There was no finer display of Tennis Hate than the semi-final match between Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic. It messed with their heads, their serves, their strokes and, in Ivanovic's case, her tummy.
Ivanovic, seeded 9th, eked out the victory, but just barely, toppling fifth-seed Maria Sharapova in a nearly three-hour-long see-saw battle, 6-2, 5-7, 7-5.
What was worse? Ana letting slip a 4-0 lead in the second set, losing five games in a row to Maria? Or Sharapova double faulting, twice, while serving for the third set and the match to allow Ivanovic to pull even with her, 4-4?
I really got a little tight," said Ivanovic. No kidding.
Ivanovic said that, in the second set, she had stopped moving her feet. "I really got a little tight," Ivanovic said later. "I wasn't moving my feet forward enough and played a little passive."
Any movement seemed to be coming from Ivanovic's gut. In the third game of the third set, between points, Ivanovic bent over, her hands and racquet between her knees. She walked over to her chair and called for a doctor, who ended up instructing her to lie down on the court to have her blood pressure taken.
Nerves, or food poisoning? Ivanovic said she thought she ate something funny. In her on court interview after the match, she said she started feeling poorly in the second set.
Interesting, how that sick feeling coincided with her plummeting forehand accuracy and her waning focus.
“I think I ate something bad today,” she told reporters later. “When my coach was coming out, I kept telling him I don’t feel good, like my stomach is really upset. Then it really built up in the third set, and I was not feeling fine. They gave me some pills, and after some games it was better.”
Check her blood pressure!" sniped Sharapova.
The pills, she said, were for nausea. Sharapova, meanwhile, could have used a chill pill. She was seething at what she thought was Ivanovic's gamesmanship. Broken back serving at 4-3 in the third set, Sharapova looked at the chair umpire and tapped her upper left arm with her racquet, indicating a sphygmomanometer cuff.
"Check her blood pressure!" she sniped.
Hell, check mine. It just went up, typing sphygmomanometer.
According to The New York Times, Sharapova blamed her Tennis Hate on court officials not telling her what was going on down there, on the side of the court, with Ivanovic being attended to like some 1920s noblewoman at Downton Abbey who just spotted a water bottle on her marble mantle.
“All of a sudden, there is an interruption. You don’t know what’s going on. Is it an injury? And then you don’t get an answer. I don’t think they even know. That’s the tricky part, I guess.”
Sharapova broke right back to make it 5-4. ESPN coverage showed her shaking her head ever so slightly, and oh so disapprovingly, as she passed Ivanovic near the umpire's chair. She remained so rattled by Ivanovic's courtside doctor's visit that she committed two consecutive double faults while serving for the match, giving Ana a 6-5 lead.
That is so unlike Maria Sharapova. She has that oft-mimicked pre-service routine for a reason. She does it to hit the reset button and wipe away whatever happened in the previous point. To see her all unSugarpova-like on the court, frowning, sighing and making snide remarks, was surprising. To answer my own question, Sharapova suffered the most from Tennis Hate and was unable or unwilling to use her mental tools to fix what ailed her on Saturday night.
Ivanovic did not buckle this time. She even hit a vicious cross court winner for match point. Guess she wasn't feeling tight anymore. And any throwing up on the court came when Sharapova tried to stretch her 6'2" frame to get that drive. Her stab backhand framed the ball and sent it sky-high.
Too bad she couldn't take it to Serena Williams in the final. Williams beat Ivanovic handily, 6-4, 6-1, to win her first title at the Western & Southern Open.