Up until the 15th of May 2011, Maria Sharapova had two clay court titles under her belt.
Strasbourg 2010 and Amelia Island 2008 were her only clay court trophies of 22 on the WTA Tour.
But not now.
With her victory over Samantha Stosur at Rome on Sunday, the Siberian staked her claim to the French Open this year.She stalked her adversaries and crept up on her prey, unsuspecting.
Beware—Maria, the huntress, is on the prowl.
The Russian has suffered an on-off career on the tour. Promise belied, more often than not. Career-threatening injuries did her cause little good. A Wimbledon titlist in 2004, her first Grand Slam was followed by the US Open in 2006 and the Australian in 2008.
If she takes the French, she makes it a Career Slam.
It is her best opportunity especially in the absence of Serena and Venus Williams. Kim Clijsters will be there but it is unrealistic to expect her to be at her best coming off an injury layoff. It will also be her first time in Paris since 2006.
Can Maria etch her mark on Coupe des Mousquetaires?
Her Roman achievement certainly replenished her fading credentials.
Successes against Ekaterina Makarova,Shahar Peer,Victoria Azarenka (retired), World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and finally Australian Sam Stosur tell a tale of a surge to be taken seriously by all-comers.
The Russian once remarked that she moves around on clay with all the grace and elegance of a skittish cow on ice. Capricious or not, she’s certainly found ways and means to triumph on her least favourite surface.
Should she conquer her doubts and opponents, she will emulate two other champions in completing career Slams at the French Open—Andre Agassi and Roger Federer.
The tall blonde need not heed that old adage; the Italian language is not her forte.
Sharapova said in English:
“I surely wasn’t the favourite going into a clay court event like this. To beat players who have had great results on clay means a lot to me. I may not be the best mover or best slider on clay, or the strongest player with the strongest legs, but there’s a lot more than that in tennis."
Just as the WTA launched their ‘Strong Is Beautiful’ campaign, featuring players combining athleticism and grace, who better than Marvellous Maria to personify beauty, strength and elegance?
With or without her trademark ear-splitting shrieks.
The world awaits, Roland Garros awaits.
Quote of the day:
Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers. – T. S. Eliot