"I know that if a player has to beat me, either she has to overpower me or she needs to stand there for hours and hours. That's mostly what happens if a player has to beat me.
It's a good feeling to have, because I feel that I'm in good shape. I can stand there for hours and I can take my chances."
That was Caro on Thursday in advance of her semifinal matchup with Masha and as much as we all like to give her shit about her seemingly weaponless game, it's pretty hard to argue with her assessment. "Hit me off the court or outlast me. Those are your options."
Today against Mono, that "or" turned into a very emphatic "and". Caro dominated the first set, running down every ball and forcing misses from Mono.
"See? You can't hit through me."
With her back against he wall and recognizing her gameplan was fail (smart!) Descartes threw caution to the wind in the second, stepping into the court to blast the ball left and right. Caro couldn't get the balls back with interest, Mono capitalized. You know she's is in a good spot when she's standing two feet inside the court in the rallies. To give full-credit to the Mathlete, it wasn't just a fine display of ball-bashing. She came to the net, she mixed up the pace, and she smartly attacked Caro's forehand.
"Oh, crap. You're hitting through me."
But the knock on Marion hasn't been her ability to hit the ball. I think she's proven over the time that she's one of the best ball-strikers if given the time to set up. The knock is her fitness, which, while she's looking trimmer this year, has never improved to the point to make her a real threat in a tough three-setter. I was shocked she made it to the finals at all. She has a history of rolling through the early rounds of tournaments only to hit a wall around the quarterfinals.
"Well, you're going to have to outlast me."
It was clear through the first through games of the third that Mono was out of gas. Her legs were heavy, she was breathing hard, and she just couldn't get any stick on her shots. Caro meanwhile, was fit as a fiddle. That was pretty much the story in this one: fitness --> consistency --> win.
Credit to Mono for a fine run here and a return to the Top 10. It'll be fun having her back in the mix. Her brand of aloof-nuttiness is always fun and, I must say, admirable. I get the sense that hers is a lonely world. I always see her walking around tournaments alone and unrecognized. She doesn't have a crew of countrywomen to hang with either. As she pointed out in her post-match speech, her father is the only person in her box, while Caro's was overflowing with family and friends. For whatever reason, rightly or wrongly (seriously, I'm not judging one way or the other), she's a misfit. And goddammit if I don't love misfits. I may not like your music, but I'll respect your ability to play it.
Congrats to Caro on arguably her biggest title of the year. You have to credit the girl, even if begrudgingly. She's doing everything she can do to quiet the haters. With an injured Kim in Miami, she's gotta be the presumptive favorite, whether we like it or not.
And damn if that kit looks so much better when you cover up the ruffles.