Maria Sharapova: What Experts Are Saying About Her Wimbledon Chances
Prior to her recent French Open championship, Maria Sharapova hadn't won a Grand Slam event since 2008, leading some to wonder whether she would ever get her career Grand Slam.
Yet Sharapova has overcome injuries and a lengthy rehabilitation and is currently playing some of the best tennis in her career.
The transition from the clay courts of Roland Garros to the grass of Wimbledon is perhaps the most difficult in tennis, with no woman since Serena Williams in 2002 winning both tournaments in the same year.
And of course, Serena Williams is at her best at Wimbledon, and she is thus a potentially huge obstacle to Sharapova's chances.
Yet Sharapova enters Wimbledon on a surge of confidence, and she has an excellent chance to win her second Wimbledon title. Experts across the tennis world have weighed in on Sharapova's chances, and here we look at what some of these experts have to say.
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It is often said that winning the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year is one of the most difficult feats in all of sports, due both to the dramatic differences between clay and class and the mental focus it takes to twin two major tournaments in such a short amount of time.
Tennis legend Chris Evert is one of the few people in the world who can understand the difficult challenge faced by Sharapova as she attempts to pull off the feat, as Evert won both tournaments in 1974, her first two Gland Slam victories.
Evert of course went on to become one of the greatest tennis players to ever string up a racket, 18 total Grand Slam singles tournaments and two Grand Slam doubles tournaments.
Knowing the extreme difficulty of winning both tournaments consecutively, Evert isn't picking Maria Sharapova to win at Wimbledon (her favorite is Serena Williams) but she says that Sharapova is always a threat to win a Grand Slam event. Via The Daily Mail:
Maria will be feeling on top of the world. Achieving that feat is not easy. She seems like she’s been around forever but she’s only 25.
This has been the first year she’s properly worked on her clay court game, and her movement improved hugely. I think she will be just as happy to have won on that surface as win the career Grand Slam...
Tennis is always better when you have a rivalry. People enjoy it more...
I think we’re getting to that point with the women’s game. There’s Maria, Serena, as well as (Victoria) Azarenka, (Petra) Kvitova. All can win Slams.
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Pam Shriver never played in a Wimbledon singles final, but she still knows the tournament well, having played in the singles tournament 17 times between 1978 and 1996, reaching the semifinals three times.
More significantly, she is a legend in the Wimbledon doubles tournament, winning five times in six years. But even with all of her success at both the Wimbledon doubles tournament and the French Open double tournament—where she won four times—she also struggled to win doubles at the French Open and at Wimbledon in the same year, pulling off the feat only once.
Pam Shriver isn't as confident in Sharapova's chances as fellow legend Chris Evert, citing the difficulty of winning consecutive slams. From the tennisspace.com:
I’ve been wrong before with Sharapova, but I think she’s going to have to raise her level to win Wimbledon. Unless you’re a dominant player, it’s exhausting winning grand slams. Winning two slams in a row is always difficult, but it’s never harder when those two are the French Open and Wimbledon.
The women’s game is so unpredictable at the moment, with no player dominating. While it’s possible that Sharapova could follow her win in Paris by winning Wimbledon as well, I think she’s going to have to really raise her level to do that. So I think the period of unpredictability is going to carry on.
I wouldn’t say that I’m amazed that Sharapova has got back to No. 1 in the world, because of her mental and emotional strength.
Mary Jo Fernandez
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Mary Jo Fernandez never won at Wimbledon, but her experience competing in both singles and doubles events at All England gives her perspective on Sharapova's chances.
She competed at Wimbledon twelve times in her career between 1986 and 1999, and in that time reached the singles semifinals once, quarterfinals twice and doubles semifinals. Aside from her success at Wimbledon, Fernandez also reached the finals of three Grand Slam singles tournaments, won two Grand Slam doubles tournaments, and won two Olympic Gold Medals in doubles with partner Gigi Fernandez.
In a recent ESPN chat, tennis analyst and former doubles great Mary Jo Fernandez was asked if Sharapova could convert the confidence she gained in winning the French Open into a Wimbledon title.
Absolutely she can. She is more comfortable on the grass and winning another major after shoulder surgery will just make her that much more motivated. That's where she won her first major, so don't forget that. And she reached the Finals last year.
In a video chat for ESPN, when asked about Sharapova's chances, Fernandez replied:
I think they're very good. I'd put her with Serena Williams at the top. I think that now the confidence is gonna be soaring. Her serve held up nicely under pressure. She beat (Petra Kvitova) in the semis at the French, and then had the surprise finalist in, and I thought she played a fantastic pressure match, because she was expected to win, all the expectations were on her.
And going to Wimbledon, that's where she won her first main title when she was 17, and a finalist last year, so I like Maria's chances. I think now it's all gonna be smooth sailing for her.
Simon Reed, Yahoo! Eurosport
Simon Reed of Yahoo! Eurosport has been covering sports in radio and print since the 1960's and has covered tennis since 1995 for Eurosport, a European sports television network. He has extensive experience at Wimbledon, having covered the tournament for the past eight years beginning in 2004, the year Sharapova last won at Wimbledon.
In a recent article he writes:
If Serena does manage to implode in SW19, I would favour Maria Sharapova to continue her fine comeback.
I can see her being in the hunt anyway as, somehow after those injuries, she is moving better than ever. That is partly down to her incredible mental strength and resolve, her will to re-learn how to serve and to work on her movement, which was always a weak spot...
In my view only two women can beat her — Serena, who will be the favourite in a shoot-out with Maria, and Petra Kvitova, although she would need to have a perfect day...
There are some others that, in a perfect storm, could end up in the final, could possibly win it. The likes of Samantha Stosur, Venus Williams (provided her illness does not derail her career), Angelique Kerber, or Li Na.
But they are clear outsiders and, with Sharapova's resurgence, the odds of them getting past both the Russian and Serena have lengthened somewhat.
The pundits have their credibility at stake when they make predictions, but gamblers are betting their paycheck, and this year they're putting their money on Maria Sharapova.
Ladbrokes, the largest gambling company in the United Kingdom, currently has Sharapova at 5-2 odds, making her their favorite to win the tournament. This puts her just a hair above Serena Williams, who is at 3-1.
Joining Sharapova and Williams at the top of the leaderboard are Petra Kvitova at 6-1, Victoria Azarenka at 8-1 and Kim Clijsters at 16-1. No one else in the field is better than 25-1.
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Of course, no one knows better than Sharapova herself whether she has what it takes to win this year's Wimbledon. She's experienced the tournament from every vantage point, having won it (2004), lost in the finals (2011), lost in the semifinals (2005 and 2006), and lost in earlier rounds (2003 and 2007-2010).
I think it's the toughest back-to-back grand slam‑wise, no doubt, especially if you're coming off a French Open win or a final. As much as you want to celebrate and enjoy, you come here and it's like a whole new ballgame.
It's certainly an adjustment. The first two days you're like: 'Wait, I can't really slide that much'. So you have to take a few more steps.
But the first few days are always so much fun. It's such a different balance, a fast game. I feel like coming from the clay you learn so much about the point and the development of the rally. You get on grass and...you're not playing more than five‑ball rallies.