Maria Sharapova showed us the power of attitude in her 4th round match at the US Open versus Nadia Petrova. In a back and forth match, Petrova split sets with Sharapova and went up 2-0 in the third set. Petrova was on a run and Sharapova was in deep trouble. The US Open has not been her best tournament. Sharapova has a history of losing earlier at the US Open than in other Grand Slams. This includes memorable matches where she was a huge favorite like her defeat to Melanie Oudin.
With a history of first week losses at the US Open weighing on her like a 500-lb. gorilla Sharapova refused to give in. She was fortunate that the rains came and gave her a chance to refocus and talk to her coach. Her coach and father told her to keep fighting. And, that is exactly what she did. Sharapova came out of the one-hour rain delay with energy, intensity, and purpose. She was striking the ball clean and immediately broke Petrova to 2-1. Sharapova would roll from there and win the match. She can thank her comeback to her legendary focus and tough-minded attitude.
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When she returned from the locker room Sharapova repeatedly pumped her fist and imposed her intensity on Petrova. You could almost feel Sharapova intimidate Petrova through the television. I wish more players would use their intensity to change the course of matches. Andy Roddick has been doing it as well during the US Open. However, too many players seem to let fate take its course.
That is a tough statement because it is hard to know what is going through a player's head. In many cases professional players are better off not showing too much emotion or intensity because they do not respond well to it. Asking John Isner or Sam Querrey to act like Jimmy Connors is probably not a recipe for optimal tennis. At the same time may be a controlled burn is in order here? The ability to use your emotions to fuel your efforts, and impose your attitude on your opponent, while maintaining focus is a powerful weapon on the tennis court.
Serena Williams at times is awesome at finding the controlled burn. She vents positivity through fist pumps and yells on big points but does not lose it. Other times, like in her defeats the past few years at the Open, she let her emotions get out of control and she blew up at the umpire and lines people.
Therefore, it is a fine line to show emotion and stay focused. Not all players are Sharapova and Serena and can channel fierce intensity into composed shot-making. I guess tennis fans are fortunate that both Maria and Serena are still in the draw.