Maria Sharapova entered Wimbledon 2014 with a great deal of momentum on her side, but after losing to Angelique Kerber 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, her U.S. Open prospects are up in the air.
Sharapova is undoubtedly one of the greatest female tennis players of all time with five career Grand Slam titles to her credit, but she has gone through some trials and tribulations in recent years when it comes to staying healthy and winning big tournaments.
After already earning the career Grand Slam, Sharapova got back to her winning ways at the 2014 French Open by winning her second career Roland Garros title. Clay used to be Sharapova's worst surface by far, but she has arguably made it her best through hard work and dedication.
Sharapova grinded out a hard-fought win over Simona Halep in the final and worked her way into the top five in the world rankings, per Live Tennis:
With that victory, Sharapova had all the momentum in the world leading up to Wimbledon. She was on an incredible roll on clay, but making the transition to grass isn't easy, especially with just a couple weeks of preparation.
Sharapova's breakthrough moment in tennis came at Wimbledon in 2004. That was the first Grand Slam title of her career, and it seemed as though there would be many more. Although she has won four since, her success at Wimbledon has been limited.
Since that title at All England Club, Sharapova has been quite inconsistent there. From 2007 up to this year, in fact, she advanced past the fourth round just once (2011).
That is a fairly surprising stat since power tennis tends to play well at Wimbledon, but Sharapova has been shocked on many occasions at early stages of the tournament.
As great as Sharapova has been over the course of her career, the prevailing thought seems to be that she is capable of achieving even more. One person who wouldn't dare call her an underachiever, though, is retired tennis star James Blake, per Jim Caple of ESPN.com.
That depends what you think an underachiever should be. I personally would never consider her an underachiever. If the expectations were higher, that's on the people who had those expectations. I doubt that if you told her she'd win all the Grand Slam titles she'd be too upset about it. She's been able to win every major and has also had to overcome a lot of injuries. From what I know of her, she puts it on the line and doesn't make excuses. And that's why she is the player she has become.
As great as Sharapova can be, it is extremely difficult to figure her out at times. She is perfectly capable of playing dominant tennis on any surface, but she has also been known to bow out against lesser opponents seemingly out of nowhere.
Much like Wimbledon, Sharapova has been up and down at the U.S. Open over the past several years as well. Since winning the title in New York back in 2006, Sharapova has reached the semifinals once and failed to advance past the fourth round aside from that.
She has also been forced to miss the U.S. Open on a couple of occasions due to injury, but she appears to be in fairly good health currently. Despite the loss at Wimbledon, Sharapova is clearly among the top contenders in New York along with Serena Williams.
Sharapova hasn't always played her best this year, but there is nobody better in the women's game at fighting through adversity and winning despite obvious flaws. Sharapova's serve was all over the place at Roland Garros, but she was able to dig deep and win it all.
She also benefited from a draw that broke down and didn't provide her with many huge challengers. All she can do is play whoever is in front of her, though, so Sharapova can't be blamed for that.
The draw will obviously have something to do with her success in the U.S. Open, but the most important thing is her form. Although Sharapova would have loved to have entered the U.S. Open with consecutive Grand Slam titles to her credit, she'll be in the mix regardless.
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