Friday, January 7, 2011

Reputations, it seems, mean very little to Hungarian, Greta Arn. Put a former world number one such as Maria Sharapova at the opposite end of the court and she lifts mightily. No cowering to the leggy one’s past achievements, for her.

Nothing fazed Arn as she became the giant killer at the ASB Classic, today, by sending the top seed packing from the tournament in an emphatic 6-2, 7-5 quarter-final victory. Arn seemed to care not of the blistering power of the Sharapova ground strokes. The harder Sharapova hit, Arn would simply see this as an opportunity to return the favour with interest.

That she did, too. Unlike Sharapova, Arn went about her business with an intelligence of play, not to mention patience that the Russian appeared to be lacking in. Particularly in the first set, this was the case.

While Sharapova seemed thrilled at the prospect of belting the ball into another time zone, Arn bided her time with patient thoughtful tennis. Her foe, though, spent the majority of the first set playing with a sameness in the form of hard flat shot making off both the forehand and backhand. Not for her to set a point up with half a dozen topspin shots well over the net in the hope that Arn would make an unforced error.

Instead, it was Arn playing the percentages and waiting for the inevitable Sharapova error to rare its ugly head. And she never had to wait too long, it must be said. Only thirty minutes into the match, she was leading 5-2 and serving for the first set. This Arn managed with ease.

6-2 up and seemingly cruising to victory, Arn could have been forgiven for letting her intensity slacken, somewhat. A mistake, that would have been, though, as Sharapova set about reversing her sagging fortunes.

Despite her approach of the first set not working out to well, she persevered in the hope that eventually her luck would change. And it did for a while. Having drawn level at 2-2, Sharapova went on a two game blitzkrieg of error free tennis to totally dominate Arn, and take a 4-2 lead.

Arn is a fighter, though. The thirty-one year old veteran wasn’t about to let a victory over one of tennis big names slip through her grasp. She broke Sharapova’s serve in the 13th game with a brilliant backhand down the line to leave Sharapova floundering. On a high from such a magnificent shot, Arn then held serve to level at 4-4.

Hard it must have been for Arn, wondering which Sharapova would turn up for the 17th game. As good as Sharapova had been at times in the second set, she appeared to be suffering from a split personality. One minute she was great, the next all airy fairy. Unfortunately for Arn, it was the former who graced centre court with her presence displaying a forceful array of deadly forehands to take a 5-4 lead.

So, a third set was waiting just around the corner. The crowd was starting to get in behind their favourite Russian. Willing her on to greater effort they did, as not often do they get to witness a true world sporting star in their own back yard. They were dammed if they were going to miss out on seeing more of Sharapova.

Alas, it was not to be.

For, Arn steadied her game and fought back as she rampaged her way through the next three games to seal the victory and a spot in the semi-finals, happy in the knowledge that she has put paid to the hopes of local tennis fans seeing more of Sharapova.

No comments: