Maria Sharapova: 5 Reasons Sharapova Will Win the 2012 French Open
As the tennis matches begin in full force this week at Roland Garros, there are a number of contenders in both the men's and women's brackets. But no contender comes with as much fanfare and scrutiny as Maria Sharapova.
Of course few players can match Sharapova's pop culture impact. Perhaps only Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal come close on the men's side. And no real tennis player on the women's side is as big as Sharapova.
It is for that reason that all eyes will be on Sharapova the next couple of weeks as she takes aim at the elusive French Open title.
1. She Needs a French Open Title to Complete the Career Grand Slam
Maria has won three of the four grand slam events in her career—Wimbledon in 2004, the U.S. Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008. Based on that pattern, she should have taken the French Open in 2010. Instead Francesca Shiavone took the title at Roland Garros that year.
In fact, not only has Maria never won the French Open, she's never even been the runner-up. Her personal history at Roland Garros is about as impressive as Matt Ryan's first four years as the franchise quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons.
Yeah she's won some matches but never really got close to winning the big one. For someone as successful as Sharapova, her lack of success on this particular
French clay court ought to be enough motivation for her going into the week.
2. She's Finished Near the Top Multiple Times in the Last Year
In two of the last three grand slam events she's played in, Maria Sharapova was the runner-up. She lost to Victoria Azarenka in this year's Australian Open and to Petra Kvitova at the 2011 U.S. Open.
Considering that her previous best finish at a grand slam was a runner-up bid at the 2007 Australian Open, the two runner-ups in the past year is more than an encouraging sign for Sharapova as she strives to get back to the top of the women's tennis world.
Tennis isn't altogether different from golf, in that the athlete wants to play their best at the most high profile tournaments. For that reason the recent runner-ups indicate Sharapova is back to being the giant force she should be when the lights are brightest.
Now she needs to take that same mentality and make good with it at Roland Garros.
3. She Just Won on Clay
Just this weekend, the beautiful Russian claimed a victory on the rainy clay surface at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. She defeated Li Na in the final in an exhilarating match 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (after playing some extra tennis).
It wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination. But perhaps the still young (the same age as me at 25 years old) Russian can use the experience she gained in winning in Rome to improve her play at Roland Garros.
If nothing else, winning on the clay in the rain ought to boost her confidence about playing on a surface she has struggled with over the course of her career, especially in the grand slam.
Of course this isn't the first time Sharapova has won at Rome, but combined with her successes at recent grand slams, she should be more prepared to win this week than ever before.
4. Second Seed Is a Good Place to Be
With the large grand slam field (128 players), Sharapova won't face a player her equal until she gets to the quarterfinals and plays Serena Williams.
Granted, it's a huge assumption to say that both players will win out to play one another. But it is expected, and thus tennis fans can get excited about the matchup between the two.
Considering Serena's dominant three-year run from 2008 to 2010 and her being the only lady to pinch a cramp in Sharapova's hold on runner-up status in the last three grand slams, a matchup between the two would be the most anticipated quarterfinals matchup of the entire French Open.
If Sharapova could get by Williams, her confidence would be brimming and and so high that she might actually believe she could capture the one grand slam trophy she has yet to hold.
It almost wouldn't matter who she plays in the semis or finals, since she would be playing as well as she's ever played in Paris. That said, Victoria Azarenka is the top-seeded player in the tournament and a thorn in the side of Sharapova thus far (as stated earlier, she's the one who defeated Maria in the Australia Open earlier this year).
Both players are playing great and the two would combine for a memorable matchup if they meet in early June.
5. Regaining the World No. 1 Ranking Is Great Motivation
A win at the French Open, along with her nemesis Azarenka failing to reach the final, would allow Sharapova to regain the World No. 1 ranking, something she last claimed in 2007.
A major shoulder injury dropped her as far as 126th overall in 2009. That she is now within reach of the No. 1 ranking a mere three years later has to make Sharapova both humbled and motivated.
To think she is back to a place of prominence within the game should be reason enough to keep her working hard as she approaches an age in the game when many women have crept downhill. Age is not the friend of the tennis player.
Sharapova has a chance to buck that trend. That should be her goal, and I trust that it is. How beautiful a thing would it be if she could find that kind of redemption now. And to win the career grand slam as the way to get that No. 1 ranking would be that much sweeter.
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