For the first set at Staples Center last night, not much happened in the match between Lindsay Davenport and Maria Sharapova except for a medical emergency. An unfortunate man collapsed in the stands. Medics gave him CPR but it didn’t look good. They carried him out during a break between games. The next game started without any delay. I was once on a ferry between Vancouver and Victoria Island when a man collapsed on the deck. Medical personnel worked for twenty minutes to keep the man alive until the ferry returned to Vancouver. Last night they gave the man CPR for a short period of time then carried him out. It made you wonder if disturbing the match was less important than trying to revive him.
When two players with virtually identical power games play each other, don’t expect long rallies. Each player tries to finish the point as fast as possible. Davenport and Sharapova have big forehands and big serves. Davenport’s serve should be harder since she outweighs Sharapova by forty-five pounds, but it was hard to tell because Davenport didn’t get many first serves in. In the eighth game of the first set, she hit five second serves to give up the break. In the third game in the second set, she hit six second serves and couldn’t get a first serve in to give up another break.
This match is a dead rubber for Davenport. It doesn’t mean anything. She is already in the semifinals. Davenport said that she complained to the WTA last year. She asked them to include a financial bonus for number of matches won, similar to the ATP tour Masters Cup year-ending tournament. The WTA made no changes and now they have a Friday evening of tennis matches with no significance except to determine matchups for the semifinals.
This match is a dead rubber for Davenport. It doesn’t mean anything.
If a product is not popular, a corporation should make changes to improve it. NASCAR created the Chase to the Championship to make races at the end of the year exciting. Once the Chase begins, only the top ten drivers can win the championship. Golf is considering moving its tour championships to creat a more exciting finish. Compared to those changes, creating a bonus system is not that difficult. The WTA should have listened to Davenport.
Down a break in the second set and hearing the crowd going crazy for her, there was actually a wave and a “Let’s go Lindsay” cheer, Davenport started cracking returns for winners. “When I got close to losing, ” she said, “my pride kicked in.” With Sharapova serving at 5-4, deuce, Davenport kept hitting the ball deeper and deeper and Sharapova kept backing up until Davenport finally put the ball away. Instead of match point for Sharapova, it was break point. “I’m still thinking, ‘Why didn’t I come in?” Sharapova said, “That’s why I lost the second set.”
In the fifth game of the third set, Davenport starts with a double fault and hits three more second serves, the theme of the evening, to go down a break. There is a “double dip” theory in tennis. If two highly ranked players meet and one of the players starts out poorly but is able to pick up their game and stay at a high level, that player is likely to win the match. If, instead, the player starts poorly – the first dip, picks up their game, then plays poorly again – the second dip, they are likely to lose. If you gain momentum then lose it, it’s very hard to get it back against a strong opponent.
There is also the “lucky effort” theory. If you are playing with maximum effort, the net chord balls drop on your side of the net. During Davenport’s resurgence at the end of the second set, she got the net chords. At the end of the third set, they drop on Sharapova’s side of the net. Sharapova won the match, 6-3. 7-5, 6-4.
Later in the evening, Amelie Mauresmo beat Elena Dementieva, 6-2, 6-3, knocking Kim Clijsters out of the semifinals and giving Davenport the year-end number one ranking. That match did mean something for Davenport.