• An open letter to Maria Sharapova

    11
    ROMY P. MARIÑAS

    ROMY P. MARIÑAS

    You first won against Serena Williams when you were just 17, at Wimbledon where you thrashed the American in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4, for your first Grand Slam title.

    And then you lost 18 straight times against her, the latest beating taking place at the 2016 Australian Open, not the finals (where the Sharapova-Williams battles were expected to be played) but only the quarterfinals, no thanks to the two of you having been on the same side of the draw.

    What had happened in the intervening years, Maria?

    Well, against other still top-ranked and up and coming players—Ivanovic, Vinci, Kvitova, Radwanska, Halep, Bouchard, Muguruza and a few others—you have fared well, at Grand Slams and Tier 1 WTA tournaments—at Indian Wells, Rome, Stuttgart, Tokyo, Madrid, Melbourne, Roland Garros, London, Flushing Meadows—from 2005 to 2015.

    Well, you had shoulder injuries that were medically taken care of, but these ailments alone, with all due respect, were not the reason why you had performed dismally against Serena (I would not cross the line here and over-analyze your psychological state of mind while playing your nemesis).

    Allow me—just a huge tennis fan, not a tennis player—to give you some “pointers” on how you could possibly get the monkey off your shoulder placed there by Serena:

    • Never let her drag you in a power game. If you do, you’re dead, partly because Serena would just smash and smack the ball back to you before you could even say “Come on.”

    • If you engage her in a baseline game, keep the rallies long. Short ones suit Serena’s game. A 20-stroke exchange, for example, would unsettle her.

    • Aim for aces. If you don’t and she gets her racquet on the ball with your weak first serve, then you’re done. Go for broke on your second serve, otherwise Serena would just attack it mercilessly and you can head to the locker room.

    • Try drop shots against her but don’t overdo it. You may have noticed that Serena usually stays near or on the baseline. Try one such shot or two against her in a set and she would have a hard time to reach for the ball. Besides, a drop shot, in my opinion, destroys the flow of a match although it is hard to execute successfully.

    • Mix up your shots to make her leave her comfort zone. Give her a forehand much too often and she just whacks back the ball back to you with such power (her claim to fame and longevity). Give her backhands, try groundstrokes against her so that she would not be able to easily scoop the ball and send it over the net (back to you, of course). The volley would not work against Serena because she can think on her feet.

    • Go for the corners to make her run and run her from side to side (think Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon a few years ago when Marion Bartoli emerged champion or Angelique Kerber in the just concluded Australian Open where she toppled Serena in the championship match).

    • Try short balls because with long ones, you would just give her all the time in the world to get to them very easily.

    • Nice girls finish last. Try a little gamesmanship against Serena. You may have been aware, for another example, that she supposedly was hurting at the knees at the start of this year’s Australian Open. And then, after she beat you, she said she had a bout with food poisoning. On second thought, forget this suggestion. You’re much too nice to be able to pull it off anyway.

    Good luck in Game No. 20!

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    11 Comments

    1. I hope you get grand-slammed in the face 5 times.
      what times should you stop being an idiot? tenish

    2. Are you aware that Maria Sharapova is a former World Number One with 35 singles titles to her name? She has 5 Grand Slams, 2 doubles titles and is the highest paid female athlete for the last 10 years. You haven’t given her much credit for the 601 wins she has made in her career. I feel this is disrespectful and bye bye.

    3. Have you won 35 singles titles? 5 of them being Grand Slams. She is an amazing tennis player and you cannot blame her for not winning every match she plays. Would you rather she won every game and this would make very boring matches to watch

    4. I hope Sharapova cans read this. I think, the most, is mentality. She´s mind weak all the time Vs Serena. She needs focus and thinks that is possible to beat her.

    5. I think that Maria is actually very consistent at this point for the amount of tournaments she has played thru the end of last year. She wont beat Serena playing Serena’s game, but everyone is asking her to be a completely different player when she plays one person. Her game and game plan has gotten her this far, Serena is just better at all the parts of maria game. To me (not that I am anyone) there is nothing wrong with it I just respect the fight she has and the fact that everything we are saying I am sure she knows of her game. Still she goes out and fights and tries and does not give up. Another thing… I have not seen players beat Serena when Serena brings her A game, which is the game that Maria always gets!

    6. Juan Dela Cruz on

      i think more than the physical aspect, strategies and game plan, strengths and weaknesses etc .. its more of the mental on both sides. As somebody mentioned earlier, Serena always comes up with her A game against Maria, that is after beating her in Wimbledon when Maria was still 17. For Maria, she has to believe in herself that she can beat Serena again. Maria is mentally tough but somehow with Serena, she can’t just come up with her A game.

    7. The problem is, unlike with most players, she can’t overpower Serena. It’s almost sad to watch her try to guess where a 190+ kph Serena first serve is going, and when she leans the wrong way, boom: ACE. Serena can beat Maria at her own game: power, speed, footwork, movement. Maria can’t change her game and be a counterpuncher (like Kerber) just to beat Williams. She only has one game plan and she has stuck to that through those 18 straight losses over 11+ years.

      Not to mention Serena always brings her A-game when she’s against Maria. She may drop her level and make some errors for a game or two (much like how she dropped serve at the beginning of the AO16 QF match), but she always finds her clutch game against Maria.

    8. Hmm. First of all, you are not a coach, I know that you have a right to talk to her like that. She is just following the System of his coach. If she can’t beat Serena then she can’t what’s wrong with that, that is not a big deal for her. Because she is an athlete. Losing and winning is the story as the background of the athletes. It is the hunger of Serena what drives her to win Grandslams. But inspiration what drives Maria To win.

    9. You have not yet proven anything so far in the field of sports. Who the hell are to give pointers when Filipinos never made to the popular open tennis tournaments? Tere’s not even a single Filipino who made it to these tournaments and you seem to know everything. Ay, naku!! akala mo ang gagaling ng mga Pilipino. Sa boksing na lang kasi.

    10. jessie corrales on

      Maria’s problem is she can’t execute your suggestions, like Rafa she’s become erratic and inconsistent, probably a sign of slowing down. Notice how other players beat Serena, Vinci and Kerber, they avoid making unforced errors as much as they can, they go after every ball and return in no spectacular way (just enough to get it over the net as far from Serena as possible). Maria tends to wallop every shot. She has a bad slice and no drop shot, she’s slow to come to the net and chooses the baseline game w/c suits Serena well.