Maria Sharapova's quest for her first Wimbledon championship since 2004 will have to wait at least another year. The Russian superstar was eliminated from the season's third major in the second round by Michelle Larcher De Brito.
Sharapova entered the tournament with momentum after reaching the French Open final for the second straight year. Although she fell short against Serena Williams, it continued a trend of solid form for the four-time major champion. She couldn't fully capitalize on it, though.
However, the tennis star has taken a major step back with one of her worst Grand Slam showings of her career.
Amazingly, Sharapova has won just one major since the 2008 Australian Open. For a player who broke onto the scene in such an emphatic way by triumphing at the All England Club nine years ago, she's struggled to make a consistent impact at Grand Slam events.
It's not to say she hasn't played well on the biggest stages. Coming into Wimbledon, she had made at least the semifinals in five of the past six majors. Only at the 2012 French Open did that translate into a Grand Slam title, though.
The biggest problem she faces is a lack of consistency. From injuries to serving woes and everything in between—it's all played a role throughout her career, which has really prevented her from reaching the peak everybody expected.
Sharapova is a very good player who's better than anybody not named Serena Williams when in top form. But those stretches haven't come as often as she would like. When she won Wimbledon in 2004, it looked like she could be right there with Williams for years to come.
She's had success, just not quite on that level. So how her career is ultimately judged if she remains on the current path will come down to perspective.
Her next chance to change that course comes at the U.S. Open, where Sharapova has struggled. She's reached the semifinals just once in the season's final major since her 2006 championship. The good news is it came last year.
The tournament will serve as her final opportunity to win a Grand Slam tournament this year. It puts a little extra pressure on the top-five star, who certainly possesses the power to have plenty of success in New York.
Williams, along with Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska, among others, will continue to stand in her way. But beating players of that caliber is the only way to win a major.
Only time will tell if Sharapova is up to the task.
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