French Open champion Maria Sharapova picked up right where she left off at Roland Garros, cruising into the second round at Wimbledon last Monday by beating Anastasia Rodionova of Australia 6-2, 6-3.
The top-ranked Sharapova completed a career Grand Slam by winning her first French Open title last month. She’s looking for her second title at the All England club after winning it at the age 17 in 2004 and losing in the final to Petra Kvitova last year.
She had little trouble getting past Rodionova on Centre Court, breaking the Australian five times - although she was broken once in each set, including when trying to serve out the match at 5-1 in the second. She seized her next chance, however, clinching the victory with an ace.
Sharapova’s victory last Monday has now confirmed her poise and spunk to break the pattern of recent history. But the Russian, runner-up last year and a remarkable Wimbledon champion as a 17-year-old in 2004, is determined it is possible to follow up French Open glory with grand slam success in London. Not since 2002 when Serena Williams performed the feat, has a player on the women’s side of the game, achieved the double of Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles.
Maria Sharapova boasts of winning Wimbledon just after securing her first French Open title, which is the crowning glory of her career. With a French Open title and a complete set of Grand Slam titles, Maria Sharapova now hopes to add a different plot to her resurgent career. Meanwhile, Wimbledon tennis championships at the All England Club began on June 25 and the final will take place on July 8.
Sharapova’s triumph in Paris came just a fortnight ago, and from the high of that moment, when she became just the 10th woman to complete the career grand slam of titles at all four majors, she has gradually turned her focus to another grass-court campaign.
The 25-year-old has spent the last week in London reminding herself of the demands of the surface, cutting out the sliding and putting in the long strides while building towards her first-round clash with Russian-born Australian Anastasia Rodionova.
The transition has not been handled well by recent French Open champions, with 2010 winner Francesca Schiavone losing in the first round at Wimbledon two weeks later and Li Na, who landed the French title in 2011, surrendering in round two in London. “I think it’s the toughest back to back grand slam-wise, no doubt,’ Sharapova said.
‘Especially if you’re coming off a French Open win or a final it’s the toughest turnaround. ‘As much as you want to celebrate and enjoy, you come here and it’s like a whole new ball game. I’m certainly very happy with what I achieved, but that doesn’t make me less eager to want to achieve more,” she added.
Petra Kvitova’s defeat in the Wimbledon final last July was inevitably painful, but it was the trigger point to the most successful 12 months of Sharapova’s career to date. As well as lifting the French title, she also reached the Australian Open final in January, and Sharapova looks back to last year’s Wimbledon with obvious pride at her run to a first grand slam title match since Australia in 2008.
“For sure it was definitely a big step for me in the right direction,” Sharapova said. ‘It was just really good to be at that stage of a grand slam again. I was really happy that I was here.” Sharapova said that she means business in London ahead of the most anticipated fortnight on the tennis calendar.
When asked whether she would be glad to see Kim Clijsters, on her final Wimbledon appearance, lift the title for the first time, her response left no doubt about her own intentions. “Well, it’s tough to put myself out of the equation just like that with your words. I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘I’ve always admired Kim. I think she’s one of the best professionals we’ve had on tour.
Certainly she’s had a lot of injuries which she’s been able to come back from and do so well. She’s been such a great example of coming back, even having a kid, devoting herself to the sport. It’s not an easy task to just get back on the horse and perform as well as she has. To see her succeed is always a nice feeling for me,” she said.
Mother-of-one Clijsters, 29, will retire at the end of the year, quitting the sport for a second time. The last time, the three-time US Open champion reached Wimbledon semi-finals was in 2003 and 2006.
Meanwhile, the turnaround from the red clay of Roland Garros to the pristine lawns of the All England Club is perhaps the most challenging in tennis, akin to plunging into a cold tub right after a soothing dip in the whirlpool — a shock to the system without the chattering teeth.
Patience may be a virtue at the French Open, which rewards consistent baseliners, but it is a vice at Wimbledon, where, Maria Sharapova said, anything longer than a five-ball rally means “you’re probably doing something wrong.”
Sharapova, after winning in Paris on June 9 to complete a career Grand Slam, had two weeks to prepare for the vagaries of grass-court tennis. It could have been worse. She could have had four weeks, as did Serena Williams, who endured an epic collapse, losing her initial match at the French Open.
After winning the first set against Virginie Razzano and leading by 5-1 in the second-set tiebreaker, Williams fell in the opening round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in her sparkling career. The tumble deprived her of the chance to duplicate her French-Wimbledon double of 2002, which no woman has accomplished since.
Still, as it always does, opportunity abounds here, where she has won 4 of her 13 Grand Slam singles titles. The surface suits her aggressive style and amplifies her booming serve, but Williams nevertheless struggled to explain her success. In response to two separate questions about it, she said “I don’t know” three times and “I just don’t know” once. “I get confident here,” said Williams, whose last Wimbledon singles title came in 2010. “I have fun.” “I have no intention of stopping, and I actually don’t think she does, either,” Williams said.
That was a nicer alternative to Williams’s putting her hands on her hips and blurting. A streak of defiance coursed through Williams’s words Saturday, though she seemed wholly uninterested in reliving or recounting that loss to Razzano.
It was, after all, one match, and on clay, her worst surface. She said that she would be “extremely motivated” even had she won in Paris.
“You can name anybody, including Sharapova, and you put them head to head, Serena is the clear favourite. I still think she’s the best player in the business,” she said.
The field of challengers is deep, starting with Sharapova, who dazzled at the French Open. Sharapova, like Williams, eschewed playing a warm-up tournament and arrived capitalizing on a spate of decent weather to log some integral practice time outdoors.
Some analysts said that Williams made the unusual decision to remain in France for a while, often, after losing at Roland Garros, she and her sister would return to the United States, where she trained with Patrick Mouratoglou, who owns a tennis academy there.
Their focus was apparently confidential. She acknowledged that she worked with him but nothing more, other than to emphasize that her father, Richard, is her coach. “We’re just taking everything day by day, you know,” Williams said. “I’m not a fast mover or anything.”
Except, perhaps, through the Wimbledon draw. It seems to shape up favourably for the sixth-seeded Williams, starting with a first-round matchup with Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, whom she pummeled in the second round of the Australian Open in January.
Lurking in her quarter are the French Open runner-up, Sara Errani, and the reigning champion here, Petra Kvitova. Alas, Razzano, her tormentor in Paris and a wild-card entrant is on the opposite of the draw.