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May 21 01:08
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The Limits of Female Power (only in the game!)

March 31, 2012 | 05:19 PM

In her final today with Sharapova, Aga Radwanska showed today what others have shown before (think the Evert legacy down through Wozniacki): that retrieving and mixing up your shots can and does sometimes trump the power game. She won: 7-5, 6-4. This ended her 6 match losing streak to Maria, and continued her path up the rankings this year from 8th toward the top 3 (at #4, she's just shy of #3 Kvitova). This was Aga's 9th WTA title in 11 finals, an awesome conversion ratio.

Based on Aga's perfect results this year versus everyone not named Azarenka (26 and 0, 2 titles), she's making a good case for being one of those gifted scramblers who can win with her unphysical-looking style. As with Roger, her grace in covering the court shouldn't fool you into thinking she isn't working hard out there: she ran after Maria's best for just under 2 hours, and only broke her once near the end of each set (2 for 3 on converting breaks). Aga deserved her title, mowing down all opposition in straight sets (losing 21 games in her first 5 matches, which included wins over Venus and Bartoli). In total, she needed less than 10 hours on court - a very efficient performance (better than $75,000 an hour).

As in every close match, the loser (Sharapova) may recall how many errors she made, but the fact that many of her errors came at the end of long rallies makes them difficult to call unforced: how many flat groundies can anyone make in a single rally before missing? The fact that neither player committed a single double fault in two sets and 11 service games may be a record in a women's final, and if so they can both be proud. If Maria should be disappointed with any part of her performance, it would be in her failure to end more rallies on second serve returns, as she was making those from inside the baseline almost half way to the net (Aga's 2nd serve is very slow, even by women's standards): she only won 43%, about the same as Aga did). In the second set when Maria should have been more practiced at returns against Aga, she did more poorly. She won't forgive herself for that, along with being generally unhappy about losing her 4th chance to win in Miami in her 40th career final.

On the other hand, Maria made two clutch drop volley winners when she had to, and held serve efficiently (except when she was broken!), especially in the first set. It could have been much more embarrassing than it was.

Overall, the fans got a better two set final than they might have hoped for, with only half the screaming of the Indian Wells duel in the desert when Maria lost to Vika 2-6, 3-6. She even won more games today than she did in her last two final losses to Vika. Lipstick on a pig ?

Rick


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