Don't Look Now But Sharapova Could Be Going to the Quarterfinals

Donald FincherAnalyst IMay 31, 2009

PARIS - MAY 27:  Maria Sharapova of Russia serves during her Women's Singles Second Round match against Nadia Petrova of Russia on day four of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 27, 2009 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Here's a pleasant surprise for all of the tennis fans that would like to see someone playing on the women's side that possesses a killer instinct and big match skills without the tendency to fade after their 15 minutes are up. Maria Sharapova has a good chance to make the quarterfinals at Paris.

With her quarter being the weakest of the four to start with and with Venus Williams losing and with Sharapova already having knocked out Petrova, she finds herself in a draw where her side of the bracket doesn’t have a player left in the top 20. The three players other than herself are all ranked in the 20’s.

While Sharapova has not traditionally been a clay court player and she is returning from a lengthy layoff, she certainly couldn’t ask for a better setup. She admittedly didn’t expect to get very far here and just wanted to get some match experience again before heading to her favorite tournament - Wimbledon.

But the way this is setting up, with this deep run, she is not only getting match experience but making a statement that she belongs back at the top of the tour.

Since Henin left there has been a vacuum. Ana Ivanovic took over the top spot after winning the French Open but has been nearly unheard from since. She is doing well again at the French Open (though I don’t think she will win it).

She may be starting to develop the dreaded “clay court specialist” moniker because she can’t reach the quarters or better on any of the other surfaces (in tournaments where the top players are playing).

After Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic took the spot. Unlike Ivanovic who won a Slam to attain the ranking, Jankovic did not and had never. This dogged her and the pressure eventually got to her (that and Serena in the US Open).

Now, Dinara Safina, another No. 1 ranked player without a Slam win on her resume is setting up shop at the top of the rankings. Because she reached the final last year, she will actually lose points if she only makes the semis this year.

Serena is gunning for her. How long will Safina last? Who knows? Will she be a short-lived No. 1 like her brother? Given the flux that been the top spot in the WTA rankings, it seems more likely than not.

The Williams sister act has kind of run its course and Venus is getting past her prime. And Henin seems very convincing that she is never going to return. Sharapova would be just the talent and just the personality to be a force in the top three if she can truly get over her shoulder surgery. The game needs her at this moment in time. Her performance here may be an omen of things to come. I, for one, hope it is.