French Open: Sharapova d. Morita

Friday, June 01, 2012 /by
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MSPoor light postponed Maria Sharapova’s second-round match scheduled to start yesterday. The second-seeded Russian wasted no time in pulling the plug on Ayumi Morita today.

Hitting winners almost at will, a ruthless Sharapova won eight straight games at one stretch to roll into the third round with a 6-1, 6-1 thrashing of the 84th-ranked Japanese. The match lasted an hour; games sometimes spanned  a minute.

Roland Garros is the only major title Sharapova doesn’t possess, but she’s playing like she owns the place. The three-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t been a very hospitable host: Her rout of Morita follows her shutout of Alexandra Cadantu. Through two rounds of play, an oppressive Sharapova has smacked 40 winners compared to just one for her opponents. Granted, she has yet to face a Top 50 player, but Sharapova's all-business disposition and refusal to let opponents hang around bodes well as she continues her quest to complete the Career Slam.

You have to make the 6'2" Sharapova move to challenge her on clay, but the the 5'5" Morita, facing an immense size, strength and power disadvantage against the heavier hitter, was too busy playing catch-up in most baseline exchanges. Commanding the center of the court, Sharapova sent Morita scrambling corner to corner, effectively disarming the woman whose reach is restricted by playing with two hands off both forehand and backhand.

The highest-paid female athlete in the world becomes a thief when she steps on court: Sharapova steals an opponent's time by straddling the baseline to hit the ball early, and pilfers their power with flat strikes that reduce reaction time. Morita is fairly quick around the court, but when Sharapova strung together eight straight games to seize a 6-1, 2-0 lead, Morita began to resemble someone trying to ascend the descending steps of an escalator: She couldn't sustain the pace necessary to gain traction.

The Sharapova serve, which has sometimes strayed into unruliness in past French Open appearances, was solid today: She dropped just eight points on it and often took charge of the point from the first delivery in posting her seventh straight win.

The former world No. 1 raised her record to 24-3 in her last 27 matches, including a 13-1 mark on clay, with her lone loss on dirt coming to Serena Williams. The two-time Rome champion faces another two-handed player, 28th-seeded Chinese Peng Shuai, in tomorrow's third round.

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