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Old Jul 29th, 2010, 03:24 AM   #37
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Re: ** Masha News and Articles! ** Vol. 2

Directed Sharapova Looks to Take Next Big Step

By Matthew Cronin

FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC, WEDNESDAY, JULY 28 – Stanford is a level of tournament that Maria Sharapova needs to win, not that’s she the only one competing at the Bank of the West Classic this week with a gap in her 2010 resume.. Yes, she might be reasonably satisfied in reaching the final and say, being on the short end of a tough two set loss to Sam Stosur, but at this stage in the season, she playing well enough to bag sizebale titles and what she needs to do if she’s going to be a major threat at the US Open and put together five solid wins in a row over a slew of notable players.

Consider this: it wasn’t until Tuesday night in her powerful 6-4, 7-5 over China’s Jie Zheng that she had beaten a top 25 player this year. In fact, you have to go back to October 2009, when she overcame Victoria Azarenka in Beijing, to find the last time she beat a top 25 player. Yes, the three time Slam champ won two Tier III titles this year in Memphis and Strasbourg and yes, she played Justine Henin and Serena Williams close in losses at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, but she isn’t that patient of a person and after her press conference, she told me in private that she does not jump up and down for joy with near misses. She was in those matches and thought she could win them. She's the very opposite of a happy-to-be-there player.

"I could have done better and I've had my fair share of opportunities, but that's the past," she said in her press conference. "My mentality is to keep fighting, getting the most out of my matches and work myself toward the US Open."

Sharapova faces Olga Govortsova on Thursday, could face Elena Dementieva in the quarters and Shahar Peer or Aggie Radwanska in the semis. That’s a difficult, but not impossible draw. She is serving much better and much faster than she was last year and although her return game was spotty against Zheng, it will never really go away. I’m not yet convinced that her commitment to a slap and charge off her foe’s second serves is a good move for her because her feet aren't that quick and she has trouble covering the net unless she gets a very reasonable volley, but at least she trying new things.

The question is, just how long will this super intense competitor be patient with good but not great results? Its almost been two years since she seriously injured her shoulder and although she knows better than anyone how long it takes to rehab from surgery, she was used to winning a lot as a pro beforehand.
"I worked on patience so long during the injury and obviously wanted good results and wanted to go far in the Slams and this year it hasn’t happened. But that the way it is and I’m not going to quit because I didn't,'' said Sharapova. "I was No. 1 in summer I got injured and had just won a Slam [the Aussie Open] and little do you know, I’m out of game next nine moths. I’m not one to sit and say what could have been and I’ve said this from day one that I’m just really fortunate to have come back.”

In private, she does expect excellent results out of herself and pushes herself time and time again. She understands what a winning formula is and doesn’t get too caught up into trying to compete reconfigure her game, a la Ana Ivanovic in recent times. She’s very good at dealing with expectations because they are largely her own, although her father’s Yuri’s hopes for her cannot be completely dismissed. But she says that she plays and sets goal “not for anyone but myself.”

Sharapova has evolved though, partly due to the all the time she has spent off the tour because of her injury. She has woken up and discovered that she’s woman who didn’t exactly choose her entire life path.
The 23-year-old laughed when thinking about her history, but there’s serious side to her commentary.
"If you really think about it it's so dumb,” she said. “You have a grip in your hand, strings in the racket, and this yellow fuzzy ball and you're hitting it since four years old. It's ridiculous. It's dumb if you think about it. But it's what we do.”


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