Yesterday afternoon, Caroline Wozniacki’s solid defensive baseline game helped her defeat the legendary Maria Sharapova at the US Open fourth round. While tenacious Caroline Wozniacki stepped up unbelievably well, she was also aided by the fact that Maria Sharapova’s serve broke down when she needed it the most.
Caroline Wozniacki Defeats Maria Sharapova at US Open: First Set
This could have been a marquis match-up between two formidable players, one with an impeccable clean defensive style, and the other with an offensive game of high-risk winners. Yet it turned into a routine match as Wozniacki disposed of Sharapova in straight sets 6-3, 6-4.
The first three games looked promising as we saw a variety of shots, winners, and long rallies. However, at 2-1 on serve, Sharapova was up 40-30 when she broke herself with three consecutive double faults. In her next service game, Sharapova nearly went down a double break, but managed to hold before converting her sixth break point chance on Wozniacki’s serve.
Unfortunately, Sharapova’s feat to break back was all for naught, as she lost her following service game, broken at love. Wozniacki then won the set 6-3 after the third deuce.
Caroline Wozniacki Defeats Maria Sharapova at US Open: Second Set
In the first game of the second set, Sharapova hesitated to challenge a service call (which would have given her an ace), but instead it was ruled a fault. Still, she managed to hold. In the following game, Wozniacki showed her mettle by falling while she was fighting for a point. She eventually delivered a lethal backhand to hold.
At 3 all, on serve, Sharapova was down 30-40 and, as if by clockwork, she threw in a double fault to go down a break. Still, in her following service game, she showed glimpses of her former champion self when she dug out of match point to hold after the third deuce. Still, Wozniacki, with her new-found resilience, was able to serve out the match to take the second set 6-4.
Caroline Wozniacki Defeats Maria Sharapova at US Open: Analysis/Statistics
Looking at the match statistics (as posted at the US Open website), it’s easy to see why Caroline Wozniacki won the match. She delivered 16 winners to 10 unforced errors (a net gain of 6) while Maria Sharapova delivered 32 winners and 36 unforced errors (a net gain of -4).
And nine of Sharapova’s unforced errors were double faults. Take those away and she would have had a net gain of 5, putting her virtually even with Wozniacki. Sharapova’s second serve was also weak, as seen in the fact that she won only 34 percent on her second serve.
Wozniacki did earn the match. As Tennis’ Steve Tignor wrote, “While she never played risky or creative tennis, Wozniacki moved Sharapova when she needed to, passed her when she had the chance, held steady when she was down break points, and even rifled a few backhands past her.”
Still, this doesn’t take away from the fact that Sharapova did beat herself with those nine double faults. With 19 games in that match (nine games on her serve), that averages out to one double fault per game. If Sharapova hopes to win another major (and I believe she can), she will have to clean up that wonky serve.
Match Statistics, US Open.org
The Defensive Athlete, Tennis