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Old Apr 11th, 2011, 09:13 PM   #17
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Full second-round TV-report for Sharapova v Olaru

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THE CHAMPIONSHIPS (Wimbledon, London, England; grass; Major)
=================

I apologise for the very long delay in getting round to this report. Since Wimbledon 2010, I have started a new job that keeps me extremely busy, and my website is no longer online, since Sqweebs closed down its free hosting-service in January. So I’m posting my reports here, at a lower level of detail than originally planned, with the goal of finishing Wimbledon 2010 before Wimbledon 2011 begins.

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Second-round TV-report: Sharapova v Olaru (Thursday 24th June 2010)
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+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [16,EF] d. Ioana Raluca Olaru, 6-1 6-4

In the most entertaining match of Wimbledon 2010 so far, Maria dominated Olaru until 6-1 2-0* with her usual display of big serves, huge groundstrokes and drive-volleys, as Olaru struggled to cope with the speed of the grass.

Then Olaru relaxed and played some brilliant tennis: big serves, forehand winners, volley-winners. Maria was in danger of losing control of the match when Olaru broke back for 4-4, but after a tremendous game of three deuces on Olaru’s serve, Maria cranked up the pressure; Olaru double-faulted to give Maria *5-4, and she converted her third of three match-points at 40/0.

Maria embarrassed not only her opponent, but also a couple of line-judges with her successful Hawk-Eye challenges.


First set
---------
OLARU ___*___ 1
SHARA *@*_*@* 6

The match was first on Court One. Maria won the toss and chose to serve. Olaru chose the far side.

Tracy Austin said that no one’s talking about Maria as a Wimbledon 2010 title-contender, but she’s always dangerous with her big serve and big groundstrokes.

The match started at 13:10 BST.

Maria serving 0-0: First serve out wide + crosscourt forehand to the sideline forced Olaru to bunt a crosscourt forehand wide. 15/0. Maria backhand just long. 15/15. Ace down the middle: just inside the service-line. 30/15. Maria forehand just long. 30/30. Maria netted a forehand off a mildly awkward sliced backhand from Olaru. 30/40 (BP #1). Maria hit a crosscourt backhand winner deep into the corner. Tracy Austin: “A couple of safer shots from Maria until she gets the exact one that she wants, then she goes bigger. She got down break-point by going big too soon.” Deuce #1. Olaru netted a forehand. Ad Maria (GP #1). Olaru hit an off-forehand just wide, and used Hawk-Eye to show that it was wide by a hair’s breadth! Olaru smiled as she changed ends. Held.

Olaru serving 0-1: Ace #1: down the middle, on the centre-line. 15/0. Maria forced a floater, and dispatched it with a crosscourt forehand drive-volley winner. 15/15. Olaru, pushed back on her heels, hit a down-the-line backhand into the tramlines. Sam Smith: “Doesn’t have the biggest game, Ioana Raluca Olaru. Would prefer the feel of the red clay under her feet – slower surface. This is a bit quick for her.” 15/30. Maria on the fourth stroke nailed an off-forehand winner just inside the sideline. 15/40 (BP #1). Maria on the fourth stroke hit a down-the-line backhand winner back behind Olaru. Tracy Austin: “That last serve, 89 mph, is not gonna get the job done. Just not enough pace to disturb Maria Sharapova.” Held.

Olaru is struggling to cope with the speed of the grass.

Tracy Austin: “Olaru’s index-finger is underneath the racket, so it’s really an extreme Western grip.”

Maria serving 2-0: Double fault (second serve just long). 0/15. Maria dominated the rally, forced a short floater, and dispatched it with a crosscourt backhand winner. 15/15. Maria on the third stroke hit a crosscourt backhand winner just inside the sideline. 30/15. Olaru’s deep crosscourt forehand induced Maria to hit a forehand long. 30/30. First serve out wide + forehand winner down the line. 40/30 (GP #1). Ace out wide: just inside the sideline. Held.

Olaru serving 0-3: Olaru went to the net behind a crosscourt forehand just inside the sideline, forcing Maria to hit a crosscourt forehand wide. 15/0. Deep first serve out wide forced Maria to hit a backhand long. 30/0. Maria went to the net, forcing Olaru to net a forehand. 30/15. Second serve: Maria nailed a backhand return-winner onto the baseline. 30/30. Maria went to the net, forcing Olaru to hit a crosscourt backhand wide. 30/40 (BP #1). Second-serve ace down the middle: right in the corner! Deuce #1. Maria hit a down-the-line backhand winner just inside the baseline. Ad Maria (BP #2). First serve down the middle – on the centre-line – forced Maria to stretch wide and earth a forehand return. Tracy Austin: “What’s good about the last couple of serves is that they’ve had some nice /slice/ on them, which is so effective on grass.” Deuce #2. Maria hit a down-the-line forehand just wide. Ad Olaru (GP #1). Maria on the fourth stroke hit an off-forehand winner. Tracy Austin: “You just can’t afford to hit those shots down the middle of the court with nothing on them. So much pressure on opponents to go for better depth, better angles.” Deuce #3. Deep sliced serve out wide forced Maria to hit a forehand return long. Tracy Austin: “Slice just makes the ball stay down a little bit longer on the grass.” Sam Smith: “It’s a good effort to get some slice with that grip!” Ad Olaru (GP #2). Deep first serve forced Maria to net a backhand. Held.

Olaru is taking a lot of time between points on her serve. The commentators made a big deal of the fact that she has just avoided the double bagel, which she suffered at the fair hands of Victoria Azarenka here last year.

Maria serving 3-1: Ace down the middle. Maria forced Olaru to earth a backhand on the fourth stroke. 30/0. Maria’s deep forehand volley down the middle forced Olaru to turn and net a forehand. 40/0 (GP #1). Olaru’s deep return forced Maria to hit a forehand long. 40/15 (GP #2). Maria forced a short ball, and hit a deep backhand down the line: just inside the baseline, forcing Olaru to earth a forehand. Held.

Olaru serving 1-4: First serve: Maria’s deep down-the-line forehand return forced Olaru to hit a crosscourt backhand wide. 0/15. Maria’s piercing off-forehand forced a short floater from Olaru, which Maria dispatched with an easy crosscourt forehand winner. 0/30. Maria spread Olaru, her short-angled crosscourt backhand forcing Olaru to hit a one-handed backhand long. Sam Smith: “The young Romanian, who’s only won eight matches this year, is really struggling against the power of Maria Sharapova.” 0/40 (BP #1). Olaru’s high-bouncing crosscourt forehand induced Maria to net a forehand. Tracy Austin: “Looking at the two players’ serves, there’s a massive difference: obviously in the speed, but look at the knee-bend. Olaru doesn’t use any knees or lower body whatsoever, whereas Sharapova /propels/ herself up into the serve.” 15/40 (BP #2). Olaru forced a short ball, but hit a forehand long. She has to pick off the low-hanging fruit, because there’s not much of it around. Held.

Maria serving 5-1: First serve out wide forced Olaru to hit a forehand long. 15/0. Maria went to the net, and hit a delectable crosscourt forehand drop-volley winner. She’s won 11 of 11 points at the net so far. 30/0. Deep first serve down the middle forced Olaru to bunt a forehand long – and Maria was looking to serve and volley. 40/0 (SP #1). Deep first serve down the middle forced Olaru to earth a forehand return. Maria won the first set 6-1 at 13:42 (32m).


Second set
----------
OLARU __*_*_*@__ 4
SHARA @*_*_*__@* 6

Olaru serving 0-0 (new balls): Olaru went to the net, forced a floater, and dispatched it with a beautiful off-forehand punch-volley winner. 15/0. Double fault (second serve wide). Olaru wasted a challenge. 15/15. Olaru went to the net behind a crosscourt forehand to the sideline, but Maria anticipated it well, and hit a crosscourt forehand winner that was halfway between being a passing-shot and being a lob. 15/30. Maria went to the net and hit a beautiful backhand drop-volley. 15/40 (BP #1). Maria’s forehand winner down the line was called long, but Maria embarrassed the line-judge with a Hawk-Eye challenge that showed that it was a couple of inches inside the baseline! Olaru argued that Hawk-Eye had picked up the wrong shot. The umpire awarded the point to Maria without a replay.

Tracy Austin: “Maria looks in good shape. She looks fit; she’s moving well; striking the ball cleanly. She hits the ball so /flat/, so when it moves through the grass, it’s tough to track down.”

Maria serving 1-0: Maria hit a short-angled crosscourt forehand winner just inside the sideline. 15/0. Maria’s deep forehand down the line forced a floater, which she dispatched with a crosscourt forehand drive-volley winner onto the sideline. 30/0. Ace down the middle: 110 mph, on the centre-line. 40/0 (GP #1). Huge first serve down the middle forced Olaru to lunge wide and earth a forehand return. Held.

Olaru serving 0-2: First serve down the middle induced Maria to hit a backhand return wide. 15/0. Body-jamming serve induced Maria to net a forehand return. Sam Smith: “Feeding on the scraps now, the Romanian.” 30/0. Olaru’s deep crosscourt backhand induced Maria to hit a backhand long. Tracy Austin: “Just a little /too/ flat there.” 40/0 (GP #1). Maria embarrassed another line-judge with a challenge that showed that Olaru’s first serve was a couple of inches long. Second serve: Maria dumped a cheap forehand return into the net. Held.

Maria serving 2-1: Double fault #2 (second serve long). 0/15. Olaru’s deep crosscourt forehand caught Maria standing too far in, forcing her to net a forehand. 0/30. Deep first serve out wide forced a short return, which Maria dispatched with a crosscourt forehand winner. 15/30. Maria forehand just long. 15/40 (BP #1). Deep second serve forced Olaru to bunt a forehand just wide – a leave that would have embarrassed Maria, had it just dropped in. 30/40 (BP #1). First serve down the middle forced Olaru to chop a forehand return very long. Deuce #1. Olaru chipped a deep forehand return just inside the baseline, forcing Maria to hit a forehand long. Tracy Austin: “I consider that an unforced error. Yes, she was pushed back, it was deep, but it wasn’t that hard. She certainly should have been able to get that ball back in.” Ad Olaru (BP #1). Second-serve ace down the middle: on the service-line. Deuce #2. Second serve: Olaru hit a makeable forehand return long. Ad Maria (GP #1). Deep first serve down the middle forced Olaru to bunt a forehand lob-return wide. Held.

Tracy Austin thinks Maria hits the ball 30–40% harder than Olaru. She also observed that Maria had abandoned her habit of tucking two strands of hair behind her ears before every serve.

Olaru serving 1-3: Olaru went to the net, drove Maria way outside the tramlines with a short-angled crosscourt backhand, and hit a crosscourt forehand volley-winner. 15/0. Big first serve forced a short return, which Olaru dispatched with an off-forehand winner. 30/0. Virtual ace down the middle (Maria just clipped it with her racket). 40/0 (GP #1). First serve forced a floater, but Olaru tried to hit a backhand volley from just inside the baseline, putting it wide. 40/15 (GP #2). Olaru opened up the court and hit a crosscourt forehand winner. Held.

A brilliant game by Olaru – much better than anything she had shown previously in this match! There was a nice close-up of Olaru’s shirt hiking up to show her belly-button as she served. Is this the start of a fightback?

Maria serving 3-2: Maria went to the net and hit a backhand dropshot-winner. 15/0. Deep first serve down the middle forced Olaru to chop a forehand return into the net. 30/0. Olaru forced a floater, and hit a backhand drive-volley winner down the line. 30/15. Olaru forced a short floater by the sideline, but dumped a horrendous crosscourt backhand into the net. 40/15 (GP #1). Maria forced a floater, and dispatched it with an off-forehand drive-volley winner. Held.

Olaru serving 2-4: Maria on the fourth stroke netted a backhand. 15/0. Maria netted a backhand return. 30/0. Deep, body-jamming second serve forced a short return, which Olaru dispatched with a crosscourt forehand winner. 40/0 (GP #1). Double fault #2 (second serve into the net). 40/15 (GP #2). Maria forced a floater, and dispatched it with an off-forehand drive-volley winner. 40/30 (GP #3). Olaru finally got the time-violation that had been coming throughout this match. She looked annoyed, but opened up the court and hit a crosscourt backhand winner. Held.

Time-violations are counted separately from code-violations (such as swearing or breaking a racket) in terms of the second violation bringing a point-penalty.

Maria serving 4-3: Maria forced a short ball and hit an easy forehand winner down the line. 15/0. Maria ran down a dropshot but netted a forehand. 15/15. Olaru chopped a forehand return just long. Tracy Austin: “Not feeling that she has time for a bigger swing.” 30/15. Olaru’s off-forehand forced Maria to net a backhand. 30/30. Second serve: Olaru netted a cheap off-backhand return. 40/30 (GP #1). Olaru hit a short-angled crosscourt forehand onto the sideline, forcing Maria to hit a forehand long. Deuce #1. Maria’s crosscourt backhand was called wide, and her Hawk-Eye challenge confirmed it. Ad Olaru (BP #1). Olaru forced a short ball, and hit an off-forehand winner. Broken.

For the first time in the match, I’m starting to worry about Maria’s chances of reaching the third round for the first time since 2007. Olaru is playing much better since going a set and a break down, and could be a threat if she can maintain this form.

Tracy Austin: “Olaru really seems to be handling the /pace/ now. She’s adjusted to the ball coming to her quicker. Quicker backswing, staying down better.”

Olaru serving 4-4: Deep first serve down the middle forced Maria to earth a backhand return. 15/0. Big first serve down the middle – just inside the centre-line – forced Maria to hit a forehand long. 30/0. Maria hit a deep backhand down the middle, plumb on the baseline, forcing Olaru to bunt an off-backhand wide. 30/15. Maria hit an off-forehand return deep into the corner, forcing Olaru to net a backhand. Maria said “c’mon”. 30/30. Big first serve down the middle forced Maria to stretch wide and net a backhand return. 40/30 (GP #1). Maria forced a floater, and dispatched it with a down-the-line backhand drive-volley winner. Deuce #1. Olaru dumped a forehand halfway up the net, and doubled over in frustration. Sam Smith: “Sharapova cranking up the pressure here.” Ad Maria (BP #1). Deep second serve forced a slow forehand return that sat up nicely for Olaru to hit a forehand winner down the line. Tracy Austin: “It’s really amazing Maria’s not reading that one up the ‘T’ on the Ad-side a little bit better. Olaru really prefers that serve: it’s the one that she feels more comfortable going to, especially under pressure.” Deuce #2. Maria dominated the rally, forced a floater, and dispatched it with an off-forehand drive-volley winner. Ad Maria (BP #2). Maria hit a down-the-line backhand wide. Deuce #3. Olaru, stretched, hit a crosscourt forehand just wide. Ad Maria (BP #3). Double fault #3 (second serve wide of the centre-line). Broken.

Huge serving from Olaru at the start of that game, but Maria showed once again that she is mistress of the decisive moments, and it’s a shame that the best – and key – game of the match ended on a double fault.

Maria serving 5-4 (new balls): Ace #6: first serve out wide. 15/0. Heavy second serve induced Olaru to mishit a backhand return short and weak; Maria dispatched it with a short-angled crosscourt forehand winner. 30/0. Deep first serve down the middle forced Olaru to hit a forehand return long. 40/0 (MP #1 for Maria). Olaru hit a deep backhand return just inside the baseline, inducing Maria to hit an off-forehand wide. 40/15 (MP #2 for Maria). Olaru’s crosscourt forehand induced Maria to net a makeable forehand. 40/30 (MP #3 for Maria). A short second serve induced Olaru to hit a backhand return long. Maria won 6-1 6-4 at 14:34 BST (second set 51m, match 1h24m).

Sam Smith: “For most of that match, she looked utterly convincing.”
Tracy Austin: “It’s good for Maria to be tested. Daniela Hantuchová in the next round would be a notch up from Olaru.”


Maria’s first BBC interview
---------------------------

This interview took place immediately after Maria left the court. She was still wearing her sun-visor, and glistening with sweat.

Celina Hinchcliffe: “Congratulations, Maria. The first set a breathe [sic]. How hard was it to adjust to the fight in the second set.”

Maria Sharapova: “Yeah, it was definitely a challenge, and she stepped it up and started playing really well, and er, you know, I’m just happy that I was able to close it off. You know, definitely made a few errors, er, you know, in the second set that er, you know, I shouldn’t, shouldn’t really make, but erm, I’m happy that I got through.”

Celina Hinchcliffe: “Is there anything missing from your game for you to really go on and challenge for this title?”

Maria Sharapova: “Yeah, just got to keep being aggressive, and you know, look to come in and, you know, in the second set, I just became a little bit more tentative, and erm, you know, wasn’t going, er... my shots weren’t going through the court as much as I would like them to, but erm, but it got better.”

Celina Hinchcliffe: “You’ve come back from this really bad shoulder-injury. What perspective has that given you on your tennis, Maria?”

Maria Sharapova: “Well, it’s just... it’s a thrill to be back, and, you know, last year on this day, I was going back home, er, you know, I lost in the second round, so, you know, I was definitely thinking about that in the last game. I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m going home, you know. I’m here to contend; I’m here to win the tournament.’ So erm, you know, I was happy to get through.”

Celina Hinchcliffe: “Congratulations.”

Maria Sharapova: “Thank you.”


Maria’s second BBC interview
----------------------------

By this time, Maria had showered and changed into a stripy blue T-shirt that went nicely with the bright blue wall behind her.

Rishi Persad: “But Maria, watching the match, it seemed a different approach in the two sets: first set quite aggressive, second set less so.”

Maria Sharapova: “Yeah, and I think that’s why she got back in the match, and erm, was able to come back. I really gave her that opening, and erm, you know, she, she broke me, and I was fortunate to get a break back and, erm, and close out the match.”

Rishi Persad: “I suppose you have to be glad to be through to the third round after the last couple of Wimbledon tournaments that you’ve played in.”

Maria Sharapova: “Yeah, I am. I’m really thrilled, and erm, last year I was packing my bags at this time, so erm, I was really aware of that, and erm, was fortunate to get that win today, and erm, give myself an opportunity to play another match.”

Rishi Persad: “What do you think the difference is between Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon /this/ year compared to last year?”

Maria Sharapova: “Erm, to be honest, last year I was really trying to get my feet on the ground, and see where I was, erm, physically and mentally. I’d been out of the game for so long, and erm, you know, coming back, just trying to see if my shoulder can handle many matches, where my game was, and it was... it just depended day by day how I was feeling, and erm, this year’s definitely different, and I’ve been fortunate to play many matches in the last few weeks, erm, which has been good, and erm, you know, coming here, playing well.”

Rishi Persad: “Well done today. By the way, has there been much chat about the Queen’s presence here in the locker-room?”

Maria Sharapova: “Erm, I haven’t heard too much, because I was getting ready for my match, but erm, it seemed like a few players got to meet her, which is wonderful, and erm, I think it’s great. It’s been, I believe, 33 years since she’s been here, and for her to be part of, you know, Wimbledon’s tradition. When you think of Wimbledon and you think of what it means to us, and of the tradition that’s behind the tournament, erm, you really think of royalty, and to see her here is wonderful.”

Rishi Persad: “And, final question: what do you make of what’s happening on Court 18 between Nicolas Mahut and John Isner?”

Maria Sharapova: “Oh... to be honest, I’d be checking myself into the local hospital right now! <laughing> Erm, it’s incredible. Erm, it really... it’s really great for the game, and to see them – just to know that they still have to go back out there and finish the match, and they still have six more to go if they want to win the tournament, is pretty surreal, and erm, I mean, I feel for them and their bodies, but what they’ve done is really heroic.”

Rishi Persad: “Well thank you very much for talking to us.”

Maria Sharapova: “Thank...”

Rishi Persad: “Best of luck for the rest of the tournament.”

Maria Sharapova: “Thank you.”


Articles
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Ruthless Serena into third round (BBC Sport)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/8759063.stm
>>>
Maria Sharapova reached the third round with a comfortable 6-1 6-4 win over Ioana Raluca Olaru of Romania.

The Russian 16th seed and 2004 champion breezed through the first set, but Olaru made the second more of a battle.

She broke back in the eighth game to level the set, but handed the advantage back to the Russian in the following game with a double fault.

Sharapova will play Czech Barbora Záhlavová Strýcová in the third round.

Záhlavová Strýcová dropped the first set against Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchová before battling back to beat the 24th seed 1-6 6-2 6-4.

She will face an increasingly confident Sharapova, who is returning to something like her old form after a long-term shoulder-injury.

“I made some errors, but I’m happy that I made it through,” Sharapova said after her second-round win.

“I’ve got to keep being aggressive. In the second set, I was bit tentative, but it got better. It’s a thrill to be back. Last year, I lost in the second round, and I was thinking about that, and there’s no way I was going home. I’m here to contend, and I’m here to win the tournament.”
<<<

Steady progress for Sharapova [skytext 480->482]
>>>
Maria Sharapova is safely into the third round of Wimbledon after a straight-sets victory over Romania’s Ioana Raluca Olaru on Number One court.

The No.16 seed – the Ladies’ champion in 2004 – won 6-1 6-4 to set up a clash with Barbora Záhlavová Strýcová, who beat Daniela Hantuchová.

Sharapova made short work of the first set, but faced stiffer resistance in the second, with her unseeded opponent breaking the Russian in the eighth game.

However, Olaru handed the initiative straight back in the next game, dropping her serve with a double fault.

The break enabled Sharapova to serve out the match and stay on course for a fourth-round meeting with defending champion Serena Williams.

Sharapova, 23, said: “It was definitely a challenge, and she stepped it up. I’m happy I was able to close it off.

“I made some errors, but I’m happy that I made it through. I’ve got to keep being aggressive. In the second, I was a bit tentative, but it got better. It’s a thrill to be back.”
<<<

Sharapova Shakes Wimbledon Jinx (www.wtatour.com)
>>>
Having fallen in the same round the last two years, Maria Sharapova snapped a Wimbledon second-round jinx on Thursday, defeating young Romanian Ioana Raluca Olaru in straight sets: 6-1 6-4.

With her power game in full flow – she hit 29 winners in the match – Sharapova, the champion at The Championships in 2004 and this year’s No.16 seed, made quick work of the 21-year-old Olaru, whose imperfect record against top-20 players stretched to 0:14 – winning only one set in those 14 matches.

“I kind of backed up and let her back in the match,” said Sharapova, who gave a break back in the second set before closing it out. “I knew that coming into this match that last year I was on the plane the next day. I really thought about it, especially toward the end of the match. So I was really excited to get through.”

Sharapova had been stopped in the second round here in 2008 (by Alla Kudryavtseva) and 2009 (by Gisela Dulko). Before those last two losses, she had never lost in the first week of the grass court Major.

Two major storylines emerged over the last 24 hours or so: the Queen’s visit to the All-England Club, and the marathon men’s match between Nicolas Mahut and John Isner. Sharapova was asked about both of them in press.

“It’s wonderful and great for our sport [that] she was able to take some time from her really busy schedule and be a part of Wimbledon,” Sharapova said of Queen Elizabeth II, who was visiting the tournament for the first time in 33 years, and just the fourth time overall. “To see her here supporting the tournament was great. I didn’t get an opportunity to meet her – I had a match to play – but I’m sure I’ll see highlights of her watching the match. It will be pretty cool to see.”

And on the Mahut v Isner drama, which picked up at 2:2 59-59 on Thursday? “It’s amazing what they’ve done,” the 23-year-old said. “They’ve created some crazy news around the world, which is great for the sport. Even for people who don’t have any interest in tennis, they read about it and see how amazing it is. It’s heroic. I’d be checking myself into the local hospital.”
<<<

Injury-free Sharapova bounces back (Vicki Hodges, The Daily Telegraph – UK)
>>>
[The Siberian is fit again, and set to break the Williams sisters’ stronghold]

Maria Sharapova lingered on Court One for a brief moment longer than usual. Blowing her customary kisses to every corner, savouring the adulation and occasion as if it was her first time on a Wimbledon show-court.

In fact, it was Serena Williams who was shunned by the All England Lawn Club, scheduled third on Court Two for her second-round contest against Anna Chakvetadze.

If the reigning champion and world No.1, who needed just 49 minutes on Thursday night to dispatch a player ranked No.5 in the world just three years ago 6-0, 6-1, felt aggrieved, she did not show it.

A date in front of the Queen on Centre would have been special, but Williams has received her fair share of affection from SW19’s masses down the years. The timing of her match at least enabled her to execute her much-rehearsed curtsey in a figure-hugging white dress and tailored jacket in front of Her Majesty at lunch.

No, this was Sharapova’s chance to shine again on the big stage, and didn’t it feel good.

The Siberian’s straightforward 6-1 6-4 win over the unseeded Ioana Raluca Olaru saw her advance past the second round in west London for the first time since 2007.

Sharapova had not long returned from a nine-month lay-off following shoulder-surgery when she lost to Gisela Dulka last year. The 23-year-old also suffered her earliest exit at a Major when 154th-ranked Alla Kudryavtseva shot her down in straight sets in 2008.

Sharapova used to be known for her style and good looks; now she is shackled by talk of her right shoulder.

“We’re professional athletes. We don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘Everything feels perfect.’ Maybe when we’re very young,” Sharapova said.

“But at this point in our careers, when we play tennis on a daily basis, we practise, we play matches, it’s impossible to feel fit. That’s the way it goes.”

An injury-free Sharapova has underlined her credentials to break the Williams sisters’ stronghold at Wimbledon again.

Sharapova who powered her way past Serena Williams for her first Major and Wimbledon title, is potentially one win away – against Czechia’s Barbora Záhlavová Strýcová – from setting up a repeat of the 2004 final – a scenario that seemed a long way off 12 months ago for the 16th seed, who has averaged a Major win every two years since her maiden success.

“I knew coming into this match that last year I was on the plane the next day after I lost,” Sharapova said. “I really thought about it, especially towards the end of the match.”

That could explain the only stumble she encountered against Olaru, her serve broken in the eighth game of the second set before putting the seal on a dominant display.

“As far as physically and fitness-wise [sic], I feel really good,” Sharapova added. “It feels a lot better than I did last year when I was sitting here.”

Serena Williams can sympathise with Sharapova’s injury-troubles. The American sat out three months of the season with a knee-injury after winning the Australian Open in January.

It was not all bad. Williams utilised the time to hone her manicure-skills at “nail-school”. Sharapova, meanwhile – the world’s highest-earning sportswoman – spent her time away from the courts getting richer, spreading her ‘Maria Inc.’ brand worldwide.

“I’ve set myself up well for things I can do after my tennis-career. But that never really crossed my mind. I was always gearing up to get back.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with different people in different industries that have made my life interesting, fun and creative.”

The fun and games can wait. Sharapova, for now, is just relieved to get back to her day-job.
<<<

--
Dr. Andrew Broad
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My Eternal Fanship: 1. Monica Seles; 2. Мария Шарапова (‘Maria Sharapova’); 3. Daniela Hantuchová; 4. Jelena Dokić; 5. Iva Majoli; 6. Karina Habšudová; 7. Вера Звонарёва (‘Vera Zvonarëva’); 8. Nicole Vaidišová; 9. Анна Чакветадзе (‘Anna Chakvetadze’); 10. Lucie Šafářová; 11. Ирода Туляганова (‘Iroda Tulyaganova’); 12. Magdaléna Rybáriková; 13. Sabine Lisicki
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