When the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open women’s singles draw lost its top two seeds, Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters, there were few players whose presence in the final could equal or exceed the star power of those two champions. Luckily, at the top of that list is Maria Sharapova, the world’s highest paid female athlete. Unluckily, for the rest of the players on tour, Maria might be on the verge of resurrecting the ghosts of skills past. After dropping the first set against soon to be top 20 newbie Andrea Petkovic, Maria found her game and had it all working in a 3-6 6-0 6-2 victory. Not only did Maria retire Andrea from this tournament, but Andrea confirmed she will no longer do her crowd pleasing Petko Dance after wins, officially retiring the routine. Although the match went three sets, it was as dominant a three set match as you will ever see. Petkovic came out very strong. She pounced on short balls and was ripping her groundstrokes, especially some wicked backhands.
Come the second set, everything changed. It was the best variety of tennis I’ve seen from Maria since she has come back. Everything was working, especially her powerful forehand. Maria went on a streak of 11 straight games won, laying the 6-0 bagel on Petkovic in the second and running out to a quick 5-0 lead in the third. Maria raised her game to a level where Andrea looked lost on court, not having an answer. For example, Andrea actually had a high first serve percentage in the second and third sets, which is a good indicator of service success. Well, numbers can be deceiving. While Andrea was getting her first serves in, Maria was teeing off on them. First serve, second serve…didn’t matter. Maria was hitting outright winners off Andrea’s serve like it was nothing. If Maria plays like that in the final, her opponent, Victoria Azarenka, who beat Vera Zvonareva in the other semifinal, will be hard-pressed to find an answer. But this is Maria’s first final in seven months, and arguably the biggest final she’s been in since her return. Victoria won this event in 2009. Going in, Victoria has a lot of momentum beating the #2 and #3 players in the world in back to back matches and the experience of being a recent champion. But maybe, just maybe, Maria has destiny on her side.