Women's Tennis

Will Maria Sharapova Still Be a Top 10 Player at the End of 2014?

Maria Sharapova carries the Olympic torch into the stadium during Opening Ceremonies of 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Maria Sharapova carries the Olympic torch into the stadium during Opening Ceremonies of 2014 Olympic Winter Games.Associated Press
Merlisa Lawrence CorbettFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2014

Maria Sharapova appeared on top of the world when she entered Fisht Olympic Stadium carrying the torch at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

However, while she's hanging out with Winter Olympians, her tennis career is on ice. In fact, Sharapova's obligations in Sochi and daunting tour schedule ahead may lead to her tumbling out of the Top 10. 

Just a year ago Sharapova was battling Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka for the No. 1 ranking. Now ranked No. 5, Sharapova could end the year outside of the Top 10. 

Petra Kvitova, seen here at the 2014 Australian Open, is one of several players who could overtake Maria Sharapova in the WTA Rankings.
Petra Kvitova, seen here at the 2014 Australian Open, is one of several players who could overtake Maria Sharapova in the WTA Rankings.Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

If that happens, it will be the first time the Russian has been outside the Top 10 since 2011.

Despite missing half of 2013 with a shoulder injury, Sharapova got off to a solid start this season. She reached the semifinals in Brisbane. She lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open and in the semifinals at the Paris Open. 

The problem for Sharapova is that she had such a good early 2013 that she has thousands of points to defend early in 2014. And she's taken a detour off the tour to act as a correspondent for NBC at the Olympics. 

She had to skip Doha, and although she can practice and train in Sochi, you have to wonder how the Olympic distraction will impact her preparation for the busy spring schedule ahead. 

Although overshadowed by Serena Williams' record-setting year, in 2013 Sharapova was having one of her best seasons early on. She won Indian Wells and Stuttgart. She also reached the finals at Miami, Madrid and the French Open, losing to Williams in all three.  

She was playing great tennis then. Right now, she's simply not at her best.

Meanwhile, players like Jelena Jankovic and Sara Errani are playing more consistently and in more tournaments. Petra Kvitova is within a 1,000 points of overtaking Sharapova. They are all in Doha, adding points while Sharapova showcases her hometown of Sochi

In a preseason panel discussion about the 2014 WTA season, New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg cautioned that Sharapova might slip further if she misses any more time. A few writers on the panel considered it more likely that Kvitova would end the season among the Top Five than Sharapova. 

Falling out of the Top 10 would mean other players improved their standings as Sharapova fell in the rankings. Right now, that's what's happening. 

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