Sharapova Relishing Grass Return
Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova is hoping history will repeat itself as she steps up the preparations for the defence of her crown at the DFS Classic in Edgbaston next week.
Sharapova, 18, was a virtual unknown outside tennis circles this time last year when she arrived in Birmingham to take part in the DFS event.
But she won both the singles and the doubles titles at the DFS before going on to announce herself on the world stage with her triumph in the Wimbledon final against Serena Williams.
A repeat of the events in both Birmingham and at Wimbledon is now her main aim.
Having been knocked out of the French Open at the quarter-final stage by Justine Henin-Hardenne, world number two Sharapova had no hesitation in opting to take part in the DFS event as she hones her preparations for the defence of her Wimbledon title.
She relishes the chance of playing on grass again and is pleased to be back where she made her break into the big time.
“A lot of things have changed in the last year but I am still the same person,” said Sharapova, who will face either Tatiana Perebiynis of Ukraine or Anne Kremer of Luxembourg when she launches her campaign in the second round on Tuesday.
“It all started for me on the grass courts and I am very happy to be back in Birmingham,” she said.
“It is a very quiet place and it is one of those tournaments where things are not very hectic.
“I can relax and concentrate more on my tennis rather than being in the public eye when I get to Wimbledon.
“I think it is a really great warm-up for Wimbledon. I have always enjoyed playing here and so I thought why not come back.
“Of course what happened to me last year was amazing. I was playing really great tennis here and went on to win Wimbledon so being here does bring back great memories and hopefully I can enjoy similar success again.
“I can’t believe it has been a whole year already.”
Sharapova knows that as the defending champion at both the DFS and Wimbledon, the pressure on her will be intense over the next month.
But that is something she revels in and she added: “I have never really taken pressure too seriously. It is always part of the sport.
“As I am the defending champion here and at Wimbledon I will have that extra pressure.
“But pressure drives me on. I enjoy it and people expect the best from me. I want to do my best even though it is not possible all the time.
“With success comes a lot of things. I am still working hard and trying to improve every day.
“I have to commit to a few off-court appearances as well. But it has been a fun time for me and I have enjoyed every second of it.
“I have got an opportunity to meet many amazing people in different industries. It has been really fun.”
Sharapova also admits that she cannot wait to get back to playing on grass after the clay of Roland Garros.
“I am really happy to be back playing again on grass,” admitted Sharapova. “It is am amazing surface. It puts a smile on my face.
“The ball jumps weird and I am laughing. It makes me want to work harder and give that extra effort. It is really special for me.
“I think that I have a better chance than anyone on grass as it suits my game really well.”
Sharapova is seeking to continue to an impressive collection of results that was started by her Edgbaston success.
As well as winning Wimbledon last summer she has also triumphed at events in Seoul, Tokyo, and at the WTA Championships in Los Angeles.
This year she has won the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Japan and the Qatar Total Open in Doha.