Two marquee matches are lined up for the tennis viewing today—and both finals: on the men's tour the Basel final between Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro, and on the women's side the final of WTA, championships between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova at Istanbul.
It needs no mentioning that the Basel final will be of lesser interest, but if only for the tournament's stature as an ATP 500 event and one sort of introductory to the closing indoor component of the season. But, the two players who will feature in it are of superstar status and will put on a match worthy of a Grand Slam final—as indeed happened at the U.S. Open in 2009.
Since that particular match, the tall Del Potro has managed just one win in eight matches, and truth be told, it will be a tall task even for the six-foot-something Argentine. The 2-13 record he holds against Federer, however, is something of a red herring.
It lulls the unsuspecting Federer fan into the belief that Del Potro has played a role not unlike the Hewitts and Roddicks of the past—the worthy rival who is never worthy enough to best the Swiss.Their last match, after all, was a thriller, on Federer's favourite grass, at the Wimbledon Olympics semifinal, which Federer edged 19-17.
It is the 17-time major champion who will most certainly be most wary of Del Potro's effortless pace and crunching groundstrokes. The Argentine has wreaked havoc on his last four opponents and battered Gasquet into submission yesterday. Federer, by contrast, has relatively struggled; yet, he it is who will have the marginal advantage in the final.
On the other side of Europe, Williams and Sharapova will do battle for the final prize of the year and arguably the most significant after the Grand Slams. Again, they are a pairing worthy of a Grand Slam final—having contested twice at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, and again, it is Williams, like Federer, who has a lopsided record against Sharapova at 9-2.
Unfortunately for the Russian, little has changed between them, as was evidenced in their last match at the Olympic final (Williams won 6-0, 6-1); Williams, on all counts, is simply one step ahead of her, for all Sharapova's renowned grit and lust for the fight.
Sharapova, whose serve and movement will surely be sorely tested against Williams, will nonetheless have been buoyed by her victory over Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals, a woman who had beaten her some four times in 2012. In Sharapova's favour, maybe the indoor court, which will provide less hindrance to her serve, will allow her to settle in a rhythm better.
It may also be noteworthy that William's own celebrated first shot has not been up to the celestial standards we have typically expected of her; yet overall, the advantage is heavily with Williams, whose complete tennis package may prove too much for Sharapova yet again.
For the men, a Federer victory may signal the start of the world No. 1 campaign to properly defend the some 2,500 points he accrued at end of last year and his year-end ranking; a Del Potro win would be surprising but will not have been unforeseeable.
A Williams win will only confirm the suspicions many have had of the women's tour over this year—that she, for her ranking as third best, is de facto the tennis queen. Victory for Sharapova, on the other hand, will go some way to legitimating the current standings and crowning what will have been a stellar 2012 for her in which she completed a career Grand Slam.