Following such a long and dramatic match analysis of Kasatkina vs. Cornet, I thought it would be a nice refresher to analyze a straight set win. In fact, Maria Sharapova does not lose one game in her domination over Britain’s Harriet Dart. Sharapova’s 6-0 6-0 win makes all the sense because she played to win, and Dart could not find any opportunities to break her down.
Everyone knows Sharapova as the hard-hitter who never backs down from a fight. Her Achilles heel is that her movement has always been average, so any player who uses good variety on their shots gives Maria a hard time. Therefore, the mindset that Dart has going into this match is clear: move her.
And Dart does just that; she drop shots Maria within the first game, and hits behind her as well. If Maria was having an off day, Dart could have had a chance. Unfortunately for Dart, Maria played very smart tennis, and has even improved her movement during the offseason, creating a very uneven matchup.
Let’s talk about what Maria did well. Dart’s serve was very weak, so Sharapova took Dart’s serves as an approach shot. Think about it: an approach shot lands in the service box, and is slow moving. Therefore, if your opponent’s serves are slow, you have every reason to take the serve as an approach shot and rip it. They are pretty much handing you the perfect shot to hit a winner off of. Being able to hit Dart’s serves as approach shots allows Maria to break Dart’s serve every single time. Not only did she break Dart every time, but Dart also had an extremely low first serve percentage because of the pressure Maria is putting on her serve.
Even though Maria hits very hard and flat for every single shot, she can still play a high percentage game. When you hit cross court, the ball is going over the lowest part of the net, and therefore even if you hit flat, it will still go over the net. Maria hit cross court for most of her shots, and the only time she hit down the line was when she was inside the court and had time to set up for her shot.
One aspect of Maria’s game that has been improving over the years is her ability to take balls out of the air. A few years ago, Maria would let every ball bounce, no matter where she was on the court. But lately, she has started to take more time away from her opponents by hitting out of the air on high short balls. Whenever Dart was on the run, she would lift the ball up. This is a smart tactic on her part because she knows she is playing against someone who does not particularly love the net. Half the time, Sharapova would play it safe and let the high ball bounce before she hit it. This allows Dart to have a chance to recover and maybe get to the next ball. The other half of the time, Maria would take the risk and hit the ball out of the air, hitting an automatic winner. But for Dart, it is better to maybe win half those points by hitting up than to lose every point by hitting low and into Sharapova’s strike zone.
In the end, Maria’s power and tactics outmatched the tactics of Dart, giving her a 6-0, 6-0 win. The 30 seed will go on to the second round and play Rebecca Peterson of Sweden.