First of all, a huge shout-out to NBC for completely blowing the Sharapova/Lisicki match. They showed a 2010 rerun of Ellen instead of the live match. They also had the rights, so the match was not available on ESPN2 or ESPN3.com. They also could not air it on NBCSports.com because of a technicality. They were much better this year than in years past but they really dropped the ball for the women’s semifinals.
Kvitova’s Keys to Victory:
1. Attack the Serve-Sharapova has had trouble serving this past year. Her serve is still big, but she has tried to change her service motion to keep from injuring her shoulder. This has led to a very low first serve percentage this year and a lot of double faults. Kvitova did a very good job attacking Azarenka’s second serve in the semis and taking control of the rallies or even hitting a lot for outright winners.
2. Keep the Forehand Strong-Kvitova dropped a set in her semi in which Azarenka only hit one winner. Her forehand broke down and she hit a lot of errors. She keeps her forehands very close to the baseline and hits a lot of them with a high margin over the net. She either has to keep them a little lower or try and put a little more of an angle on them to avoid the kind of forehand errors that she hit way too many of against Azarenka.
3. Stay Inside the Baseline-This match should be between two huge hitters and the baseline rallies should be very intense. The player who can step up and control the rallies will have a distinct advantage. I would expect that the one of these two who can play a higher percentage of points from inside the baseline should emerge victorious.
4. Serve Big-Kvitova’s serve has been huge these two weeks and her lefty slice out wide has won her a lot of points. Sharapova has gotten to this point on the back of her amazing return of serve and strong baseline play. Kvitova will need to keep her first serve percentage high and make those serves good and big to be able to beat Sharapova.
Sharapova’s Keys to Victory:
1: Serve Well-Like we said above, Sharapova has had a lot of problems with her serve this year. She just hit 13 double faults in her semifinal match against Lisicki. Kvitova has done a great job attacking serves, especially second ones, and this match should be no exception. Sharapova may need to start taking a little off of her usually-huge serve to keep that first serve percentage high and stay in the rallies.
2. Forget the Pressure-The pressure in this match will be all squarely on Maria’s shoulders. She is the 3-time Grand Slam champion who hasn’t won one in years and hasn’t been past the fourth round of Wimbledon since 2004. She is trying to accomplish what she has said would be the “biggest achievement of her career”. Kvitova is just the young up-and-comer who is in her first Grand Slam final. Kvitova got to play a semifinal on Centre Court (everyone does) so she shouldn’t be too overawed by the occasion. Sharapova hits so huge that it’s easy to make mistakes if she tightens up. She did not play so great at times against Lisicki and will need to play much better to beat Kvitova.
3. Control the Baseline-Like we said above, this will be the key in the longer rallies for both players. Both move well on grass and both hit huge. The one who can keep the ball deeper, keep their opponent behind the baseline, and step in on their own shots should have a real advantage in this match.
4. Control the Net-Sharapova has approached the net very little this tournament but has been very successful whenever she does. Kvitova has approached the net a lot at times and has had some trouble. Whoever is losing the baseline rallies this match will have to try to come in to net to get an advantage. When this happens Sharapova should be in the better shape. Kvitova has done well at passing so Sharapova will have to pick her net approaches carefully, but she has the big shots to approach off of and a good reach and feel at net.
Prediction: Sharapova in three
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