Perseverance pays off: Mattek-Sands belts Lisicki to reach Stuttgart semis


Mattek Sands IW 12 TR MALT3809


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Sharapova beats Ivanovic in classic; Nadal to face Raonic in Barcelona

For a large portion of 2012, Bethanie Mattek- Sands had become the forgotten woman of US tennis. Struggling with injuries and food allergies she saw her ranking drop out of the top 200. But she never gave up hope, found out which food groups were bothering her, changed her diet, let her body heal and now after knocking out Sabine Lisicki 6-4 6-2 in the semis of Stuttgart, her first Premier level semifinal in more than two years, she back in the mix again.

She was a match point down to Maryna Zanevska in the qualifying and got through. She then belted Yanina Wickmayer, stunned Sara Errani on her beloved red clay and then overwhelmed Lisicki.

She is moving very well, attacking intelligently, mixing it up, leaping on returns and owning the net. All the good work she has done in doubles this year (with Sania Mirza) and during others has paid off. The 200 points she has already earned should get her back in the top 80 by next week. She has already made the main draw of Roland Garros, which will save her from having to qualify for another Slam, but more importantly the 28-year-old now can see all the results of all of her hard work, and all the massive amount of time that she and her husband Justin have spent on the road trying to get back to respectability in singles.

In the past year, outside of Serena, the talk in the US has been about the late rise of Varvara Lepchenko and the progress of the kids: Stephens, McHale, Keys, Davis etc.

Now the mid-to-late career Mattek is worth talking about just as much and given what a terrific personality she is, that development is very good news for the game. Mattek will face Li Na, who edged Petra Kvitova in two tough sets.

Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic have contested some very good matches over the years but their quarterfinal in Stuttgart was a cracker. Sharapova took the very hard fought and well played match 7-5 4-6 6-4 but Ivanovic did have her chances and with her two quality wins in Fed Cup and two more in Stuttgart she might be considered a top 5 favorite for Roland Garros if she keeps playing this well. Her serve seems to be under control, she is moving very well, cracking her forehand as always and has much more confidence at net. With that said, –and she knows this as she apparently smashed her racket in the locker room after the match — she needs to get wins over the super elite if she is to be a major factor at the Slams again.

For her part, Sharapova won her second straight very long match, the first one coming over Lucie Safarova. The defending champ was up and down, but returned extremely well when she had to, hit some big serves and even showed off some variety, hitting a couple of fine drop volleys, which you almost never see from her. Despite her poor record against Serena Williams the reigning Stuttgart, Rome and Roland Garros champ is the player to beat on red clay until other players show that they can beat her. Sharapova will face Germany

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