Then why not attempt to scramble as she has in the past. Certain shots she seemed to make no effort at all on balls that, with a little extra effort, could have been kept in play. Also, it seemed to me, just on a technical level, she was pulling up, off balls driving them into the net. She wasn't staying down. To me, that is an issue of fitness and lower body strength/health(ie, the hip).
I have no doubt rust was a factor, but I don't think that it was as much as fitness/health. After all, she came out sharp (pun not intended). Only as the match went on, became more physical, did she begin to break down. This was most telling on her bh side. Early on, she was doing exactly as she should have - torturing Stephens on the backhand, drawing either an error or a sitter. But it was Maria who couldn't sustain the onslaught. Sloane's bh got better - grooved even - and Maria's bh broke down under the physical nature of the exchanges. But it wasn't just her backhand. She was pulling up and off her forehand too.
The whole thing reminded me of the effect latter-peak Agassi had on his opponents after Agassi took away their legs.
As for the coaching change, as much as I'd like to blame Connors, it's hard for me to believe that he could have had this negative of an effect in so short a time.
My bottom line: Maria needs to do some serious soul searching. She's at an age where nothing will come as easily as it had, and as she gets older there will be only more distractions. Hard to believe if your name is Sharapova, but it's true. She needs to ask herself what price she's willing to pay to get it back together. Personally, I don't think Connors is the right guy. I see his addition as a USO stunt. Maria needs a coach that she will let push her where she hasn't been willing to go and demand of her things that others are likely afraid to demand.
Anyway, thanks for the response and thoughts and indulging my interloping.