Finally there's a rivalry in women's tennis again.
Maria Sharapova's victory over Victoria Azarenka in the Porsche Grand Prix final in Germany was huge on many levels for the WTA Tour. Azarenka's lead over Sharapova is now less than 800 points. It's possible Sharapova could take the top spot after Madrid (Azarenka would have to do very poorly or not play and Sharapova would need to do well).
Even more importantly than the rankings, the win shows that Sharapova can beat Azarenka. Vika had crushed Maria in their previous meetings this year. The two have clearly established themselves as the top two players in the world (that's a very good thing for the WTA).
Azarenka has been in five finals this year, while Sharapova has been in four.
A rivalry can only be a rivalry if both players are winning against each other. Clearly Azarenka had the upper hand early this season, but now with Sharapova's win in Germany, the tide may be turning.
Sharapova was much more aggressive in this match, and she served in the tournament better than I've seen her do in quite a while. Azarenka's serve, in my opinion, is still a liability and Sharapova exposed it in the final. She was able to push Azarenka back and keep her on the defensive throughout much of the match.
Obviously, the two have a lot in common, from the big groundstrokes to the shrieks, and I think that's part of what makes it an interesting matchup.
I think the two will continue to be at the top for the rest of the year. They are both young—Sharapova is 25, Azarenka is 22—and this could be the beginning of a great rivalry.
Of course, what makes it even more interesting is that there is no love lost between them. A couple years ago in one of the Asian tournaments, Azarenka called an injury timeout during their match. Sharapova looked at the umpire and said "Is her last name Jankovic?"
In this weekend's final, the two bumped into each other as they were changing sides after the first set, shades of Venus Williams and Irina Spirlea. After the match, Azarenka in her post-match speech said Sharapova "did a good job," as the camera showed Sharapova look to her camp with an amused smile.
Sharapova then said in her post-match speech that it was unfortunate that Azarenka "was extremely injured." Azarenka called for an injury timeout for her wrist after losing the first set, but seemed to be playing just fine in the second set.
A little animosity makes rivalries even better and I for one can't wait to see these two go head-to-head over the next few years. This is what women's tennis has been missing.
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