All through the day I was getting shit via Twitter and email that I was being a total Debbie Downer regarding Sam. That I was being one of those pessimistic fans who just talks down their faves' chances in order to insulate themselves from disappointment. I'm not saying I don't do that. But I definitely wasn't in this case.
Sometimes it's just about the matchups. Rankings, past performance, history, it all goes out the window. It doesn't matter that Sam's ranked #5 and Petra's ranked #28. It doesn't matter that Sam was an RG finalist and Petra was a Wimbledon semifinalist. And it didn't even really matter that Sam had an ok leadup while Petra won Brisbane.
To me, what mattered was that Petra was a tall, flat-hitting, left-handed Czech who could clock the ball. Her height would neutralize the kicker and the forehand, forcing Sam to hit more flat serves, which she would be more inclined to miss. Her flat-hitting would expose Sam's movement issues. And her left-handedness would make it easier for her serve to get to the Stosur backhand. Even if Sam played well, I just didn't see this being a straightforward match at all. As Sam Smith observed, there were a lot of potholes for Sam in this match.
Sam didn't play poorly. She actually played pretty well. But just like the RG10 final, her opponent never shirked in the moment and she was playing as well as I have ever seen her play. Sometimes there's not much you can do about that. Sam definitely had her chances. She led 3-0 in the first set breaker and 5-3 later. But as it happens in tight matches, the whole thing can turn on its head with a missed first serve, or a decision to go cross court as opposed to down the line. A backhand here, a forehand there, and next thing you know, you can count on one hand the shots that just didn't go your way.
I made a bet with Matt Cronin that Sam would hit more than 5 backhand winners in the match. She hit 2. I think I'm more annoyed that I lost the bet. Then again, if I had won the bet I'm pretty sure Sam would still be in the tournament. In otherwords, it was a really dumb bet.
Sam was clearly disappointed but, as always, had some perspective:
Yeah, I'm obviously very disappointed to not win. But I actually thought I played really well so... It's hard to walk off the court thinking you played well. It was so close, I mean, that first set.
Don't really know how I lost it, to be honest. Felt like I started playing a bit better and was probably on top of her and then all of a sudden it was gone and I was a set down. I thought she played extremely well pretty much the whole way through.
She really really did. I sat there racking my brain, trying to figure out what she should differently in the match, but my limited tennis brain couldn't come up with much. Slicing more seemed to be effective but Petra started to read that pretty well and got up to the ball quickly. Drop shotting? The kid has dropped some kilos and her improved movement showed. Petra's tennis was just better than Sam's tonight. You gotta tip your visor and your cap (Sam wore both) to the kid.
I think I did everything right leading into the tournament, during the tournament, and I can't say that, you know, I didn't do this or that or was disappointed in how I handled that or any of it. You know, from this time a year ago I think I've played a lot better, handled myself a lot better and everything else, but I lost a round earlier. What do you do? That's sport, I guess.
Yeah. I guess.