Watching Maria Sharapova come back from two match points down made me think of Novak Djokovic being down two match points against Roger Federer in the semifinals of the 2011 US Open and unleashing a devil-may-care all out forehand return that was either going to keep him in the match or end his tournament. Nole made it, saved another match point, beat Federer and won the US Open. Masha is made of the same tough stuff. Maybe even moreso. As she was down match point on two occassions against unheralded Alexandra Panova, Sharapova ripped shots and went for the lines in a way you don’t see players do. Even Chris Evert, who was calling the match for ESPN, was amazed that Masha was hitting all out and going for lines in such a critical, no mistakes allowed point of the match. But Sharapova hit those lines four times when there was no margin for error and turned away a spirited upset attempt by Panova, winning 6-1 4-6 7-5. There have been better players than Masha in the history of women’s tennis, but few have been as mentally tough, determined…and to be honest, stubborn. However, I mean stubborn in the most positive way I can mean it. She will never quit, barring an injury. She doesn’t back down. She’s going to win or lose her way. If you beat her, so be it. Her heart and guts were on clear display on day 3. Oh…and one more thing. Don’t forget that last year’s women’s champion, Li Na, was also down match point early in the tournament to Lucie Safarova. Li Na fought off that match point and ended up with the champion’s trophy. Will Masha repeat that history this year?
I am always happy to see Simona Halep win. She’s one of my top two co-favorite players, along with Petra Kvitova. But I was especially pleased to see her easily dispatch Jarmila Gajdosova, 6-2 6-2. I heard so many pundits preview this match as though it were an upset waiting to happen. I like Jarmila, but what has she done that anybody would so disrespect the kind of player Simona is? Maybe it was just the home crowd thing. When I watched Halep’s first round match it seemed a lot of time was spent by announcers talking about all the things she lacked as a player. They must have forgotten that Simona took Sharapova to the edge in the Roland Garros final, made the Wimbledon semifinals and made the WTA Finals championship match…oh, and she’s won 9 tournaments since June 2013, including earlier this month in Shenzhen. Don’t get me wrong, anybody can lose at any time. Simona could lose her next match. Anybody could. It’s just that the idea that Jarmila would push Halep and maybe pull the upset was given a bit more credence that it deserved. Instead, Simona rolled easily. I am not surprised at all.
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2 MARIA SHARAPOVA (won 6-1 4-6 7-5 vs Alexandra Panova)
3 SIMONA HALEP (won 6-2 6-2 vs Jarmila Gajdosova)
7 EUGENIE BOUCHARD (won 6-0 6-3 vs Kiki Bertens)
10 EKATERINA MAKAROVA (won 6-2 6-4 vs Roberta Vinci)
22 KAROLINA PLISKOVA (won 7-5 5-7 6-4 vs Oceane Dodin)