Over the past 11 days, Maria Sharapova has been in a giving mood – candy, bagels, breadsticks, you name it the Russian superstar has been handing it out by the fistful. But on Thursday the giving stopped.
After 93 minutes of play, a 6-2 6-2 scoreline lit up the scoreboard, only thing was, Sharapova was on the losing end. She had conceded more games in this one match than her previous five combined.
The tables had indeed been turned. Six double faults, 32 unforced errors and just one of seven break points converted. These were the kinds of stats Sharapova’s opponents returned against her in the first five rounds.
The numbers told the story and Sharapova clinically filled in the gaps when she faced the media afterwards.
“I think she played a really great match,” came the first cool response. “She was certainly much more aggressive than I was, dictating the play. I was always on the defense.”
Any TV commentator would have been impressed with her self-analysis. It was spot on.
“When I had my opportunities and break points in games that went to deuce, I don't think any of them really went my way today.”
It seemed every time Sharapova had a chance to get back into the match, Li had the answer, which generally came in the form of a screaming forehand winner down the line or an unreachable crosscourt backhand.
Some wondered aloud whether or not all those bagels and breadsticks Maria dished out early in the week like a baker with too much stock and not enough shelf space actually did her more harm than good.
Would the second seed have benefited from some tougher matches early on? According to her, no, probably not.
“I can't think of it that way. I certainly can't use that as an excuse. When I go into any match, I'm trying to win with the best scoreline I can. That's my goal,” she said.
“If I'm tested, I have to pull through it. Then, yes, that's great. If I win with a good scoreline, move on to the next one, try to do the same thing.”
But don’t cry for Maria tennis fans, because she’s certainly not crying for herself – at least not while anyone is watching.
“You lose a match and you go on to the next one. I've been in this position before. I've come through it. I'm tough. I'm not afraid to go out and keep working, work as hard as I can to be quicker, better, improve in these situations, and when I have another chance, take it.”
Clinical, but honest. Maria has never been one to feel sorry for herself in public. She will move on, she will come back and she will win again, but just where that will be, not even Maria is quite sure.
“I think it's Doha or maybe Dubai. I think Doha. I don't know. I'm so clueless.”