INTERVIEW:Sharapova hoping to steady seesaw season
INTERVIEW-Tennis-Sharapova hoping to steady seesaw season
Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:28AM BST
By Matthew Cronin
SAN DIEGO, California, July 30, (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova comes into the San Diego Classic this week looking for a fresh start to her seesaw season.
The former world number one and San Diego champion has been contending with a shoulder injury all year and has not won a title since October.
After losing at the French Open and Wimbledon last year, she arrived in San Diego refreshed and aiming to make a major statement in the U.S. hardcourt season.
She did so in resounding fashion, beating Kim Clijsters in the final and then winning her second grand slam title at the U.S. Open by defeating Justine Henin in the final.
This year, Serbian teenager Ana Ivanovic crushed her in the French Open semi-finals and eventual champion Venus Williams overpowered her in the fourth round at Wimbledon.
The 20-year-old is not completely down on her year, but she is not celebrating 2007 either.
"When you are a Grand Slam champion and achieve so much, people expect you to be up there and I expect it myself," Sharapova told Reuters.
"I know I'm capable of beating all the players and have done so before, so it's a matter of doing it on a consistent basis and doing it on my terms.
"It's been a up and down year for me. I'm riding the line and waiting for opportunity to set myself apart like I did last year."
Sharapova, the world number two, knows that will not be easy as her right shoulder is not completely healed and she suffered a minor foot injury last week in practice.
"When you are injured you don't realise how happy you were to be healthy," she said. "It sets a whole different bar, sets your mood, and sets your practice level. It restricts you."
But Sharapova believes that if she can get enough matches in the U.S. and avoid a physical catastrophe, that she will be factor for the rest of the season.
"I just need to keep a high level, which doesn't mean winning tournament after tournament, because sometimes that's physically hard. But I proved last year that I could do it."
Sharapova was criticised for failing to show up at two of Russia's Fed Cup ties this year.
After she pulled out of the semi-final earlier this month against the U.S., which Russia won 3-2, captain Shamil Tarpischev was quoted as saying that he would not consider her for the final against Italy in Moscow in September.
But Sharapova has made herself available for the final and says she is committed to playing if named to the squad.
Nadia Petrova, part of the team that beat the U.S., told Reuters that she thinks Sharapova was healthy enough to be able to make the effort to play the tie.
"This is a serious enough issue for me to be honest about," Sharapova said.
"It's about my team mates and my tennis, so why would I create fictional information?
"I take criticism good and bad and I respect it. I totally understand that my injury has created a big issue, but at the end of the day there aren't a lot of top players who get far in grand slams and get ready to play Fed Cup."
Sharapova has a first-round bye in San Diego and will play either Laura Granville or Tamarine Tanasugarn on Wednesday.