The well for Masha News seems to have dried out - here's a little bit of news though:
Link: Sharapova healthy and training again
Link: Sharapova, Williams and Clijsters to open 2012 season at Brisbane International
Not much huh? - I know - I also wanted to link to an article posted on the tennis reporters.net but for some reason it is impossible to invoke the URL - so - I've ripped off the whole article
WTA 2011 Review: Maria
December 2, 2011 By Matthew Cronin
Maria made strides in 2011 but now must take a leap.
Maria Sharapova’s 2011 season can be seen in a variety of ways, one of which is that it was a major stepping stone back toward the top levels of the game; and another that clearly indicated that she has decent sized strides to take before she can consistently challenge the other elite players.
It was major year of transition for Sharapova: not only did she announce in the off season that she had become engaged to basketball player Sasha Vujacic (clearly a huge positive personally because she wanted stability), but at the start of the year she switched coaches from her longtime friend Michael Joyce to Swede Thomas Hogstedt, which for a while did take an emotional toll on her, and perhaps explains her below par performance at the Aussie Open. At first, she looked on confused court but gradually, by the spring, when she better understood how Hogstedt wanted her to attack, she began to look more comfortable.
The major positives that came out of her season started in Miami, where she reached the final; continued through the clay court season when she won her first major title on crushed brick in Rome; went on in Paris where reached the semis of Roland Garros; then continued though Wimbledon ,where she stung one opponent after another and reached the final.
But other than her revival in Miami and a title run in Cincinatti, the rest of the season on hard courts was not up to her pre 2009 standards, given that she is a former Australian Open and US Open titlist. She played arguably the worst match of her Grand Slam career in going down to Andre Petkovic in Australia and was seriously disappointed in the way she performed in the third set of her third round defeat to Flavia Pennetta at the US Open. Her fall was not noteworthy as she badly sprained her ankle in Tokyo and pulled out of the WTA Championships after two matches, and ended the year ranked No. 4.
What Sharapova can also be pleased about is that she scored big wins over Gen Caro members Wozniacki, Azarenka, Radwanska, Cibulkova and Lisicki. She also bested some veteran Russians, but did take tough losses to Pennetta, Petkovic (whom she did beat twice later in the season) Na Li, Serena and yes, for the first time, Sam Stosur.
Her return of second serves is still the game’s best, but her inability to hold serve consistently like she did before her October 2008 shoulder surgery has really affected her results, largely because her first serve isn’t as imposing as it once was and she now has an extremely inconsistent second serve that’s attackable.
After having trouble with her forehand at the start of the year, it did begin to improve. She’s using her legs more and now is able to put a little more topspin on it. Her backhand remains excellent both down the line and crosscourt.
But here are two critical parts of her game that absolutely has to improve in 2012: her transition game and her volleys. For whatever reason, she has all but abandoned her swing volley, which used to be one of her money shots. Plus, she’s simply is not secure enough hitting standard volleys.
Her movement has improved and she is much more committed to solid defense than she once was, but speeding side-to-side, and up and back will never be her forte, which is why she has to do dictating most of the time.
Sharapova is 24 now, young at heart, mature in her mind, but with a body that has been beaten up by 17 years of hardcore play from the time she arrived as a lost kid at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida.
She is very much a veteran now, although she’s a few years younger than two of her most important rivals, Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters.
Next season will be critical for her, because it has to be assumed that Kvitova will continue to improve and she has as big of weapons as anyone out there. Azarenka has always played her tough, as has Wozniacki.
While Sharapova doesn’t weep buckets full of tears like she once did after tough losses, she is not going to be satisfied if she is pushed out of the top 5.
She needs to take some risks next year and push herself forward more in matches. She has survived a near career-ending injury, and now it’s time for her to go to phase three in her game, where she shortens points more by propelling herself closer to the net cords. She may take a few uncharacteristic losses at first, but if she can win five more points set up close to the net, her fourth Grand Slam title will be hers in 2012.