Throughout Maria Sharapova's 2011 run to the French Open semifinals, one glaring thing was that her serving issues seemed to be a thing of the past. That all changed in Thursday's loss to Li Na, albeit helped by the wind.
The three-time grand slam champion had not reached a grand slam semifinal since the 2008 Australian Open, mostly due to shoulder surgery that caused all kinds of problems with her serving. A lack of confidence and no serving rhythm led to numerous double faults for the former world No. 1.
While the double faults still occurred every so often throughout this tournament, it appeared that Sharapova had cured the issue for the most part. But a high ball toss in the wind combined with an unwillingness to take anything off her serve once she started struggling was really her undoing on Thursday.
Sharapova is not known for her clay-court game but had a good clay-court season heading into 2011 at Roland Garros and was in prime position to capture her first French Open title this season. It may have been her best chance to do so as well, due to a bunch of different factors.
Not only was she trying to capture her career grand slam at this event, the Russian star was looking to entrench herself back among the top players in the world. Her semifinal run does the latter, at least in part, but Sharapova can not be happy with how she went out.
The match fittingly ended on a double fault, propelling Na Li into her second consecutive grand slam final with the 6-4, 7-5 win. Sharapova fought hard throughout the match, but her serve really let her down at the ends of both the first and second sets.
Sharapova will now set her sights on the grass court season, where she is much more comfortable. Hopefully for her, the serve problems against Li were more of a fluke due to the rough conditions rather than a sign of things going back to the way they were throughout the last couple of years.