Olympics: Sharapova d. Robson
Maria Sharapova is headed to a rematch with Sabine Lisicki, the woman who put her out of a Wimbledon many tipped her to win a few weeks ago, after defeating Great Britain’s Laura Robson, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
Robson did manage to top Sharapova in one respect: She served eight double faults to Sharapova’s seven. With both women alternating between big winners and errors in points which rarely lasted more than three or four shots, the match was ultimately decided by who held their nerve better. Sharapova, as she tends to do, shone enough in that regard to get the win.
Robson and Sharapova have met once before, on Centre Court in 2011, and the match played out the same way, Sharapova winning a tiebreaker and an easier second set. Both players have improved out of all recognition since then, and the quality was consequently higher, with a duel of Robson’s heavy, free-flowing forehand against Sharapova’s flatter and more accurate shot off that same wing.
With Robson serving at 2-2, Sharapova got hold of an excellent second serve, keeping it on her forehand and cranking it into the corner for 0-30. Robson then double-faulted twice before Sharapova spotted space for a forehand winner to lead 3-2. With Sharapova serving at 4-3, it was Robson’s turn to find two great returns, attacking behind the first, then striking the second up the line for 15-30. The young British player measured a backhand up the line beautifully for break point, then Sharapova double faulted and Robson was back on serve.
All the momentum was with Robson as she held for 4-5, with deafening chants of support from the partisan crowd, but Sharapova stopped her in her tracks with a love hold highlighted by a beautifully hooked and dipping cross-court forehand winner. The players exchanged holds to 15, then double faults to open the tiebreaker before Robson forged ahead when Sharapova unexpectedly rolled in a timid first serve. A great return got Sharapova back on serve, but Robson then missed a golden opportunity for a backhand winner down the line off a mid-court ball, putting it in the net. Leading 6-5, Sharapova hit a return that struck the patch of ground inside the baseline denuded of grass—and skidded underneath Robson’s waiting racquet—taking the wind out of the crowd’s sails and leaving the Brit dumbfounded.
The second set developed in much the same way, with Sharapova taking an early break but finding herself unable to keep it as a game Robson continued to battle hard. This time, though, when Robson broke to get back on serve at 3-4, she could not consolidate, double-faulting twice and making a crucial error off each wing. Sharapova broke again and served the match out to love, having hit 31 winners to Robson’s 18 and 10 aces to her five. It was, ultimately, the timing of those winners and aces which decided the match in her favor; the Sharapova of 2012 is reliably better on the big points than the opponents she faces.