Coming off a French Open title that might be the bounce-back her career needed, Maria Sharapova has entered the 2014 Wimbledon Championships as a serious force to win her second title at the All England Club.
The No. 5 overall seed wasn't tested at all in her opener, disposing of Samantha Murray in straight sets.
Not just straight sets, though. Sharapova only let her opponent win one game the entirety of the match, per Wimbledon:
Sharapova is coming off perhaps the most impressive win of her playing career. Her 2014 French Open title marked the first time she has ever won the same Grand Slam event twice—but more importantly, it was just her second title in six years.
Despite making the moment hers at Roland Garros and bouncing back on the biggest stage, Sharapova's seeding only improved from No. 7 at the French Open to No. 5 at Wimbledon. Even worse, she's matched up in a potential quarterfinal affair with favorite and top seed Serena Williams should both win their opening four.
If Sharapova is able to pull out a win over her American rival, it would be the icing on the cake of her comeback. But at the very least, she'll get there with relative ease.
Sharapova talked about preparing for the turnaround heading into the grass-court season after her first-round match, per Wimbledon's Helen Gilbert:
There's always a bit more tension coming into the first round of a Grand Slam," she said.
"It was such a quick turnaround. Just a couple weeks ago you're on the clay, coming onto the grass, with the new grass and new surface, it's a different feeling. It was obviously a bit slower start than I wanted, but I/m happy overall with how I progressed through the match.
Up next for Sharapova is Timea Bacsinszky, who will certainly be a tougher test than Murray but not enough to frustrate the Russian star.
After that, it will be the winner of Alison Riske vs. Camila Giorgi—both unseeded players who won't present much of a challenge for a player who just steamrolled her way through the French Open.
|2nd Round||Timea Bacsinszky|
|3rd Round||Camila Giorgi*|
|4th Round||No. 9 Angelique Kerber*|
|Quarterfinals||No. 1 Serena Williams*|
*indicates projected matchup
Sharapova is simply playing too well right now to slip up early in a major. The clay-to-grass transition might be tough, but she proved in her first-round affair that she's more than capable of getting used to the change while still dominating her opponents.
No. 9 seed Angelique Kerber, should she get that far, will be the biggest test before Williams comes knocking. However, Kerber hasn't advanced past the fourth round in a major since 2012.
It's been 10 years now since Sharapova has lifted the trophy at Wimbledon, and nobody knows that better than her. After reaching the pinnacle of the sport again for the just the second time in six years at Roland Garros, she'll be itching to put the finishing touches on her comeback with a deep run at Wimbledon.
How far will Sharapova advance?
Get past Williams, and that will happen. As we saw at Roland Garros, anything is possible when the favorites go down in the early rounds—and with Sharapova looming for Williams in the quarterfinals, we could see a repeat performance.
At the very least, Sharapova has proven so far in 2014 that she demands consideration when competing for Grand Slam events. After all, she's won each of them at least once.
But after what seemed like years of failing to produce at the big stage, Sharapova seems to be back. And it's unlikely she'll be brought back down to earth before she has to face the top seed.