MARIA SHARAPOVA- AUSTRALIAN OPEN BEST OF
Maria came in as the 4th seed and still 17 after having a fantastic year in 2004 in which she won Wimbledon and the YEC, beating Serena in both finals. She had a tough road to the Semifinals playing three 3 set matches including her epic battle versus No.5 seed and US Open champion Kuznetsova in the Quarterfinals 4-6 6-2 6-2 (She also beat Li along the way, losing only 2 games).
Amazing high quality match between the Wimbledon and US Open champions. High quality, lots of drama and the famous EPIC match point starting at 12:00.
Then, in the Semifinals, Maria went up against Serena Williams who was struggling with form and injuries. Maria had a 6-2 5-4 lead and was serving for the match and also had 3 match points in the 3rd set, but failed to capitalize. Even though she lost, she gave Serena one of her toughest wins of her career, so it deserves a mention! Serena won 2-6 7-5 8-6.
Maria once again came to the Aussie Open as the 4th seed after a consistent 2005. She powered her way to the Semis without losing a set. In the 4th round she beat an in form Hantuchova 6-4 6-4 who eliminated the defending champion, Serena in the previous round and in the Quarterfinals, she had a hard fought 7-6 6-4 win over No.6 seed Nadia Petrova. She started her Semifinal strong, but wasn't able to close it out the right way and eventually lost to Henin 4-6 6-1 6-4.
For the 2nd time in her career, Maria was the 1st seed at a Grand Slam. At the very start of the tournament, Maria had huge trouble, playing outdoors at nearly 50 degrees Celsius(one of the hottest days in tennis history). Her opponent was Camille Pin and after a strong start, the heat affected Maria's game in the 2nd set. In the 3rd, she was able to pull it together and gain a 5-0 lead, but shortly, Pin came back in the match and was 2 points away from winning. Maria's mental toughness pulled her through as she was able to invest her very last atoms of energy and win 6-3 4-6 9-7 in one of the matches we will always remember. She had a rough road to the finals, but she won her next 6 matches in straight sets. She played Zvonareva in R4, winning 7-5 6-4 in a very high quality and dramatic 2 setter. She later beat Chakvetadze 7-6 7-5 and sent Kim into retirement in the Semifinals, beating her 6-4 6-2 with another awesome match point. In the final, she played Serena who had slipped down to No. 81 in the world. To everyone's shock, Serena won in 52 minutes 6-1 6-2 and gave one of the best performances of her life. As a result of reaching the final, maria returned to No.1
- *Australian Open Champion*
After a tough and injury filled 2007 season, Maria came back to Australia as the 5th seed. The Australian Open had received a makeover and the entire venue and courts were a very nice shade of blue for the first time in history and our Siberian Siren was the 1st woman to win it in this edition! She dominated her way to her 3rd Grand Slam title, losing only 32 games and winning each of her matches in straight sets. She had a very tough draw, but managed to beat 4 Top 10 players in a row, including 3 Top 5! Maria raced through her first 4 rounds, dismantling Davenport 6-1 6-2, bageling Vesnina and demolishing Dementieva 6-2 6-0 to set up another match with her long time rival, Justine Henin. Henin had won 10 titles in 2007 including 2 Slams and the YEC and was on a 32 match winning streak and had not lost a match since Wimbledon. Maria have Henin the toughest win of her 2007 at the YEC final, but this time she was determined to win. With one of the most brilliant performances of her life, Maria beat Henin 6-4 6-0 and left the tennis world in shock. To this day this remains Maria's 'magnum opus'. She wasn't planning on stopping there though as she was set to win. She beat No.3 Jankovic in the semis 6-3 6-1 games and No.4(and new No.2) Ana Ivanovic in the final 7-5 6-3.
After missing the 2009 edition due to shoulder injury, Maria returned to Melbourne as the 14th seed. Shockingly, she lost to Maria Kirilenko in the 1st round 7-6 3-6 6-4. She fought hard, but made over 70 UE which cost her the match.
Maria had a disappointing 2010 and we all remember the Asian Swing and the early AO preps. It looked like Maria had hit rock bottom, but a new year is new hope! She was ranked No.16, but was seeded 14th in the draw. After a solid win in the 1st round, she had a tough match against Razzano in the 2nd round, but found her game when she needed to. After that came a spectacular match versus Goerges, one of the best in the 2011 edition of the Aussie Open which Maria won 4-6 6-4 6-4. She then faced an inspired Andra Petkovic and once again, made far many errors and convincingly lost 6-2 6-3.
For the 3rd time in her career, Maria was seeded 4th at the Aussie Open. Despite a strong 2011 in which she came back to the Top 5 finally and reached a Grand Slam final, not many believed she would reach the final after her nasty ankle injury and lack of match play. She proved everyone wrong and showed what a great fighter she is. She stormed through the opening three rounds, losing only 5 games. She got revenge on Dulko for Wimby 2009 and beat soon to be Top 10- Kerber 6-1 6-2. Next up was her 4th round epic versus Lisicki who made Maria work hard. After the shocking elimination of Serena, Maria had a clear path to the Semis. She proved too strong versus Makarova, losing only 5 games. She went into the Semifinals as the complete underdog versus Kvitova. Kvitova had had a stellar year and was a few points away from reaching the No.1 ranking. Despite both not being at their best, they produced one of the most dramatic encounters of 2012 and Maria's will power pulled her through. In the final Maria was again inconsistent and lost to Azarenka 6-3 6-0, but all in all it was a very satisfying Australian Open!
Best of luck to Maria Sharapova at the 2013 Australian Open and lets hope our Siberian Siren can give another epic performance in Melbourne