Before we get all crazy with this, can we just stop for a moment and have a hand for how well Bepa’s been playing this year?
I’ve been thinking about writing something on Bepa for a bit now, and there’s two things that really stand out. First, her new coach Sergey (a whole bunch more on that in a second) and the incident in Charleston. We all know it by now. Youtube it if you don’t. Bepa absolutely lost her shit while getting demolished by Sam in the final. It was as classic as Bepa spazouts go. That’s a word right?
However, in the larger context, it also reminds me of Marcos at the Australian Open. Down two sets to love against Ferru (oh, Ferru) he smashed his racquet, sat down… and pulled another one out of the bag, and straight up smashed it sitting in his chair. It was absolutely absurd and hilarious (my dad was watching and thought it was the dumbest, gooniest thing ever)… but it worked. The commentators noted it and showed it later. Marcos clenched his teeth, pumped himself up, and won the damn thing in five sets. Charleston almost seems to have been that moment for Bepa. She hit the limit of the drama, and it’s been nothing but business ever since. The other factor? Sergey.
Much a fuss has already been made about Sergey… for his looks. Sure, he’s hotter than your average Russian underwear model. But what about his coaching? First of all, being younger, I get the feeling Bepa likely relates a bit better to him, and you know, actually listens to him. Secondly, he refuses to come down for on court coaching during matches. You’re out there on your own, girl. Lastly, along the lines of the first thing, from what I saw during a practice on the second show court in Montreal, the dude leads a solid evening hit. It wasn’t match intensity, but there was a certain seriousness to it, and you could tell Bepa was out there to put in the work, and Sergey was certainty laying into some balls. I had never seen Bepa practice before then, but a good practice hit (especially when it’s with your coach) is always a good sign.
The moral of this story? It’s not Bepa’s game that’s improved, it’s her brain. Her smacks at her legs are no longer of anger, they’re to pump herself up. That intensity has always been there with Bepa, the problem has been that it’s cracked at key moments. When things start coming undone at the seams, the key is to turn the intensity into a positive one, and gosh darn, Bepa’s found the way to do that. At 26, she’s got the experience and changed the way she thinks, and at an age where her game is at the best of level it’s ever been.
That’s some serious killer instinct, and that’s what is important in the brain of every champion. Pedal to the metal, foot on the throat… however you want to put it. You’ve heard it a million times. This is the second time Bepa will be in a slam final this year, don’t count her out for a second.
As for the actual “keys to the match”? Well, let’s look at the head to head. They’ve played twice since Kim’s been back. In Montreal, Bepa won in 3 sets, but I don’t really like using that. Kim played and won Cincy the week before and was likely worn thin. Bepa did beat her at Wimbledon, however. As depressing as a match as that was for me, Vera played out of her mind and was an absolute brick wall from the baseline. Kim won all 5 meetings before then, 4 of which were in 2006 and 3 of which were on hard courts (Bepa was only in the top 30 for one of them).
The Wimbledon match is a big one to look at. Bepa is an interesting player, she can have counter-punching tendencies, but also the power and killer instinct to spank winners. What do I mean? First of all, she deals with power very well. She’s totally fine with moving and taking the ball early, as well as changing directions. She’s also not afraid to nail that big time, down the line, JJ like backhand. However, she has a pretty gigantic forehand that can also get her winners.
Kim is pretty obvious. Flat, huge, and spraying everywhere. The interesting thing is that both of these players can have a tendency to get wild, and with the speed Kim plays at, that means momentum could shift very quickly for either player.
For Kim, she’s going to have to do what she does best early. Come out hitting huge, playing her quick style, and getting the crowd behind her (which I think should be pretty easy). Getting that first set won’t crack Bepa put it will apply a ton of pressure, and… well, it’s still Bepa.
For Vera, patience is thy name. I’d like to see her try and use those good counter-punching abilities early to work her way into the match, and more specifically Kim’s service games. Turn the power around, get comfortable, see how she’s playing and see where you’re at. Then you can figure out what’s working, and start trying to go for the forehand and expose some holes.
I really do love both of these players, and am totally pumped for this final. If this were any other slam, I’d probably like to see Kim win, but since she won it last year… well bloody hell, Bepa’s been having a career year, an even better past couple of months, and has hit an absolute peak right now, which is pretty amazing considering a lot of people wrote her off after her injury last year and because of her meltdowns. Go get ‘er, girl.