Sharapova vs. Kvitova: Experience Holds Serve over Youth at Australian Open

Josh MartinNBA Lead WriterJanuary 26, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 26:  Maria Sharapova of Russia plays a forehand in her semifinal match against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic during day eleven of the 2012 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The same "old" song has been stuck on repeat at the 2012 Australian Open.

Experience trumps youth.

Not absolutely, of course, but when the distinct advantage is one or the other, the former has dominated the latter.

That tune was echoing through Melbourne Park on Thursday as No. 4 seed Maria Sharapova dispatched No. 2 seed Petra Kvitova in three sets, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

In absolute terms, the difference in age between the two isn't particularly pronounced—Sharapova is 24, Kvitova's 21.

But in a sport like tennis, wherein the brightest stars start so young and fresh legs are so crucial to victory, those three years can and often do make all the difference. 

Sharapova hasn't won a Grand Slam event since she was Kvitova's age when she took home the championship trophy at the 2008 Australian Open. In fact, Sharapova has played in only one Grand Slam final since January 2008—at Wimbledon just last year.

In other words, while Sharapova has remained relevant in her sport of choice, she hasn't exactly delivered on her considerable talent of late.

Kvitova, on the other hand, has been hailed as one of the rising stars in women's tennis. The big Czech was on the up-and-up between the summer of 2010 and last summer with a semifinal, a quarterfinal and a win at Wimbledon over Sharapova among her most encouraging exploits.

Of course, losing to Sharapova in the semis hardly signifies an end to Kvitova's rise, nor does beating Kvitova completely reverse Sharapova's slow and steady slip into insignificance.

That being said, Sharapova has done well to uphold her end of tennis' "old guard" standing its ground down under. Defending champion Kim Clijsters, who topped Li Na and Caroline Wozniacki, fell to 22-year-old Victoria Azarenka in the semis.

The battle between experience and youth will log yet another exciting chapter on Saturday when Sharapova looks to uphold her honor and that of her peers against the younger, less battle-tested Azarenka, against whom the Russian bombshell has a 3-3 record.

Whether the song remains the same at Rod Laver Arena remains to be seen.