Mon Aug 29 06:35pm EDT
Maria Sharapova lost the opening set of her first-round match at the U.S. Open to British teenager Heather Watson. When the three-time Grand Slam champion came out for the next set, she made two key adjustments: She started playing more aggressively, hitting the ball with more velocity in an attempt to paint the line for winners. She also started shrieking at the top of her lungs on every point.
It worked. Sharapova came back to defeat the 19-year-old Watson 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in an opening-round thriller in New York.
[Photos: See more of tennis star Maria Sharapova]
Now, I know what you're thinking: "Sharapova always screams on points. This is nothing new." This is true. Monday took it to a different level.
The shrieks were louder and, more importantly, they were longer. Without a decibel meter, I can't prove the former. With a stopwatch and the ol' DVR, I was able to confirm the latter.
Few of Sharapova's grunts in the first set went longer 0.8 seconds. That was approximately the same duration as her shrieks in the Wimbledon final, which I also went back and looked at today. Contrast that to the final set, in which every audible grunt from Sharapova lasted well over a second. A few were as long as 1.6 seconds, enough time where they were still going on as Watson was hitting a shot.
Ask Sharapova why and she'll say it's because she was hitting the ball harder (which itself was a questionable strategy against a young player on a big stage) or releasing energy or whatever justifications she makes in her mind for screaming like a banshee on court. She won't say it was gamesmanship, that she was grunting so long because it would distract a 19-year-old opponent on the verge of the biggest victory of her life, that the volume was meant to get in her head and the length was a way of diverting Watson's attention in her backswing.
That doesn't make it any less true.