US Open 2010: Five Reasons Maria Sharapova Can Repeat Her 2004 Title
Who hits the ball downward with her racket four times, then turns over to the crowd with her face down, tucks loose wisps of blond hair behind both ears, and lastly bounces the ball on the ground twice before serving?
She's a 6'2" Russian star, who won Wimbledon , the Australian Open and the US Open,
Already most of you think I'm teasing you. However, I really wanted you to notice the attitude for an obvious reason. Maria Sharapova is back in the tennis business with realistic chances of winning the US Open. Here are five reasons why Maria Sharapova can win.
Her Recent Results
When Sharapova won her three majors, she would always have the same rituals, and the same nerve-breaking routine before winding up for her serve. It is always a positive sign when a champion is back to his or her old routine.
The Russian star lost her touch over the past couple years after undergoing a shoulder injury, which could have ended her career. However, her recent results and attitude prove Sharapova is slowly but surely back at her best level.
Of course, as the highest-paid female athlete in the world, Maria knows it takes a lot more than luck to win a match.
The former world No. 1 player recently reached the final of Stanford, where she lost to Victoria Azarenka (BLR), and the same level of Cincinnati against reigning US Open champion Kim Clijsters (BEL).
The Russian also won smaller events in Memphis (TN), and Strasbourg (FRA) this year. As for Grand Slam events, there were already positive signs at both Roland-Garros and Wimbledon.
In Paris, Sharapova lost to four-time French Open champion Justine Henin in the third round after taking a set from the Belgian. While in London, Maria lost to the current world No. 1 Serena Williams after testing the American during the whole first set.
Statistics prove that Sharapova only lost to the best ones due to her lower rank status. Losing to Justine Henin and Serena Williams after putting a real treat to both is nothing but a positive.
Finding Her Second Serve
Sharapova is slowly but surely reaching the level that boosted her to the top, her serve.
The 2006 US Open champion's ground strokes have tremendous pace, but equally important is that she can now play deep. Her shots can land just inside the baseline which put her opponents with more pressure on the return. Hitting with depth also knocks your opponent off-balance.
To deal with power hitters like Serena Williams, Venus Williams, or Kim Clijsters, you have to hunker down and get control over your center of gravity. That requires using little adjustment steps to get in ideal hitting position.
Equally important, never forget the former world No. 1's prime shot was her serve. It is thanks to this tremendous weapon the Russian managed to have so much success.
The shoulder injury was the reason she struggled so much when she returned to the game after having missed the competition for ten months. She could no longer use the same motion with her serve and was very upset about that. However, it seems she returned to the older one recently.
I was still surprised by how much more effective her second serve is. It is the best in women’s tennis.
Sharapova is the only female player that can outpaced Serena Williams on the second serve (she averaged 97 mph, compared with Serena’s 86 mph).
It’s a huge advantage when you have confidence in your second serve, as it gives you more freedom on your first serve.
Her Mental Toughness
If Sharapova is down in a game, set, or match, you’d never know it by looking at her.
Between points, she focuses on her strings to stay composed. So many players burn energy getting emotional about the score. The former world No. 1 saves everything she has for her shots and her strategy. All the rituals she does are elements that alows her to be at her best.
It would almost be fare to compare her mental toughness to Nadal's. After all, he also had injury issues, because he wastes so much energy in a point.
The Florida resident won three majors when playing as if each point were her last.
The Best Ones Are Injured
Let's set the facts straight about three great players who could easily win this year's Open.
Serena Williams, who beat Maria at Wimbledon is not playing due to a foot injury. The same goes for Belgium's Justine Henin, who defeated the 6'2" blond player at Roland-Garros. There is a great possibility that Sharapova could have gone further in Paris and London if she didn't play one of tennis' best in the early stages.
It is worth mentioning also Kim Clijsters pulled out of her match against Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva (RUS) in Montréal last week due to a hip injury, which is also good news for the Russian. If injury prevent players from being at their peak, the healthier one will win.
The 2008 Australian Open champion seems to be the fittest one of all so far.
A Favorable Draw
Sharapova, who was placed in the top half of the draw, should be able to reach the final 16 without any problem. She could lose a set to France's Aravane Rezai in the third round.
Then a blockbuster match between the Russian and the top seed Caroline Wozniacki would boost her to the second week if she can upset Denmark's sweetheart, which I expect her to do.
American Venus Williams (USA), Belarus's Victoria Azarenka, and Belgium's Kim Clijster, are the three players that could upset Sharapova are in the bottom of the draw.