Monday, May 31, 2010

Maria vs. Justine: The Way Women's Tennis Should Be

When was the last time you were glued to your seat watching a womens tennis match? I can tell you that it had been a long time for me until I witnessed the captivating match that was Justine Henin vs. Maria Sharapova in the third round of the French Open. This battle of the heavyweights wasn't great because it had two former number ones. Sure, there was some great shot making and long baseline rallies too, but what made this match greatest at it's core was the fact that these two women wanted to win more than anything. That is what made this match all the more impressive and beautiful, and the best one of the tournament. Oh, and yes, it really was a third rounder.

It looked like Justine Henin was heading for an easy victory, and she was. But guess who kept an unbreakable will while maintaining her famous fist-pump even after losing the opener 6-2? Maria Sharapova. Her on-court mentality is one of her most exemplary aspects, and it's often overlooked. But when the Russian was pitched against Henin I found myself appreciating this characteristic more and more. Down 4-0 in the first, Maria finally gets on the board. She pumps herself up with a positivity that seemed better suited for someone up a set and a break, trying to close out a match. You would have never been able to tell that if was Maria down a break, 2 to be exact, and that 4-time RG champ Justine Henin was across the net. As Martina Navratilova pointed out, that is a quality to be admired.

I had myself updating my facebook status saying "Sharapova, get it together", and with a volition that is second-to-none, Maria sure did get it together. Yes, in the end Justine, who played beautifully and deserves just as much recognition, prevailed, but in retrospect, it is Sharapova who I'll remember. I think, just maybe, we are close to having the pre-shoulder surgery Maria back, and the 3-time Major champion should only have confidence heading into Wimbledon.

Ladies of the WTA, this is how it's done.

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