Daily News for the weeks ending on Oct 2, 2006
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1) I think we need to drop the fixation ahout opponents who "retrieve" .. They all do; and some are much better at it. Sania did not lose today's match because RuanoPasucal retrieved a lot. Of course, she would win easier against non-retrievers, but that is stating the obvious. The point is, she can and will beat retrievers, especially if she plays mature stuff, which she is beginning to do anyway. In fact she showed that with herself not playing her best (in shot accuracy), she still had enough to beat a player who returned a lot of her shots and did a superlative job of preventing her from hitting her winners. Sania did not win the third set before the tiebreaker not because of any "retrieving" issues, but because she made unforced errors (quite a bit of it) and also lost quite a lot of points with momentary lapses of concentration today.All in all, a very productive week for Sania .. Got to play some really good tennis, got her career-best win, proved some things to herself and her critics and learned a lot too in three three-setters.
2) The final tiebreaker was weird with 3-4 missed calls duringthe rallies and then three overrules/replays for three others. It was some serious rally-fest going around, and the linesmen got excited/nervous and missed many calls, throwing both the players off a bit. The chair umpire lost it too, as he kept over-ruling (three times in a tiebreaker?? .. Unheard of!) and asking to replay each time .. During the TB, there was one rally on Sania's serve where VRP hit it out two times and SM did not get a call- then finally a bad call gives it to VRP and the ump overrules asking for a replay .. Sania shouted "I won the point two times already!" .. SM got angry and hit the next backhand a mile out .. Then a lineswoman calls out on a Sania ball before it landed (and it was out!) - and the ump overrules too .. VRP screams now .. Ump asks replay again, and now Sania screams .. Basically utter confusion and Sania got affected more than VRP .. SM calmed herself down at 3-5 to play a 26 shot rally though and she got a netclip in the end .. Basically a messy tiebreaker and somebody had to win it .. It just went RuanoPascual's way, that was all.
3) RuanoPascual has a one handed backhand, and this match is another example of how useful that is in court coverage (she had no problems with Sania's backhand shots, only having to take fewer steps to the left due to the one-fisted BH) .. But you also need to be good at putting some mustard on the BH to win points, and she can do that too .. She is among the best I have seen with that slice (no wonder she is a top doubles player, once #1 and all) .. She does not miss one on that slice .. Superb stuff that fall and would not rise for Sania to even think of her forehand ...
4) The sliced shots from VRP were falling and staying low; VERY low. Bothered SM a lot initially, and I thought she would try to work around it and start doing silly things .. I was happy to see her decide to just go with it and keep hitting it back till VRP decided to change things, on many occasions today. After the first set, I don't think she made errors on digging the low slices and hitting the BH across - no problem (I was surprised how confidently she went about business on this) .. She was not going to let VRP force her into impatience and errors. In my view, most of the times when she decided to go for her shots in the rallies, were EXACTLY the correct times. So, Sania was clearly mature enough now to win this match even without using her thunder/lightning stuff constantly. But alas, she made errors -- and the errors were mostly unforced and mostly not during rallies -- but a lot of them were there.
5) Her shot selection was very good, but her return game was a bit immature at times today. Unnecessarily gifted some 7-8 points on hard returns when there was no hurry to go for winners. These were unforced errors.
6) She made at least 5-6 errrors, totally unforced, with silly dumps into the net on off-pace balls like defensive lobs and drops near then net when she moved up and the whole world thought she could put in anywhere across to win the point .. I feel she needs to develop some instincts (or just drill into her own mind some schemes) on where she would hit a ball in those cases. I am sure a good coach can set her straight on it. I think every one of those net-dumps were due to mental confusion on what shot to hit, not because she doesn't know how to hit one across. This MUST improve. I saw many of those in all three of her matches this week. Every time, it was just confusion rather than being forced to a mechanical error.
7) She had serious cramp problems from mid-second set till the middle of the third set. Was pretty obvious many times in the third set. That by itself was not the problem, but she lost mental focus on a few points, getting a bit upset at the cramp problem, and getting impatient on a few shots as a result. That is why she lost the one-game advantage she initially had in the third set. She uses a bit of getting upset at herself sometimes to get her adrenaline going. I think she did it at the wrong times when already up in the third set.
8) You had to see it to believe what steely determination she showed late in the third set not to get broken. I (and most in the crowd) could not believe the way she saved the first Match point on her, at 4-5 in the third. 30, count it, 30 shots in a rally that ONLY saw backhand to backhand from the left corners .. VRP tried so hard to get Sania to grow impatient and do something silly, but no way .. Sania would not budge and she hit one BH after another, till finally VRP put one BH in the net and lost the match pt. Sania knew that there was really no easy way to get herself into position for a orehand and she was not going to commit to it. Look at this at 4-5,
AD out match pt #1 -- 30 shot rally, wins point, VRP BH in the net.
Deuce -- 15 shot rally, loses point, SM BH in the net.
AD out Match pt #2 -- 16 shot rally, VRP hits BH out.
Deuce -- 23 shot rally, finishes with a forehand bomb.
AD in -- 17 shot rally, finishes, holds.
Would you believe that Sania is capable of such patience? .. Yes, sir, she is. Because this was a match were she knew VRP was negating so much of her game (not many can do one hinded slices so well like VRP) and she showed tremendous maturity in recognizing that she had to be ready to spar for ever and look for the opening. Did that so well at so many points in this match.
9) Her serve and second serve were hardly a factor today. Actually she did not seem to be bothered (I know from one glance when she goes up to serve, if she is thinking of her so-called second serve "problems" - and I have been successful nearly 75% in predicting terrible second serves from that!) .. She served quite fine. The first serve percentage was not great but not terrible today, I assume. And the second serve did not cause her problems at any key points. Non-factor.
10) She did stick some very good volleys in today, and most of them were when she did not have time to think and had to hit one volley (otherwise, the "thinking" confusion near the net comes in, as in point 5 above) .. The one big problem for quite a long time that is not addressed still, is that she leaves the court wide open after hitting the good volleys. I think she made some 6 or 7 good crosscourt volleys but won only perhaps 2 points on that - becaue she stood planted at one end or moved very little, leaving a player with the very best instincts at volleying to open court (current #7 and fomer #1 doubles player) to hit winners .. Come on Sania, take the film of the match and go up and ask Mahesh what to do. You can even teach yourself, how to move after a volley! .. Just move, damn it! .. I am sick of seeing that problem for ever!
11) She was simply a little less accurate on her shots today. At times, probably bothered by the cramp, but even otherwise, not as acurate to the lines as she was yesterday. About 4 or 5 shots down the line curved out due to wind (at one point Sania screamed "the frigging wind!"), and sometimes due to some stuff on VRP's shots.
12) In a way, this was three hours of playing where she actully learned a whole heck of a lot from playing a different type of player. I asked Naseema to get hold of a tape of the match because it seems there are a lot of items to pick up from this match (and she said she had already asked).
13) I was not at all unhappy about this match. Sania probably picked up a lot of confidence about doing a lot of things from this match. Stuff that she is usually not called upon to do, that only certain kind of opponents can teach you. I think she said that in the press conference too, that there were some things to learn from this match.
14) The crowd really was for sania all along, and they stood up and cheered her out - everybody knew that she played more interesting and impressive shots and that but for some mistakes and perhaps some luck in the tiebreakers, she could have won .. More like they all knew that VRP dodged a bullet today and that they will see Sania back with more sometime later. Nothing to worry. Things to work on, that's all!
Set-1Comments: Well, she played very well (understatement! :)) .. Hit the shots accurately, and was not overdoing the thinking part .. Whenever she did the "thinking" in noticable ways, she messed up the points, as always .. Her shots are just too good and too powerful for ANYBODY .. If she is hitting it, I don't care how good you are in retreiving, you will lose .. Proven again today .. She has enough instincts already in constructing the points without too much explicit thinking and strategizing .. That is all for players without her talent and shot-velocity; she only needs some simple strategies and instincts to win against anybody .. But she does need to have some instinctive strategies though, and lately she is beginning to show that she can and does use her instinctive tennis intelligence .. After the match she said her startegy was to attack Martina's forehand - and I could clearly see her executing it many many times in the match, but at the same time, she was never afraid to get into a BH duel with Martina and win some points there too .. Improvements are still needed on where to place that second serve, and she needs to stop worrying overly about her second serve being so bad or something (it is good enough if she can just get it in at a decent spot) .. She REALLY needs to work on what to do on the easy stuff at the net .. If she is getting to the ball, she needs to be able to hit it .. But, this is not the day for my amateur, armchair advices .. THE GIRL JUST BEAT HINGIS!!! .. Sweet revenge.
0-0 MH serving .. SM has a 30-30 retrun winner for BP, but then hit a bit too hard next 3 pts (long/wide) ..
0-1 SM .. SM claws out of 0-40 and saves 3 BPs and wins 5 in a row (MH made one volley mistake too)
1-1 MH .. Two great returns gave SM a BP at AD out. Sania hits two FH missiles deep to the same point to MH's FH side. MH had moved left just 6 feet left after the previous retrieve, but still did not get time to move right and reach it. Such was the velocity! .. BREAK!!
2-1 SM .. For the second time, SM runs up very well to a drop shot, ges there, and does not know what to do .. dumps on the net .. Then a DF for 30-40 .. Saved a BP on a great FHCC, but then loses a 15 shot rally where one MH shot was clearly out. But BP again. This time Martina pins her on the left corner in a BH to BH duel (what Sania initially wanted to avoid, I found later) and wins a 9-shot rally. BROKEN.
2-2 MH .. Sania takes her to one deuce. at ADin, they go FH to FH for 8 shots, SM somehow retrieving them .. It was something to see how Martina wiggled out and turned it to a BH to BH duel. Sania was going to miss the next shot ... game MH.
2-3 SM .. A strange DF again (she suddenly loses confidence on her serve, which is clear to see on her face - it happend about 3 or 4 times, but only for a serve or two, but each time I expected a DF, and exactly that happend!) .. Then SM wins a 20 shot rally .. Nothing fancy; just hits accurately and hard .. But still BP at 30-40 and, Sania netted a shot. BROKEN again..
2-4 MH .. Sania was now fired up .. Started with making Hingis run left and right, and MH pulls off an incredible retrieve - lunges and lobs FH to crosscourt back corner, and Sania hits a forehand on the rise off that lob pretty much to where MH was. Martina could still not touch it! .. 0-15 .. Great returns followed .. 15-40 .. MH pulls out an ace and then SM hits a hard return an inch out .. Duece .. The first true BHCC-EAS of the match!!! .. BP again .. After missing some 5 shots so far at the net, SM now goes up and hits an FHCC flat across with some oomph. BREAK!!!
3-4 SM .. A netchord DF, and an error long shot caused SM to see 30-40 BP again .. Sania pays a great 14 shot rally, moving up, coming a bit back and moving up again, finishing with an FH down the line .. Deuce .. MH now moves up a bit after the 6th shot and SM hits the 7th out in confusion .. AD out .. SM then got jobbed by the ump who calls "out" on a winner from her, that the linesman right next to it (and all of us) saw as good. At the break point that too ... BROKEN .. Sania complains with a "come on" and then goes and sits down for changeover. That actually got her totally fired up, and from here on Sania was actually flying all the way to the end ..
3-5 MH .. This time Sania changes the tactics a little and decides to pin MH to her left and try taking her on in a BH duel -- man, the power in those BH shots were something to see .. And she beats MH at her own game! .. 30-30 .. Then Sania suddenly takes some pace off on the 6th shot and goes for a high bouncer which clearly surprised Hingis who hit it out and just screams in agony! .. BP .. Now Sania was determined to get the break .. Amazing power, deep to MH's left, then right, then left and PHOOTHOOP! .. BREAK!
4-5 SM .. Couple of service winners .. Looks good to hold .. But at 30-30, SM had an easy overhead kill shot, goes up and suddenly gets a bit too careful (damnit, sania! .. you mess it up every time you try something careful, don't you know??? .. are you listening to me??) .. Tries something soft, and hits it out, unnecessarily!! set point - saved with hard shots moving Martina again left and right! .. MH gets a bit upset at herself and moves up a bit on the next rally .. Sania tries to pass and hits out .. Set point - converted as Sania hits a devil-may-care shot which was only an inch out at the corner though .. She lost the set, but me-likey the attitude of deciding not to go into a shell! .. 4-6 0-0
0-0 MH .. Sania in full flow .. Martina retrieving one beauty after another but finally losing the battle .. At 15-30 She hit a backhand CC to the midle of the box that was so heavy, that SM got there and could only hit to the ground .. SM saved one BP, as MH hit a defensive lob (a very good one though) that probably only MH could have hit for a winner with a reflex overhead volley .. Sania is unfazed, and continue to return well .. At 30-40, the forehand CC was just so good that Martina literally screamed "Aiyyo" like a Malayali .. BREAK!!!!
1-0 SM .. Incredible shots flying around .. A totally unexpected insideout forehand bomb down the line had no answer - 40-30 with that .. Nice serve .. Pinpoints her 3rd shot at the right corner; MH somehow lobs, but SM ready for the kill.
2-0 MH .. Return winner .. 0-15 .. Then goes for it again, hitting it 8 feet out .. Sania just laughs, and the crowd laughs with her .. An ace gave Martina 40-30 .. Return winner .. deuce .. Goes for another RW, no good .. AD in .. Then the rally of the match -- 20 shots where Sania moved all over the court, mostly in control of the point, but hitting unusually gifted shots, a nethugger soft cross court being the best .. There was no way anybody would think Sania is capable of that stuff against Hingis .. Not constructing the point, but trying all kinds of variation and making it! .. Deuce .. Back to her usual THULPS .. Forehand return to corner, and then moves up on Martina and kills it .. AD out BP .. Seeing two different sania in back-to-back points must have confused Hingis .. She double faults!!! .. BREAK!!
3-0 SM .. Uneventful (meaning decent serves and usual THWACKS!) .. 40-30 .. game.
4-0 MH .. An error from MH, a DF from MH, and a return winner from Sania. Martina just gave this game to SM .. How often have you seen Hingis kinda confused and lost like that?? .. BREAK!
5-0 SM .. Serivce winner down the middle, and two very good BHCCs .. No probs.. Holds! SET!! 46 60 ..
(Martina takes a 3 minute break to change her tee-shirt from black to yellow; but as far as I am concerned, she could have tried red, called Srichaphan to find out how to pray to Buddha, but she was still destined to lose)
0-0 MH .. More heat from Sania .. Also winning some nice short rallies by continueing to hit where she wants to hit the ball .. 15-40 .. and SM again converts.. BREAK!! .. that is like 5 or 6 in a row on Martina .. The key was that SM was returning exceeedingly well, and taking charge, negating anything MH planned to do with her serve ..
1-0 SM .. Sania suddenly thinking about her serve again .. DF .. and another DF at 30-15 .. Then an error .. 30-40 BP .. A nice rally; I think one MH shot was out and was not called, but Sania then makes an error and dumps it in the net .. BROKEN ..
1-1 MH .. Sania makes the crowd roar at one of her FH shots, 30-15 .. but Hingis holds at 15
1-2 SM .. An ace from SM at 15-15 .. Hits one long .. 30-40 BP .. Sania gets a bit upset at herself for the error .. Then comes up with an FHCC at an impossible angle - BP saved .. Deuce .. Here comes a flat forehand that had nothing but pure Hyderabadi mirchi on it .. AD in .. Now the crowd is lterally at the edge of their sets, a couple of people (not me) scream "oooh" thinking Sania shots were all going to hit the net, but no, she hits FIVE net-hugger forehands in a row .. Hingis keeps hanging on for dear life, and Sania finally finishes it ..
2-2 MH .. Impressive show here .. Two nice returns .. Then at 15-15 an FH down the line return winner .. 15-30 .. A BH DTL return winner .. 15-40 BP .. An FH DTL return winner .. Game .. Hingis did not serve lollypops there (she never does!); Sania just teed up on three of those and just hit the felt off the ball for three return winners in a row .. Her return game is so underrated... BREAK!!!
3-2 SM .. More impressive show here .. Misses a couple of hard shots by inches and falls to 15-40 BP .. saved with an FHCC; Hingis nets it .. 30-40 BP ..SM actually makes a mistake and gives a candy shot to MH who had the whol court but still hit it to Sania who just said "thank you" and hit a screaming FH passing shot DTL .. BP saved .. Deuce .. After a couple of ADs, Sania holds ..
4-2 MH .. SM continuing to attack Martina, but now Martina showing that she is just not ready to fold .. She holds at 40-30, but I was impressed by one particular shot by sania who took the pace off and gave a loopy one to Martina inviting her to hit hard .. SM had the court covered well, and so she went and used the pace to dump back an unhittable ball .. Probably nothing planned, but it happend .. Was fun to see.
4-3 SM .. An ace to corner and another good serve .. 30-0 .. Then Hingis pulls out the kind of drops that only she and the original Martina can now hit .. Unplayable, I thought .. But I find a surprisingly well-moving Sania reaching up to it .. Bloody Hell, I think, but alas, she has no clue what to do and simply doesn't even hit the ball! (she needs to learn to HIT it - just practice with Mahesh, girl, he is the king at it!) .. Then at break point, Martina again makes Sania look foolish with an even better drop that simply spun like it came from Erapalli Prasanna .. Sania again moves well to get to it, but even Mahesh could not have hit that one for a winner .. BROKEN!!
4-4 MH .. You thought Sania would fold here, right? .. Come on, admit it .. Now comes her return game once again .. Two strong returns and a great backhand down the line .. 0-40 BP .. Return winner .. BREAK!!! .. Are you kidding me? -- I mean, this is Hingis serving to take a lead at the end of a three-setter .. Sania was not going to be denied.
4-5 SM .. Nice serve and 3rd shot .. 15-0 .. Then tries to take the pace off and loop one, positions herself well, and gets Martina to hit with pace like before, but the wound up BH after that had too much mustard on it and it flew out this time .. 15-15 .. Pulls out the backhand heat .. 30-15 .. MH now pulls off a great return on a very good serve; she knew she was also lucky to get that to go over the net, and smiles "phew" .. 30-30 .. Then Sania pulls off that shot I love so much .. You guessed it, the BHCC-EAS (Backhand Crosscourt Euclidean Angles Shot), the best of this match! .. The crowd is about to jump up and scream .. They have been numb for a while, seeing the barrage and the unique sound of SM's racket when it meets the ball .. But this one was for a match pt .. 40-30 .. Hits a strong serve, but an inch fault .. 2nd serve .. Great return to corner by Hingis .. Match point gone .. Deuce .. Another nice first serve down the middle is again an inch long, and I am going, "oh, crap!" .. Though she hit many many decent second serves in the match, she picks this time to think about it and serves a real lollypop .. I mean my grandmother would have hit it for a winner .. The funny thing is that Hingis was waiting for it, she knew it was coming, and she was too over-anxious to hit it .. And she nets it!! .. Now it is AD in Match pt - again gone on another poor serve and then a shot hit out .. I am about to scream "don't choke this away, girl" .. Sure, she has an open court to hit that damn ball, thinks too much, gets careful, and hits it out (stop thinking, damnit, kiddo!) .. Now it is AD out BP for Hingis .. If you thought Sania will choke, think again .. Out comes a superb serve, to which Hingis offerred a superb return, which only came back as an even better forehand down the line! .. BP saved .. deuce .. Sania has decided that she ain't choking, and she ain't getting careful anymore .. There comes a service winner (return long) ... Match point #3 .. First serve 3 inch long .. Second serve .. Well, what do you know, we are doing a rally .. Hingis coming up with the goods, and Sania playing her shots .. 12 shot rally which finished with Sania romping home with her biggest scalp! .. 46 60 64 .. How about that?
Nothing much eventful in the match .. Sania is running a fever; was bothered by phlegm and had to take care of that a couple of times; she later said she was having breathing trouble too at first .. The courts/balls are apparently much much slower than the superfast stuff they had in Kolkata, that added to the discomfort (plus they had only reached Tuesday night after a 12 hour flight that took the whole Tuesday) .. So, nothing clicked at first .. Basically Sania lost the first set because she took a while to get uncorked .. She was actually down 0-5 to Ye-Ra Lee, dropping serve in the 2nd game from 40-0 with shots that either went half a foot out or hit the net and then again in the 4th. Lee, on her part, was fired up - she has a pretty strong forehand and bakhand down the line shots - not great in cross courts though, as she is a stocky short player who seems to use some serious body twist for power; so if she gets time to hit, she could pull of some screamers (literally screaming herself!) .. Anyway, Sania was totally missing every other shot and looking out of sorts .. Then at 0-5 she called the trainer/doctor and asked for something for her phlegm and breathing trouble .. Not sure what they gave, but it worked (or just the 5 minute breather was all she needed) - she came back and broke YL once and held serve once .. After SM roared back to 3-5, Lee actually played a really good game to hold tough though .. Especially nice was a beautiful variation on a defensive shot after a repeated barrage of heat from Sania, that did surprise SM and made her hit one out .. That and a strong down the line serve (Lee is not a particularly impressive server, but she did one there) helped her take the set at 6-3 ..She plays the repeat match against Hingis tomorrow at 2 pm .. I will be there to give you a report.
But everybody knew that her time was over, because Sania had started really hitting her bombs .. SM later said in the press conference that she decided to just hit for pace today and not look for long rallies, as she was runing a fever too. Ye-Ra Lee did run around like a mad girl retrieving one ball after another, but Sania was hitting the hardest shots I have seen her hit .. I mean I could light a cigarette if I held it next to one of the heat missiles flying around today .. I think Sania was too sick to think much and so she kept hitting .. It was fun to see though .. The best was a particular point in the 4th game of the second set, when she hit some 6 heats in a row on some incredible retrieving work by Lee, and the crowd continued to do the muted "ooh" through the point reaching a crescendo by the 14th shot which Lee hit an inch out .. The place went bonkers (the Koreans by the way, are extremely decent fans, and they were really enjoying Sania's play) .. But the chair umpire suddenly over-rules the out call after the crowd's applause ! .. Sania started laughing, which got the whole stadium to laugh, and she goes - "you gotta be kidding me"; but then she quietly went to serve again as the ump asked to replay the point .. She got another round of applause for taking it as a good sport, despite how impressively she and Lee played that "null/void" point .. That was about all the drama in the match ..
Lee stopped trying her best once it was 3-0 in the third - she knew there was no point .. It was all over .. Sania had just pummelled her into submission.
All of Sania's shots were there, including the BHCCEAS, backhand cross-court Euclidean-angled shots, that we love so much - 5 of them - and she played quite well after the first set .. The serve was only OK today .. The first serve percentage was acceptable; only one DF .. One ace and some 4 or 5 service winners, but she allowed YRL to take at least 5 points from some poorly placed second serves, 2 of them becoming return winners .. Her movement and quickness was certainly better than I have seen before .. Moved up about 8 or 10 times in the match and was successful about half the time - punched in one particularly good volley, and almost made another superlative crosscourt volley which went an inch out .. Also netted some volleys today. She seems fit and healthy, except for the fever today .. So, not sure how she will be tomorrow against Martina. Hope for the best.
In the press conference SM said that she won't be able to beat Martina if she played like she did today (I was not sure if she meant the bad first set, or the style of play - of hitting hard and pummelling the opponent) .. Said no coach is with her; "for now, Mom is with me - that's all" .. She said everything is set for some good training work after the next few events .. Moodie's trainer, who is really good, will work with her .. That is first - she said nothing is set for a coach immediately, but Naseema told me that they are working on it. I guess she will be doing some heavy duty physical training (which she couldn't do last year, as the Tony Roche plans came in the way of the Echeberry plans, if you remember) first, and then hopefully Imran will tie up somebody good before the end of the year.