French Open Tennis 2012: Maria Sharapova Must Seize Chance at Career Grand Slam

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French Open Tennis 2012: Maria Sharapova Must Seize Chance at Career Grand Slam
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

This could very well be Maria Sharapova's best and last chance to capture the career Grand Slam. I can't imagine a scenario where she'll have an easier road.

The world's No. 1 player Victoria Azarenka has already been eliminated, and Sharapova has only had to play one seeded opponent before today's match with 23rd-seeded Kaia Kanepi. She could certainly face a tough opponent in the semifinals, especially if fourth-seeded Petra Kvitova advances.

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Even with that potential matchup, this is a golden opportunity for Sharapova. She's playing well (having only dropped one set in the tournament thus far), and this level of play couldn't have come at a better time.

Sharapova is 25 years old, and typically a player's game will show decline in this stage of their career. She won't likely have another shot at Roland Garros with this current dynamic of ability and depleted competition.

She's obviously still physically capable of competing at a very high level, and the higher seeded women that would challenge her are a shaky bunch. Azarenka has shown the propensity to implode, and this drastically impedes her overall development.

Watch Azarenka's sarcastic response to questions after her latest defeat:

Along with Azarenka there is Agnieszka Radwanska. She was seeded third in the women's draw, but was dumped in third round of the tournament.

Radwanska is 23 years old and Azarenka is 22. They aren't premier clutch performers now, but they are almost sure to improve. As they improve, Sharapova will almost certainly decline.

The clock is ticking on Sharapova's window to accomplish this feat. This has to be her year to win the French Open, as I believe it's now or never.

Follow Brian Mazique and for reactions, analysis and news from the world of sports and sports video games.

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