It was a magical day in the desert sunshine for Maria Sharapova. The game’s golden girl produced a golden performance to win the BNP Paribas Open for the second time with a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Caroline Wozniacki who hit the ball quite well and still didn’t have a chance.
Moving better than usual — certainly better than when she won the title here in 2006 — the tall Russian pummeled balls to the farthest corners of the court with such fluent accuracy that even a chaser of Wozniacki’s caliber found herself taken out of point after point.
Interestingly, Sharapova didn’t feel she was hitting the ball that big, even though she had gone out there with the intention of being aggressive. “Funny, people have been saying I was hitting quite big,” Sharapova said. “Did it look like it? Didn’t really feel like it. I didn’t feel like I was hitting rockets out there. I thought I was being aggressive, but I was doing the right things and being patient and looking for the right shot. I don’t know. Sometimes you’re in a match and you don’t really realize what is going on!”
Wozniacki knew exactly what was happening. “She was putting pressure on me from the start. She was serving very well. Her first and second serves were pretty much the same speed. It was hard. I didn’t feel like I was playing poorly. If you look at the match time it was an hour twenty. I just felt like everything she wanted to do today was going in. I have to say that she just played too well.”
Wozniacki said that she was pleased with her form through the week and that she had been able to work her way through some tough matches “and play some chess out there.”
But she added with a smile. “There wasn’t time for chess out there today.”
Apart from pulling off the upset of her career by winning the French Open last year on the red clay she had always considered her least favorite surface, this was as good a performance as Sharapova has produced since recovering from shoulder surgery four years ago. She has become more aggressive since linking up with Swedish coach Thomas Hogstedt in 2011 and, added to an improved mobility, Maria has established herself as one of the top three players in the world.
But, in an interesting peek into her past, Sharpova talked about the time she spent as a young teenager with the well-known California-based coach Robert Lansdorp, who also tutored Pete Sampras and Tracy Austin.
“I went through different types of coaches,” said Sharapova, who was brought to the US from Russia by her father at the age of eight. “But I would say that the main one that really put my game in place is Robert. He had the vision of just feeding out of the basket and his students being able to hit hundreds and hundreds of balls and have that feeling they can do it over and over again no matter where they are on court. Mentally that helped me so much because I always felt I had good, fluid ground strokes.”
Practice makes perfect, and those ground strokes looked pretty good today — no matter how hard Maria hit them.