Saturday, November 12, 2005

Memo to Fernandez and Drysdale: Nadia Petrova won the match

Last night, in her last round-robin match of the 2005 WTA Tours Championships, Nadia Petrova defeated defending champion Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-2. This is generally what is known as getting your ass kicked, but if I'd had audio only, I wouldn't have known that Petrova was even on the court, much less winning easily. Commentators Mary Joe Fernandez and Cliff Drysdale hardly acknowledged that she was present.

Maria is the defending champion. Maria never gives up. Maria always has something else in mind. Maria came from love-4 to win last year's championship (actually, her opponent was injured at the time). Maria won Wimbledon last year. Maria's face is the most famous face in women's sports.

On and on went this litany from Fernandez, with Drydale either agreeing or adding more Mariaisms to the commentary. Meanwhile, Sharapova was committing unforced errors up the wazoo, and Petrova was putting on a serving clinic. The night before, Sharapova had barely escaped with a 3-set win over Lindsay Davenport, who seemed to be asleep until Sharapova served for the match at the end of the second set. Davenport then broke her twice, and looked as though she might take the third set, too. I thought Sharapova's game looked vulnerable and said so. Imagine my surprise when--during the Petrova match--Fernandez kept repeating that Maria had "played superbly" against Davenport.

When Petrova won the first set, 6-1, the commentators mentioned it casually, as they might mention going to a commercial break. When she won the match, it was all they could do to perfunctorily announce it. Their ignoring of Petrova's superb play--despite Sharapova's weak play--was shocking.

Maria Sharapova is an extremely gifted tennis player, but she is no Chris Evert or Steffi Graf. She has vulnerabilities that can be exploited, and good players know how to exploit them. Petrova is also a very gifted player who we all thought would be further along by now (Fernandez did allow that a few years ago, we thought it would be Petrova who would be the Russian who broke through), but who is coming into her own. Fernandez and Drysdale insulted her last night during one of her best wins.

If there's a de-programmer in the house, she should get to Fernandez as soon as possible, for she is deep into the Cult of Sharapova.


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