Maria Sharapova: 8 Reasons She Has to Be the Favorite to Win the U.S. Open
Some thought she was done because of injury problems. Others had doubts about her movement.
These are valid points, but Maria Sharapova is one of the few consistent players on the women’s tour this year, making her the clear favorite for the US Open.
The last time Sharapova won the US Open was in 2006, when she was 19 years old. At 24 and still in the prime of her career, Sharapova will win the US Open this year for the following reasons:
8. No quality competition
With Serena and Venus Williams clearly on the downside of their careers, no one is waiting in the wings besides a select group, and Sharapova is among the list of candidates.
Kim Clijsters is aging and has a kid making it tough to focus on competition. She also did not have a good showing at Wimbledon, in part because of an injury and also because she has lost a step.
Na Li is probably one of the biggest favorites other than Sharapova heading into the US Open. Unfortunately for Li, she has never made it past the quarterfinals at the US Open, which has tied Wimbledon for providing a stage for her worst Grand Slam appearance. Sharapova is also 3-0 against Li on hard courts, never losing a set on any occasion.
There are only two players that can give Sharapova a run for her money. One is Petra Kvitova, the person who handled Sharapova in the Wimbledon finals this year. If Sharapova wants to beat Kvitova, she can’t go for unnecessary winners and her serve needs to improve.
Next is Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka matches up very well with Sharapova because they both are two of the best service returners and baseline players in women’s tennis. The matchup is spilt between Azarenka and Sharapova (3-3).
The only flaw Azarenka has is her performance in Grand Slams. Nerves seem to get the best of Azarenka. Her best US Open appearance was in 2007, losing in the fourth round to Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Caroline Wozniacki doesn’t even deserve to be in the conversation, and that’s all I’m going to say about the No. 1 player in the world.
Sharapova's inconsistencies have been one of her most fatal flaws in the past. Maturity and experience have made Sharapova shed that reputation.
This year, she is 32-8 and the earliest she has lost in a Grand Slam was in the fourth round to a quality player, Andrea Petkovic, at Australia.
At the US Open, Sharapova has done pretty well. She won it in 2006 and also made a semifinal appearance in 2005.
Sharapova is learning to play more consistently. She also is refraining from going after big shots when she doesn’t need to against weaker opponents.
Despite winning her first career Grand Slam at Wimbledon when she was 17 in 2004, Sharapova is still young and in the prime of her career. At 24, Sharapova can still improve her game and there are not too many up-and-comers besides Sabine Lisicki, Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka and maybe Beatrice Capra.
This year, in Grand Slams before Kvitova won Wimbledon, Kim Clijsters won the Australian Open and Na Li won the French Open. Clijsters is 28 years old and Li is 29.
This shows that there aren’t too many quality opponents on the women’s side, and age isn’t as big as a factor as it is for men.
That said, age cannot be dismissed entirely. Clijsters was injured and her recovery time was longer because of age, and her play is diminishing.
Sharapova’s age offers an advantage over older and younger players. She has experience young players don’t have and she has the youth older players lack.
Sharapova is no stranger to performing big in Grand Slams. Except for the French Open, she has won every Grand Slam once.
Sharapova’s background will help her because she can handle the big stage, unlike some newcomers.
One of the most powerful groundstrokes in the women’s game, without a doubt.
She moves her opponents around, tires them out and limits their ability to get off a good shot.
Sometimes Sharapova’s groundstrokes are hit and miss, but she has corrected that error mostly by not going for winners on every shot.
I have never seen Sharapova bend down in exhaustion. A player that fit can be demoralizing for an opponent because she knows she will have no chance against Sharapova unless she gets an early lead.
This ties in with quality of wins because whenever Sharapova plays a difficult opponent, she raises her game to another level.
She definitely is not afraid to take chances and takes advantage of players who hit the ball slowly just to get it in by hitting winners left and right.
1. Return of Serve
There are two players who used to have a better return of serve than Sharapova.
Of course that was Venus and Serena Williams.
Now, Sharapova has taken over as the best return of server with the William sisters clearly showing signs of decline.
Playing on the fast surface of the US Open will only help her return game because sometimes her return is faster than the serve itself.
Sharapova’s only flaw is her service game. If she can get that sorted out she is clear-cut favor.
Then again, she didn’t have a serve at Wimbledon and still made it to the finals.