Kuznetsova and Sharapova get to the Nasdaq-100 women’s final, Federer and Blake play a fantastic point.

Make a separate post of K and M and the Federer Blake point.

Svetlana Kuznetsova is built like a tank and I mean that in the best possible way. Her thighs jump out of the skimpy, skin-hugging tennis skirt she wears and a tatto snakes above the top of her waistband. She’s just rounding back into form after a disappointing 2005 season. She went from winning the US Open in 2004 and a number 4 ranking to an injury plagued 2005 season that included an unprecedented first round loss as defending champion at the Open and a drop to number 15.

Kuznetsova may have won her first slam too early, at age twenty, but Amelie Mauresmo, her opponent in the semifinals at Miami, took to long. After losing her first grand slam final at the Australian Open in 1999, she waited seven years to get there again and take the 2006 title.

Golovin came back from 1-5 in the second set to get to the tiebreaker and take the second set. Sharapova had a few break points at 4-2 in the third set but Golovin wiggled out of it. Golovin was already the crowd favorite after Golovin’s heroics in the second set, escaping the break points helped even further.

There’s been a drought here in Miami. A dearth of good matches. No two players on the same court have played well at the same time. Svetlana Kuznetsova’s victory over Martina Hingis was the closest thing but I missed it.

It finally started raining this evening in the semifinal match between Maria Sharapova and Tatiana Golovin. Golovin was down 1-5 in the second set and managed to get to the tiebreaker and win the set to even the match. She was down break points at 2-4 in the third set but, again, managed to wriggle out of trouble.

After the second set heroics, the crowd was cheerly wildly for Golovin. She got a break point to even the second set at 4-4 but Sharapova hit a winner to get to deuce. On the next point, Golovin was running wide for a forehand when her left foot turned over and twisted underneath her. The replay was painful to watch.

After a lengthy medical timeout, the match resumed and she hit a return wide. After gingerly walking to the other side of the court, she broke down in tears and walked to the net. She could not continue. Sharapova held her hand in sympathy at the net and Golovin walked off on the shoulders of the trainer as the crowd, and Sharapova, applauded.

Sharapova is seldom the crowd favorite. It doesn’t help that she hardly ever plays a match in her home country and she hasn’t been the underdog since she was seventeen years old – the year she won the 2004 Wimbledon.

Her god-awful, primal scream upon hitting every groundstroke also doesn’t help. Is there a correlation between screaming volume and personality? Are prima donnas more likely to be big screamers? The first two examples that came to mind are Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport. Seles very much liked to be the center of attention and Davenport does not. Davenport does not grunt. Seles most definitely did and was very loud about it. If you think of a counter-example, a shy person who was a big screamer, please leave a comment.

Sharapova is not a prima donna off the court. It’s not her fault that she’s beautiful enough to have the biggest commercial portfolio of any professional tennis player since Anna Kournikova and she’s pleasant in press conferences. Her bravado comes from her confidence, not attitude. It’s not like Serena Williams’ unwillingness to grant her opponents credit after a loss. Serena is fond of saying that the other person doesn’t matter, if she’s on her game, no one can beat her. Meaning, of course, that the loss was due to Serena’s bad play not her opponen’s skill.

On the court though, Serena is all business and I respect that. Sharapova’s on court behavior does not endear her to fans. First of all there’s that serve. It’s loaded with attitude. She rocks back on her heels, comes to a pregnant pause and tilts her head to the side as if to say,

More importantly, she doesn’t relate to the crowd. She celebrates by turning to her box and pumping her fist. “Hello, Maria, it’s me, the spectator. I’m the one applauding. There’s someone else here besides your father and hitting partner. I’m freezing my butt off here in the evening cold to come out and watch you and I don’t care in the least where your father is sitting. In fact, I don’t particularly care anything about him at all.

Maria took a bathroom break at 5-3 in the second set after losing a 5-1 lead – that was the start of the booing – then took a shirt change break after Golovin won the set in a tiebreaker – more booing.

If you want to look behind Maria you can see part of the problem. Her father, Yuri, is graceless and has trained Maria to be singleminded – a good trait in the competitive world of tennis – without the grace. It’s all good and well to be the face of tennis both during the competition – this is her second straight final in a Masters Series Event – and during commercials, but the fans have to be able to connect with you. If you’re graceless, if you choose to keep yourself isolated so that you can stay ready (yuck) instead of showing compassion for an obviously hurting opponent, we are not happy.

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