Down Under Day 1: Smothering Shriekie.
My first time seeing Maria Sharapova live turned out to be some sort of vision of dystopia.
Between the bizarre wintry weather in the middle of summer and excessive rain delays turning Rod Laver Arena into a circus, Sharapova and Kirilenko managed put on a match that exhibited everything I hate about the WTA merry-go-round.
There was shrieking. There were double faults and chokes. There were a third of the spectators leaving mid-match. And there was the uninspiring, awful tennis accompanied by the groans of a tortured crowd.
To make matters worse, Sharapova turned up to the match wearing seaweed.
Sometimes, you just have no excuse.
If Maria Sharapova was the sort of player that lived by the sword and died by the sword, she certainly committed tennis suicide today. I saw a 3 hour match that was ultimated decided by unforced errors rather than winners – 77 unforced errors from Sharapova to 45 winners. Kirilenko wasn’t exactly shiny either – 41 errors to 26 winners.
Sharapova had no business losing the first set, having led by a break, had multiple chances to go up a double break, and lead through most of the tiebreak. But she did.
Kirilenko should’ve served out the match. She should not have played so conservatively through the second set and at 5-3 in the third set. But she didn’t know how to win any other way.
The crowd came back for the final games and sided with the babydoll-looking MariKiri. It probably bolstered her fight. In the end, it took a shocking game of errors and double faults from Sharapova to end all our misery, and MariKiri pulled off the first “upset” of the year – 76(4) 36 64.
Eff off. You don’t get a free pass from me for being pretty.
In her prodigious career, I don’t remember Sharapova ever disappointing me. I’ve never watched a match of hers where she didn’t walk off the court with her head held high. Win or lose.
Today that slate is no longer clean.
Having said all that, kudos for handling the press conference with class. If the world wants to hate a successful young woman with guts and talent, the world has problems.
But you didn’t need me to tell you that.
Q. Where is your level of disappointment, or do you just chalk it up, It’s first round of a Grand Slam, that can happen first round of a slam?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I could be disappointed or I could just take it as it is and just go back on the court and just keep working.
I choose option two (smiling).
Q. What do you say to yourself now in order to recover, let’s say, psychologically from a defeat which is painful, I guess?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, that it’s a bad day and you have to get on with your life. You know, there are many worse situations in life. There are people that don’t even know what a tennis match is in the world.
You know, just a bad day. A bad day’s not going to stop me from doing what I love. I’m still gonna go back on the court and work hard and perform. I’ll be back here on a Saturday of the second week, so you’ll watch.
Back to the practice court for you, girlfriend. That serve, the lateral movement … just work on everything and make my tennis universe normal again, okay?
In stark contrast to the first match, the second match on Rod Laver Arena had spectators trampling back in herds. Kim Clijsters bonecrushed Valerie Tetrault for her afternoon tea, 60 64. Mama Kim loves them young and inexperienced.
While Tetrault took a bagel to get used to the flashing lights of Rod Laver Arena, she eventually settled down in the second set and pulled off some well-constructed points. Until 4-all was all she could hang on until.
Kim was just too solid, too immune to the errors, double faults, brainfarts, and utter mediocrity that plagued the Kiri v Shaz match. The crowd appreciated it too, cheering for both players through the second set, and sending Kim many an adoring gaze.
Oh yeah, I saw some Scottish player blitz through his match too. Forgot the name. Can’t give you a picture either because he had fluro armpits.