Having just come back from suffering a rather nasty sounding virus, Daniela Hantuchova was looking most impressive whilst attempting to retain her Indian Wells title this fortnight.
Downing players such as Sania Mirza and Jie Zheng in straight sets the Slovak was playing herself back into the sort of form that justifies her top ten ranking.
However, as predicted, she came unstuck in the quarter finals against a player who, like a virus infects the Slovak to a degree where she has become too much to overcome over the course of a match.
The loss is not surprising, nor is it a cause for concern for Hantuchova, who was rightfully satisfied with her week after some time away: “I feel good about my game right now and am happy to have come back and played well after being sick.”
Ever since the world number 8 defeated a teenage Sharapova in the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo 2004 the Russian has been a real bogey player. Owning a similar game style – the Slovak owning the much greater touch and feel yet still frustratingly reluctant to show it – matches between the two have often been evenly matched until a crunch moment, where Sharapova’s far superior mental toughness always wins through.
Despite some signs in Australia that such mental fragility was a thing of the past for Hantuchova, it was alas the case again in Miami. Up 5-2 in the first set Hantuchova just didn’t convert the chances, and Sharapova as is usually the case never allowed her opponent too.
A slow start from the Russian was quickly transformed into another commanding display of power tennis which has stretched her unbeaten record this year to an impressive 18-0.
Along with Ana Ivanovic, Hantuchova and Sharapova were the form players in the tournament, I fancy the Russian to repeat her 2006 success.
Hantuchova quote: http://www.pacificlifeopen.com/1/news/newsarticle_778.asp