Living Up The Expectations

In a first thought, this piece may sound totally unnecessary. Comparing two players separated by such a few age difference (only two years), but a huge gap when it comes to titles and achievements. But since this blog is a space for my opinions, it worth the try.


Photo: Yaho! Images

In other words, I’m saying Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka – the finalists of this year’s Sony Ericsson Open – share more than the blonde hair, the clothing sponsor and the angelical ubercute faces.

They both share expectations, from fans (well, it doesn’t count much, since the fans always expect nothing but the best from their faves) and specialized media (which can be such a pain sometimes). And for the most different reasons.


Sharapova, who changed the cold Siberia for the warm Florida at such an age when most of girls still think only about dolls to try her luck as a pro, was already there. Three slams, 22 titles, lots of fans worldwide, lots of money from both on and off-court activities, a former world no.1. Taken down by her own body, in a history we all know. Backwards and blindfolded.


The strong forehand and the unique fighting spirit was kept apart from high level tennis for months, leading to a deep fall in the rankings, and soon the perennial top-10 found herself out of the top-100 and coming back from injury in a crucial place for the tennis game.


Hello, Maria // Photo: Yahoo! Images

But that would never keep Maria away from the victories. Not at all. And after an awesome QF run at Roland Garros and some other consistent results, she was back into the top-20 less than one year after her return – something HUGE if you consider injuries can, more than jeopardize your body, affect your confidence.


But at the same time, top-20 is too low for a player like Sharapova…


And then you have a player like Victoria Azarenka. She’s from the same generation as Wozniacki (maybe the better of then, but I’ll talk about it a next time), AggieRad (who’s yet to have her *real* breakthrough), Petra Kvitova (seems to be getting on track this year) and others. A generation that will replace the one of Clijsters, the Sisters, Dementieva, and will fight for titles with the one of Sveta, Ivanovic, Jankovic.


But anyway, from the players of this generation, I’ve always heard about Azarenka and how skilled she was but could never use her potential to become a true contender and perennial top-10, entering the Slams as a favorite.


And how they all expected her to finally mature after beating Serena and capturing her first – and most important title – Miami crown two years ago. But yeah, she improved, but not enough.


And even though she became a top-10, and even stayed there for a while, she could never get any further than the world no.6. Plus, she’s also to reach her 1st Grand Slam semifinal – it could have been at the Australian Open in 2010, but she amazingly blown a huge advantage vs. Serena – even though she’s already been to quarterfinals.


But the United States. And the first two Mandatory events of the year. And that impression Vika and Sharapova are finally living up the expectations.


Both had great runs in Indian Wells, until Wozniacki crushed their dreams. Well, in fact, Azarenka had to give up the fight, injured, and Sharapova imploded in the very next round. But let’s keep the drama and villanize Caro a bit, just because.


They kept it all for Miami. The nightlife, the sun (and the rain), and the 5th Grand Slam (or is it Indian Wells? I always thought it was Miami). Sharapova – returning to the top-10 for the first time in more than two years – crushed everyone until the quarterfinals, then played like crap vs. Dulgheru, out-experiencing her, while the cute Romanian out-choked Masha and then ended the hopes of salivating fans who wanted to see the last Petkodance in the finals to reach the last match in Key Biscayne for the third time.


Vika, on the other half of the draw, went to three in her first three matches. But a Kim Clijsters that was like ‘Meh, me’s not want it anymore. Home. Want’ and a Vera Zvonareva that played like ‘WTF. Anything but the world no.3’ were enough to pump little (or not, since she’s 1.80) Victoria. And, oh, the white dress (don’t blame me for loving the WTA), who played a pivotal role on this all.


The White Dress. I truly believe the dress is her luck charm. Photo: Yahoo! Images

Azarenka won. And if you like stats, you will like to know she joined the Sisters and Kim as the only active women with multiple titles in Miami. And that she joined Caro as the only women with more than one Mandatory trophy on her shelves.


But that’s not what really matters. Ok, it is. But let’s not be frivolous. On a greater plan, Sharapova showed the world she can still rock – even though what Wozniacki did to her two week ago was worrying. As for Vika, I’m not in Miami, but according to what I read, she seems to have matured and improved mentally. That’s a huge step.


Wait and see if they will keep the good form is what is left. The clay season is already there, and, without a clear favorite, I’m expecting nothing less than interesting events in Madrid, Rome and the best Slam of the year, maybe, in Paris (exactly what does not happen in ATP).


Vika and the trophy. Looking good. Them both. // Photo: Yahoo! Images


About Pete S. Liguori
Pete was born in São Paulo, Brasil. Loves sports - pigskin fanatic, tennis lover. One of his most famous quotes is "I'm no Tolstoi, but I love the Dallas Cowboys" His favorite quote of all time is "I'll keep playing", unknown author.

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