French Open 2012: 5 Reasons Maria Sharapova Will Win Gold in Olympics
Maria Sharapova just completed her career Grand Slam, and when the new rankings come out she will once again be the world's top ranked player.
She played brilliantly to win the French Open title, as she lost only one set in the whole tournament.
Sharapova, who had lost her two previous Grand Slam finals, had little problem in the final against Sara Errani.
In that match, Sharapova was able to dictate play from the baseline and surrendered just five games. The victory over Errani secured Sharapova a spot among the sport's elite, as she became just the 10th woman in history to complete a career Grand Slam.
If Sharapova is able to capture the gold medal this summer in London, then she will join Steffi Graf as the second woman to complete a golden slam.
Her Current Form
As stated in the introduction slide, Maria Sharapova is playing some superb tennis right now.
On the year, Sharapova has a 36-5 record and is currently on a 12-match winning streak. Over the course of that streak, she captured titles in Rome and Paris.
Sharapova's last loss came against Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of Madrid, but that match was played on the controversial blue clay. The loss could be best explained as a great performance by Williams, who played very well in Madrid.
Her last loss on a more conventional surface was in the finals of the Sony Ericsson Open to Agnieszka Radwanska.
Sharapova looked dominant at the French Open, and made the most of her opportunity as the other top women were taken out earlier in the tournament.
Unlike in the past, Sharapova is routinely beating the players that she should beat. She has been playing at a consistently high level and has been able to avoid suffering a major upset thus far this season.
Sharapova has made the semifinals in four of the last five Grand Slams and has appeared in three of the last four finals.
It will take a complete match to beat Sharapova if she keeps up her current level of play, because she isn't giving away points on her serve as often as she did a year ago.
She's Always a Threat on Grass
The tennis event of the Olympics will be taking place on the grass courts at Wimbledon this summer.
Maria Sharapova's first breakthrough came on grass at Wimbledon in 2004. She made a magical run to the final and then beat none other than Serena Williams in straight sets.
Her aggressive play style is even more effective on quicker courts like grass. Sharapova's flat shots are more effective on quicker surfaces and she will be hitting a lot of winners.
Sharapova made the final at last year's Wimbledon, where she was defeated by Petra Kvitova in straight sets. Prior to that defeat, Sharapova had not lost a set in the tournament and showed just how well she can play on grass.
The top-ranked Russian has more experience playing on grass than anyone in the women's field that doesn't have the last name Williams.
Sharapova's current form and past experience on grass will make her one of the favorites as the grass court season begins.
Her Return of Serve
Maria Sharapova dominated Sara Errani's second serve in the French Open final, as she won 70 percent of those points.
Eighteen-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova, who now works as an analyst for the tennis channel, said that Sharapova's return of serve was the part of her game that would hurt Errani the most. Considering that Sharapova won 70 percent of Errani's second serve points, it is safe to say that Navratilova was right.
The return of serve is even more important on grass because it is easier to hit the ball through the court on the faster surface.
Sharapova's return of serve will give opponents trouble on their serve and that pressure should keep her in the vast majority of her matches on grass.
She Is Ready for the Moment
Maria Sharapova is already focused on winning Olympic gold, but she decided that she will not be playing doubles as well as singles.
She said the following about why she has chosen to compete in just the singles draw to the Sports-Express paper:
“Singles is the most important thing for me. For my whole career I have focused on my individual performance. If you remember, I played mixed very rarely at Grand Slam tournaments. The only example I can recall was with Maksim Mirny.The same concerning doubles. I understand that if I focus on singles then I will have only one chance to win an Olympic medal. But it’s very important to feel fit and fresh playing at every tournament, which becomes more difficult when you play doubles and singles during one day.”
Sharapova will be better rested than the women who choose to compete in both singles and doubles.
Due to her decision to pass on playing doubles, she will only have one chance to win Olympic gold this summer. This means she will be solely focused on one thing and one thing only, winning a gold medal for Russia in women's singles.
Her Composure and Passion
Maria Sharapova is an amazing competitor and never believes she is out of a match. When the going gets tough, Sharapova only gets tougher.
In the Rome final, Sharapova was down a set and two breaks in the second set to Li Na, but managed to come back to win the match in three sets.
Sharapova is famous for the way she talks to herself in the time between points, but the approach has been very successful for her.
Her maturity on the court is a clear advantage, as she never seems to lose her focus. Sharapova fights hard from the first ball to the last and is extremely passionate about tennis.
Sharapova had surgery on her shoulder in the summer of 2008 and it took her 10 months to return to the tour as a singles player.
It would have been easy for Sharapova, who had won three Grand Slams at the time, to walk away from the sport. But she is very passionate about tennis, and that passion is what fuels her game.
After winning the French Open, Sharapova said the following:
"I love my work. I love playing tennis. I've had so many outs and I could have said, 'I don't need this. I have money; I have fame; I have victories; I have Grand Slams.' But when your love for something is bigger than all those things, you continue to keep getting up in the morning when it's freezing outside, when you know that it can be the most difficult day, when nothing is working, when you feel like the belief sometimes isn't there from the outside world, and you seem so small."
Based on that quote, I would hate to be the one to face her with an Olympic gold medal on the line. There will certainly be some tense moments that Sharapova will face during the Olympics, but I fully expect her to step up to the challenge and leave London with Olympic gold.
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