Cronin On Maria Sharapova's Woes -
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old Oct 14th, 2007, 02:22 PM Thread Starter
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Cronin On Maria Sharapova's Woes


Back to Sharapova, who unexpectedly came back this week and then couldn't serve out the first set in her loss to Azarenka. Yes, her right shoulder injury has largely contributed to her troubles this year. Of course her serve has been the most affected stroke, but I can't buy into this train of thought that's been running around some analysts minds Joel Drucker, Peter Bodo and Rennae Stubbs that it's her primary problem. No, to me, the most disturbing thing that I've seen in her major losses this year is her inability to read and effectively return her opponents first serves, followed by up-and-down confidence in her forehand. Certainly, Sharapova will be much better off when (and if) her injury is healed because she will be able to cut loose more on her first serves, produce mores service winners and receive more of those weak returns she likes to munch on. She'll also cut down on her double faults, because she'll feel more at ease with when she's rotating. But even serving at 75 percent of her capacity, she's not easily broken.

If you look at her three major losses at the Slams to elite players (Serena, Ana Ivanovic and Venus), you'll see just how much trouble she has getting her foes' first serves back in play. She wasn't very good returning their second serves, either. It's her failure to adjust her positions while returning, and not to learn what her opponent's tendencies are that really hurts her. She's simply not getting enough decent balls back in play, which both Williams sisters and Justine Henin are able to do. Plus, because she's not that fast, she cannot scrape her way back into enough points a la the three aforementioned, the two Serbians and Kuznetsova. If you can get Sharapova running hard from the first ball and don't push your ground strokes, you stand a good chance of winning points.

I haven't mentioned the Agnieszka Radwanska loss at the US Open because little mattered there other than Sharapova not keeping a ball in play with any stroke. But that match was a clear indication that's it not just serving woes that ail her, it's a serious lack of confidence in her ground game. She needs a few weeks of uninterrupted play to get her groove back and needs to learn to contend with the pain in her shoulder. What was interesting in Drucker's piece for ESPN was Sharapova's former coach, Robert Lansdorp, claimed that he was the person responsible for telling Yuri to have her abbreviate her service motion post Wimbledon, when it was actually Sharapova's touring coach, Michael Joyce (a Lansdorp student himself), who made the call.

Here's an unpublished comment by Stubbs that she made when I was talking to her for a column that I wrote for last week. I asked what might occur if Sharapova shoulder never really healed and if she had to develop other parts of her game (like a standard volley) to compensate for the loss of the weapon. "That would be very interesting. She doesn't move well. Wow. That's going to be tough." Here's the link for the fox piece:

BTW: Drucker and I discussed Sharapova on a taping of "Crosscourt" yesterday from the misty hills of Berkeley, Calif. (What happened to Indian summer this year?) The show will appears on sometime prior to the year-end championships in Madrid
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old Oct 14th, 2007, 02:40 PM
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Re: Cronin On Maria Sharapova's Woes

I think her movement is her biggest problem. She's worse than Seles.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old Oct 14th, 2007, 03:02 PM
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Re: Cronin On Maria Sharapova's Woes

If a player doesn't have confidence in their biggest weapon, which I presume is serve in Maria's case, it will affect their whole game. As for Maria's movement, surely it will never be her biggest strength but from what I saw this season she has improved in this aspect a lot. Especially when she's coming forward to the net she looks quite fast.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old Oct 14th, 2007, 03:13 PM
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Re: Cronin On Maria Sharapova's Woes

Maria is too tall. But her movement is good.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old Oct 14th, 2007, 03:28 PM
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Re: Cronin On Maria Sharapova's Woes

Agree completely with this article.

To me, the thing that separates the top players from the "others"- the players from 30 on down- is serve and return of serve. Most of the lower ranked players have mediocre serves, and simply can't do anything good with a fast first serve, or a decent second serve. Sharapova's weakness are her return of serve and her serve also. Which would put her on level footing with lower ranked players, but for the fact she has amazing groundstrokes. But when she plays player who also have great groundstrokes, she weaknesses are exposed. In Miami and Wimbledon, points barely lasted a few points. A serve from Sharapova, and a smacked return winner. A serve from Serena or Venus, a feeble attempt from Sharapova to return. It either sails wide or long (or both), dumps into the net, or sits in the air for an easy putaway.

When Sharapova can't get Ana's, Venus', or Serena's serves into play, and they can get hers into play, she's always going to lose, because their groundstrokes are at least as good as hers, and they move better. So she either better work on court coverage, or fix her serve- and quickly.
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