Ten Reasons Why Maria Sharapova Is the New Favorite to Win the French Open

Alan RubensteinAnalyst IIIMay 27, 2011

Ten Reasons Why Maria Sharapova Is the New Favorite to Win the French Open

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    After years of battling injuries, Maria Sharapova seems to be the healthiest she has been in years.

    The draw seems to be falling in place for her to make a run for her first grand slam title since 2008.

    Sharapova’s three career grand slam titles are equal to the rest of the field combined.

    A win in Paris would give Maria the career grand slam and a spot in the top five for the first time in a few years.

1) She’s Healthy

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    After she had shoulder surgery in October 2008, Maria Sharapova was sidelined for the next seven months.

    After advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2009 French Open after her return from surgery, Sharapova hasn't seemed the same since.

    She has not advanced past the fourth round at a major since.

2) She Is Playing Her Best Tennis in a Few Years

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    Maria Sharapova has advanced to two finals and one semifinal so far this year.

    In her final tuneup before the French Open, she won the Italian Open in Rome.

    In her run to the title in Rome, Sharapova defeated the three seed Victoria Azarenka in the quarters, world No. 1 and top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals and sixth seeded and 2010 French Runner-up Samantha Stosur in the Finals without dropping a set.

3) No Williams Sisters

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    This is the first grand slam since 2003 without both of the Williams sisters. For a few years in the mid 2000’s, they and Sharapova defined the WTA tour.

    Serena and Maria was the sport’s biggest rivalry for a few years. Venus hasn't won a grand slam title since 2008, but Serena was coming off a title at Wimbledon before cutting her foot last July.

    She hasn't recovered or played since the injury. The WTA is still anxiously awaiting her return.

4) Kim Clijsters' Loss

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    The biggest road block on Sharapova’s quest to complete the career grand slam was Kim Clijsters waiting in the quarterfinals.

    Clijsters' loss to former Australian Open junior champ Aranxta Rus will be the biggest upset in the 2011 French Open.

    Clijsters had won 15 consecutive grand slam matches before her second round ouster. Rus’ win over Clijsters was only her fifth-ever grand slam victory.  

5) Weather

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    Sharapova struggled in her second-round victory largely because of the wind. She plays what tennis commentator Maria Carillo calls big babe tennis.

    She struggled in the second round with the wind. She is a player that relies on big ground strokes and a strong serve to overwhelm her opponents.

    If the weather dictates a junk ball match or top spins and slices, Sharapova could struggle.

6) Experience

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    The remaining players in the field don’t have a lot of experience in big matches. Sharapova has advanced to the quarterfinals 12 times in a grand slam.

    The rest of the field doesn’t have a long track record of success in grand slams.

    When it comes down to crunch times, Sharapova shouldn’t be as fazed by the moment as any of her opponents.

7) No Big Favorites

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    Svetlana Kuznetsova and Francesca Schiavone are the only players remaining that have lifted a trophy after an grand slam event.

    Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki are the favorites with the absence of Clijsters and the Williams sisters.

8) A Wide-Open Draw

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    Her road to the championship match is now Yung-Jun Chan in the third round followed by the winner or Yanina Wickmayer or Agnieszka Radwanska in the fourth, Andrea Petkovic or Maria Kirilenko in the quarterfinals and Victoria Azarenka, Jelena Jankovic or Na Li the most likely to emerge in the semifinals.

    The top half of the draw has former grand slam titlists Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonereva, world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and former slam runners-up Marion Bartoli and Samantha Stosur.

    The loss by Clijsters in the second round created a huge crater. Coupled with the Williams sisters not being in the tournament and this seems to be Sharapova and Wozniacki’s tournament to take.

9) Motivation

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    For a five year period from 2004-08, Maria Sharapova was one of the best players in the world. She finished those five seasons ranked in the top five.

    A win at Roland Garros will go a long way towards re-establishing her as one of the top five players in the world.

    The championship at the World’s most important clay tournament would also give her the career grand slam.

10) Perspective and Confidence

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    Her injury problems seem to have given Sharapova a new appreciation for the game. Her win in Rome also gave her more confidence.

    She was quoted in World Tennis Magazine after the win in Rome: “It’s been a while since I’ve won a title. I’m sure I wasn't the favorite, so to be the champion and beat players who have had great results on clay means a lot to me. This is just the beginning of many things to come.”

    She is also engaged to New Jersey Nets guard Sasha Vujacic. She seems to be more relaxed and has commented that her engagement has changed her perspective on tennis.