From the middle of the article
No improvement in two years
Sharapova's game has remained where it was when she won the Wimbledon title in 2004. Despite her having fallen short of again reaching the final at a major, her game has not regressed.
What was different at Wimbledon in 2004 was that with Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters sidelined, there was an opening for other players, and Sharapova made the most of that.
It was the same situation when Anastasia Myskina won the 2004 French Open — Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters weren’t in the draw.
I have a couple problems with this. First off, Henin-Hardenne played
Roland Garros in 2004.
Secondly, there have been eight slams played since Wimbledon 2004, including 2006). Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne have both played most of them, each missing OZ '05. Yet Venus, Serena, Mauresmo and Kuznetnova all won slams during that period, and Pierce, Davenport, and Dementieva have all made finals.
It seems like the presence of Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne is no block to winning GS tournaments or making finals, providing you happen to be one of the two best players for a given fortnight.
Having said all that, Austin makes an intersting point, despite being so wrong on the essential facts, and what they portend.
Sharapova hasn't improved in the last two years.
Wait. Too simpistic.
Sharapova is getting the same results
she was post-Wimbledon '04 (putting aside the '04 YEC). Mind you, her results are good.
She's pretty much a lock for the semis in any GS not on clay. But how many different ways can you lose in the semis? Then again, there is a constant to her losses. she's been losing those semis to older, smarter players. (Venus, Serena, Amelie Mauresmo, Henin-Hardenne, Clijsters) Who will all (most likely) be off the tour over the next five years. And Sharapova will only be 24.
But back to Tracy Austin, you almost get the feeling the article was originally longer, and badly edited. Cause her reasoning is sub-par.