifting motion with her hand. I hope she never changes.
Lindsay: Haha same, and she won’t. Sharapova has two BPs, can’t convert them. It’s so weird–my gut will always tell me to take Sharapova over Ivanovic in tight situations, but in this match it’s the opposite.
Ana’s mental strength in the last year or so has been more and more impressive. More resilience under pressure.
— Chris P (@scoobstennis) January 10, 2015
Andrew: Ivanovic much less prone to self-destruction these days.
Lindsay: She has trust in her game again, and it’s nice to see. I still don’t trust her trust, though!
Andrew: I trust her more than Sharapova today, the Russian is making errors at all the wrong moments.
Lindsay: I think I’ll be able to trust Ivanovic again if she can have a deep run in a slam in 2015. Besides her Serena win in Melbourne, she was never able to carry her good tour form into the slams last season, and until that changes it’s going to be hard for me to take her seriously. I don’t mean to unfairly takes away from tournaments like Brisbane, I just want to see her mental strength carry over to the biggest stages.
Andrew: I see your point, the highest pressure moments during the year are of course the slams. Still has to calm her nerves at those events – time will tell!
Lindsay: As we praise her mental strength, Ivanovic double faults to give Sharapova the break.
And she gifts the break. Had 4 game points. — José Morgado (@josemorgado) January 10, 2015
Sharapova – Ivanovic: 6-7, 2-1
Lindsay: Sharapova’s cross-court backhand is so good today.
Andrew: As Sven would say, “Hit it cross-court. Hit it. Hit it!” Sharapova consolidates the break. Second set mirroring the first so far.
Lindsay: How the second set is going for Ivanovic so far:
Analysis by Ana https://t.co/ANmWq9xJp3
— Tony (@tjc05) January 10, 2015
Andrew: That is stunning. She’s so entertaining.
Lindsay: Ivanovic had 40-0. Now she faces a break point.
Andrew: That backhand cross-court is REALLY doing damage here, so why did Sharapova hit her backhand down the line on break point, with the space open on the cross-court shot? Could be costly. Ivanovic now with a point to hold…
…and she does so, preventing the double break.
Lindsay: Huge hold from Ivanovic there to stay in this set. Sharapova getting broken once per set is pretty much a given these days. Ivanovic is talking to her coach…I WANT TO UNDERSTAND SERBIAN
Andrew: I suspect “service” means “service”. So it’s something about serves.
Lindsay: Stop showing off.
Andrew: UMPIRE CICAK WATCH: she may be feeling a bit run down, blowing her nose.
Sharapova was down 0-30 on serve after some good hitting from Ivanovic, but held firm and won four points in a row for the hold.
Ivanovic’s “I’d like to challenge” hand wave just then was sublime. — Andrew Eccles (@BackSwings) January 10, 2015
Lindsay: Here you go, Andrew:
Ana Ivanovic reaction at:”Do you want hawkeye?” https://t.co/2ZIQoXhf6p
— chiara gambuzza (@ChiaraGamTWI) January 10, 2015
Andrew: After all her hand waving, Ivanovic holds firm, not letting Sharapova get any breathing space with a double break. Ivanovic asking Cicak if she can have the physio at the next changeover. I can’t wait to see Sharapova’s reaction to that…
Lindsay: OMG yesss
Andrew: UMPIRE CICAK WATCH: there is challenge confusion, Cicak mildly amused by line call antics.
Ivanovic can’t stay with Sharapova any further, makes some bad errors on serve while Sharapova goes on the attack.
Lindsay: Set, Sharapova. One hour and 50 minutes in, trainer coming for Ivanovic.
Sharapova – Ivanovic: 6-7, 6-3
Andrew: The Serbian has left the court with the trainer! Sharapova looking a little bit frustrated as she waits. “Did the medical start? Can I get some balls?” Wisely opting to hit some practice shots to stay warmed up.
Lindsay: Oh good. Pissedpova is my favorite.
Remember how we were talking about the margins being slim so the serve being extra important? Well, in set 2, Sharapova was 68%, Ivanovic was 58%.
Andrew: It’s all so close at the moment, down to mental strength now. I would pick Sharapova in this situation always, but then this was exactly the scenario in Cincinnati last year and Ivanovic was the one who pulled off the victory.
Ivanovic is back, and the third set begins with a straightforward hold of serve from Sharapova. Reportedly with a sore back, Ivanovic steps up to serve.
Lindsay: THAT RETURN
Andrew: That was a great return from Sharapova! Ivanovic looks hampered by her back at the moment, isn’t having anywhere near the impact we saw for the first two sets. Sharapova draws the first blood in the decider.
6-7 6-3 2-0
Lindsay: This court seems faster than Cincinnati.
Andrew: It feels like so long since we were treated to live tennis, everything looks fast to me now. The Pat Rafter arena has a nice feel to it, by the way. Very large space around the tramlines really giving it a big-event vibe.
Lindsay: Ana Ivanovic is so GIFable. Meanwhile, Sharapova GIFs are just still images of an icy stare.
Andrew: Each entertaining, in their own right – it’s kind of like if Elsa and Anna from Frozen played tennis.
Lindsay: I haven’t seen Frozen, but I appreciate the reference.
Andrew: Okay that’s what we’ll live blog next then because that is a sad state of affairs.
With a few screams of “Ajde!” and much fist-pumping, Ivanovic finally serves her way onto the scoreboard in the deciding set.
Sharapova – Ivanovic: 6-7, 6-3, 3-1
Lindsay: WHAT A RETURN FROM ANA to set up triple break point.
Andrew: BRILLIANT return down the line from Ivanovic. Really fun rally on the next point, Ivanovic made to run all over the court as Sharapova pummels the ball from side to side until she eventually takes the point. Ivanovic back in the set though, as Sharapova sends a forehand long to be broken.
6-7, 6-3, 3-2
Lindsay: It looked like Sharapova might be on her way to bakery products in the final set, but it’s back on serve. These two are a roller coaster.
Andrew: Long may this roller coaster continue.
Lindsay: I feel like this could be a banner year for the WTA. It feels like we could have SO many stars in peak form, and Serena just a hair enough below peak form to make things super interesting.
Andrew: I completely agree. There is a long list of WTA players who I think could be entertaining this year, including some unexpected names like Strycova, who seems to have raised her game in the last few months. Makes for great matches throughout a draw.
Lindsay: SHARAPOVA, THAT BACKHAND WINNER. Everything is impressive right now.
Andrew: Don’t know about you Linz, but I think Sharapova has just enough of an edge in this set to close it out. Can’t see Ivanovic stealing the win from this point.
Lindsay: Yeah, I mean, two holds for Sharapova is far from a given, but she’s definitely the better player in the last 80 minutes. But Andrew I have a question…What in the hell is going on with Sharapova’s hair?!
Lindsay: It looks like Monica’s in that Friends episode where they go to Hawaii and the humidity gets it. Andrew: Her hair has been SO Monica Gellar when it’s hit humidity over the past couple of years.
Andrew: LOL, We’re on the same page. Well I still think Gellar has the edge, but Ivanovic gets the break back.
6-7, 6-3, 4-3
Andrew: Ivanovic has hit a good number of aces in this match, I don’t know how she manages it with that wonky ball toss of hers.
Lindsay: I know. There’s a combined 23 aces so far, not bad at all. (10 for Maria, 13 for Ana) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That return from Sharapova was just mean.
Andrew: That was an incredible return on the stretch. Sharapova really fighting hard to try and get this break, but makes an error down the line. Deuce. Another opportunity, as Ivanovic hits a cross-court forehand wide. Advantage Sharapova.
Lindsay: God, Sharapova with another great return, this time to Ivanovic’s feet.
Andrew: There it is. Too much power for Ivanovic to handle.
Lindsay: And Sharapova will serve for the match!
6-7, 6-3, 5-3
Lindsay: LOL, Ivanovic with a beast-mode return of her own.
There have been so many return winners followed by stare-downs in this match. — Dave Gertler (@davegertler) January 10, 2015
Lindsay: There really have been.
Andrew: The returns of serve in this match are getting beyond ridiculous now. Such great hand skills.
Lindsay: You know, I bet Sharapova really is a lot like Monica Gellar. Endearingly controlling. Like, I wouldn’t want to spill in her presence.
Andrew: Who would be as dramatic as Ivanovic? Maybe special guest star Brooke Shields.
Lindsay: Down two Championship Points, Ivanovic hits ANOTHER CRAZY RETURN!! These ladies are amazing.
Andrew: Absolutely NONSENSE inside out backhand return.
Lindsay: AND ANOTHER ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Deuce.
Andrew: HOLY BACKHAND ANA! Down the line that time. But Sharapova manages to grab herself another Championship point…
Lindsay: GELLAR WINS!
Andrew: The third Championship Point is the one that does it for Sharapova, as Ivanovic nets a forehand.
Sharapova def. Ivanovic: 6-7 6-3 6-3
Lindsay: That wasn’t a Cincy soap opera, but it was high-quality and entertaining and made me very excited for the Australian Open. Now, I want someone to make a YouTube compilation of all of those returns.
Andrew: What a great way to start 2015! I’m really excited for the next year of tennis.
Maria:”I’m sure we’re gonna be playing more times” Ana reaction.I CAN’T https://t.co/3VPkrtCFKc
— chiara gambuzza (@ChiaraGamTWI) January 10, 2015