Monday, 18 January 2010

Melbourne: Shaza MKO’d.

kiri (Photo: Reuters)

M. Kirilenko d. M. Sharapova 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-4

Having never had a great deal of time for Maria-Kiri in the past, this win over Shaza ought to surprise me, except it doesn’t.

The few times I actually saw her play, I remember thinking that the pace on some of her groundstrokes could’ve and should’ve made her a contender, but that she lacked the consistency and belief to propel her to the top of the game – in other words, not that different from any of the other bright young things that fail to illuminate the WTA.

Yesterday was a slightly different story – though by the sounds of it, only for one set (which is all I saw).

During that set, MK played what is arguably the finest tennis of her career – Shaza’s groundies opened up well enough, but she quickly fell prey to those serving foibles of hers that have marred her way back since May of last year.

Soon afterwards, I switched off. Being 11 hours behind Oz means live coverage begins at the Witching Hour – and I wasn’t about to put off sleep for the ‘toil and trouble’ this match had now descended into.

MK had downsized back into her usual tentative self and Shaza, as I woke up to the news of this morning, had somehow found her way to 76 UFEs, making this her first opening round Slam exit since 2003.

And what did you all make of MK's shushing of the crowd (or Shaza?) upon winning match point - weren't these two meant to be the best of friends?

shaza (Photo: Press Association)

A large part of being Shaza however, is about planning the fight back and sticking it to the soothsayers. In that respect at least, she was true to form:

"It's a bad day and you have to get on with your life. There are many worse situations in life," said the former world number one.

"A bad day's not going to stop me from doing what I love. I'm still going to 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."


Yeah, you watch.

It’s a shocker, but I can’t help feeling this isn’t the last ‘shock upset’ we’re destined to see with Shaza.

MK isn’t the worst player in the world – and playing her best against anyone leaking 76 UFEs, should have as good a chance as any of coming out on top.

Shaza’s still capable of kicking-butt at the highest levels, but I suspect those butt-kicking episodes are likely now to be more disconnected, born of a more carefully managed regime of pacing her shoulder – one in which playing at such a high level week-in week out no longer plays a part.

Her ranking might take a hit as a result of that (does that really matter?) – but if she plans it carefully, gets past those serving foibles, I’d like to think it won’t affect her at the Slams.

Except in this instance, it maybe did.


In other matches, Murray, Rafa, Delpo, Kimmie, Kuzzie, Dinara and Justine all through safely.

Not to be missed: Justine to play Dementieva in round two – yes as soon as that - the downside of making your retirements ‘pseudo’.

The upside for all the rest of us.

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