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The Canadian Charmer vs. The Piercing Portuguese in VA pt. 2

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...Which ended with just the most heartbreaking melodrama ever. Larcher de Brito had come back from the early break and pushed Dubois to the brink. With Dubois serving at 5-6 to stay in the match, Michelle stuck to her guns and bullied Dubois around the court with amazing precision and power. She took complete possession of the first three points, giving her 3 match points. You could see in her eyes how much she could taste it. She was absolutely pumped for this victory. Dubois plays a good point to force an error. De Brito shrugs it off - still two more chances. Dubois gets bullied around again, pulled further and further off the court and in desperation unleashes a screaming forehand winner from the doubles alley. De Brito still doesn't look worried. Until it happens again - Dubois hits an exceedingly difficult screaming backhand winner - sliding - practically doing the splits - down the line! That shot just about brought the house down. After a few more points, if became clear the Larcher de Brito's belief was wavering and when she finally lost the game, sending her to a tiebreak rather than the winner's circle...the world ended.

Or it must have felt like it did to Michelle Larcher de Brito. When she walked up to the line to serve the first point of the tiebreak, it was very apparent that she was crying. Not just a stream of tears, but heaving sobs. I've seen the likes of Hantuchova and Zvonareva break down on television before in the middle of matches and I often had a bit of a "tsk-tsk" attitude about it. Like "you're a pro now, you've got to pull yourself together." Seeing it in person, however, just a couple feet's heartbreaking. It all seemed so much more real. These young/journeywomen players fighting it out for these modest points and the modest prize money, working so hard to get to a point and then falling just short. The frustration must have just been absolutely crushing. Like a physical weight on her shoulders.

Somehow...somehow, Larcher de Brito serves the ball in and sobs, grunts and crushes the ball all at the same time and takes the first point of the tiebreak and gets probably her biggest cheer of the afternoon. Nobody wants to see what will happen to her if she can't close this out in 2. Though it looks like we will see it anyway. Dubois had really hit her stride at this point and was starting to hit some very powerful offensive shots and play some just otherwordly defense. At, I think, 3-3 in the tiebreak, both of them were just teeing off on the ball and, as usual, Larcher de Brito got the upper hand. She yanked Dubois all over the place with deep topspon shots, flat shots, drop shots, then a lob then more side to side. Dubois used the clay to scrape, claw and slide to hold on shot after shot until finally Michelle hit a backhand down the line that just broke Dubois' resolve. She tracked it down, barely getting to it and hit a weak shot down the same line and proceeded to put down her racket and lean on the fence right in front of me, gasping for breath. All Michelle had to do was push the ball to the open court aka anywhere on the court for a big lead....and she pushed a backhand long. Dubois yelled something hilariously gleeful like "Yippeeeee!!" and nearly collapsed from exhaustion, relief and amusement that the fates had treated her so kindly. Larcher de Brito nearly collapsed from agony and self-disgust. Dubois got the next two points on her serve to get 3 set points at 6-3. On the third she took it and Michelle collapsed into her chair loudly sobbing into her towel. I felt so bad for her. Especially because we all know where this was headed. She just didn't have a chance anymore.

The third set was mercifully quick. Larcher de Brito was obviously still trying but she could barely get the ball over the net. She could barely even lift the racket, in her despair. She sobbed quietly throughout the entire set, knowing how a big one had just gotten away, was getting away and will soon have gotten away. By the time she was down 0-4, I couldn't help myself anymore and found myself tearing up, too. You just don't like to see people go through the emotional wringer. I think I'm going to reflexively cheer her on when I see her play, just because of what I saw firsthand and how personal I know it is for her.

I'm gonna cheer for Dubois too, though, make no mistake. She acquitted herself exceptionally well both during and after the match. When she closed out the third 6-1, her joy was written all over her face. She dodged a bullet and worked her butt off doing it. This is the kind of win you feel good about. She played well, faced tough competition and persevered through rough moments. I can think of one player waking up tomorrow with a smile on her face. And her comments after the match (the ceremony was agonizingly long, by the way. Do I need to know that much info about EVERY sponsor and EVERY tournament organizer?) were gracious, charming, funny and mature. She earned me as a fan just as much as she earned her, plaque.

An all around great time. Can't wait for next year.

Some random disjointed thoughts:

- Larcher de Brito seriously needs to take to heart the concept of wrong-footing. Her power game ceased to be effective when Dubois realized it was just going to be corner to corner to corner to corner ad nauseum. Dubois was already 3/4 of the way across the court to the next shot sometimes. Go behind her, Michelle.

- This was the first time I've set foot on a clay court in my life, even though it was just the funky green stuff. It was (if I may geek out for a second) WAY COOL!

- A woman sat next to me during much of the 2nd and 3rd sets and I'm 70% sure it was Stephanie Dubois's mother. They looked a like and every time Dubois was on our side of the court, they'd have brief discourse in French. Not coaching exactly, but just encouragement. My French isn't very good anymore, but I think it was stuff like "that was a great point," "you've got this," "keep fighting." She was, if I were briefly describe her, an elegant looking woman. I'm just too shy and socially inept to randomly ask her if she was who I thought she was. Our only exchange was when I said "bless you" when she sneezed (of the 20 people around us, I was the only one who said it too. It was during a changeover, so it's not like it was quiet. Do people not say that anymore or just not these particular Virginia country club people?). She smiled at me though, so that's...something...that happened...I guess...

- I toyed with staying for the doubles, but the first 3 games were awful (Julie Ditty looked to be having a great time, but tennis is more fun when you get the ball over the net, right?). I went to Whole Foods instead, which could be its own blog post. Being from Seattle, I'm used to going to stores like Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, PCC and other stores that offer a lot of alternative and organic selections and produce. In Harrisonburg, it's all about the Walmart and the Target, two stores that I feel pretty unhappy about supporting financially. So whenever I can get to Charlottesville, I bring a cooler full of ice so I can load up on fun stuff when I'm in that Whole Foods. I somehow kept my purchases down to about $60 this time (that store has the dangerous combination of having a WIDE selection of VERY cool stuff and being PROHIBITIVELY expensive) but I did stumble upon a delicious little creation there. I think their prepared foods are very much hit-or-miss (I had this impossibly disgusting cherry rhubarb pie there a few years back. ) but I tried this corn and cilantro fritter and it was just delicious. If that combination of things sounds remotely appealing, give it a try if you're there.

Okay, this blog is at an end. I took some pictures of the event too. You can find them here:

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  1. beaujarkko's Avatar
    Thanks, munchin. A thoroughly enjoyable read!
  2. kandi's Avatar
    Great report, Munchin - love it. It seems Michelle has some growing up to do - but look how long it took Vera Z to get her act together. Michelle is still quite young, and Dubois I believe has quite a lot more experience. I too am a fan of both and have been since ML appeared on the scene --
  3. Scotty's Avatar
    Great read!
  4. nelslus's Avatar
    Bless you munchin.

    Alternate message: Thanks much- excellent work.
  5. padmore's Avatar
    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every wow gold little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post

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