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Women's Final in Roma; Men Postponed to Monday Noon

Sharapova Defends title over Na Li in 3rd set Breaker

May 20, 2012 | 07:37 PM


With the pitter-patter of rain drops on umbrellas growing louder and louder, Maria and Na Li went at each other between short rain delays at the conclusion of a 3rd set, exchanging their best shots of the day along with some untimely chokes. Serving at 5-6 Maria watched her ads disappear and faced a match point following what could have been the most embarrassing two point gift she'd made while squandering a 4-1 lead: a double fault on game point and a botched short ball put away that careened off the net cord. She saved the match point by making an identical put-away off a high, slow ball from 10 feet deeper in the court.

How they got to this point in the match was in classic melodramatic fashion: Na Li taking the 1st set 6-4 and running up a 4-0 lead before choking badly within a point for 5-0 that Maria was able to run off with the next 8 games, and then go up 4-1, 40-15 in the 3rd. Of course, the screenplay then had Maria choke and lose 4 games in a row. Is it too much of a generalization to say that women seem to have more of these dramas on court as well as off?

Like a soap opera, the rain obliged with a long commercial break just before the show was to wrap up with a tie-breaker. This allowed The Tennis Channel a chance to air Serena's Oh Gee remarks made after her semi-final withdrawal:

When you have a little pain - I had some problems with the lower back earlier this week - it was feeling a

little stiff and I don't think this is the right moment to force... There is a huge schedule coming up, and

when a little pain you can't... I just want to relax and get ready for the next few months.

Regrets about disappointing the fans who paid to see a semi-final with her in Rome? Not on her radar. Nor would the opinions of her competitors have merited her conscious thought.

Any disappointment about giving up a chance for the Italian Open title? Huh?

The Manny Ramirez 2012 Award for cluelessness, selfishness, and self-indulgent airs: Nolo contendere for the recipient, although the name of the award may have been assumed by Newt Gingrich this year.

The fact that Maria wasn't asked about this inexcusable performance after being queried for comments about Vika's withdrawal two days earlier is a measure of how yellow the media can sometimes be when it comes to putting Serena on the spot. They were scared to ask Serena the hard questions, so Maria was spared the opportunity to skewer another top player and risk distracting herself before the final. And, why would she - or anyone - care to bother? Neither good fortune or tragedy have wised up Serena. Fat chance that a man would even attempt the project. As for women, since her mother failed to clue her in, why should others try?

After a 2 hour rain delay the players resumed the court for the tie-breaker - in the rain (umbrellas up, pitter-patter). Both women played aggressively, taking turns punishing each other on 2nd serves. They exchanged forehand winners which skidded on the base-lines to bring Maria to match point at 6-5 on Na Li's serve. On the defense, Maria could only watch as a down-the-line winner from her opponent missed by an inch (it was checked by the chair umpire).

Maria defended her title, improved to 5-0 in clay finals and earned a 26th WTA event: 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5). Among active players, she trails only the Williams (Venus with 43, Serena with 41) and Clijsters (with 41). It is her second title of the year.

Favorite to win her first title in Paris?


WTA Rome 5.20.12

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