So, she lost to Sam Stosur having beaten Li Na. She wasn’t a long way from beating three grand slam champions back-to-back, and she would have faced a 4th (Azarenka) had she beaten Stosur. To illustrate what a tough draw that is, when Sharapova won Wimbledon aged 17, she only faced two grand-slam champions – in the semi-final (Davenport) and final (S. Williams). Not many players ranked down in the 80s & 90s beat two grand-slam champions in a row.
So why should you be excited about her? Well, Paul Annacone thinks that Laura already has a serve and a forehand in the top 10 of the women’s game. That is high praise by any standard; and these days it is weapons that win you grand slam titles on the WTA tour. Even in a 6-4 6-4 loss, in which she did not play her best, Laura hit 17 winners compared to 18 from the big-hitting powerhouse that is Stosur. Sadly Laura’s unforced error count was almost double that of Sam (41 to 24) and was the main reason for her loss. Fear not though, it is easier for a player to reign in unforced errors from an aggressive style, than it is to manufacture winners from a solid game.
Also worthy of a big mention is further evidence of Laura’s mental strength. She, from a relatively hopeless position in the match, refused to give in. She saved 8 match points and broke back once to demonstrate that she will not give in – this is another skill that cannot be taught. Another point I’d like to make is that, after her victory over Kim, she was asked about her form and quality of play. She remarked that it was wasn’t a drastic improvement of late, only that she had been injury free.
For me, there are two areas she needs to improve:
(1) to continue to reduce her unforced error count while maintaining her aggression, and
(2) to be able to perform, to this level, in lesser tournaments with smaller crowds (her best victories and performances have all been a big events).
I predict that, buy this time next year,
she will be deep inside the world’s top 32.