INTERVIEW - Sharapova sets sights on French Open
Tue Jan 30, 2007 12:21 PM IST
TOKYO (Reuters) - What do you give a woman who is flying high on top of the world? If that woman is Maria Sharapova, it would be a French Open crown.
With Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles already tucked away in her locker, the Russian world number one is targeting victory in Paris this year following her return to the top of the rankings this week.
"Probably one of the biggest challenges is going to be the French for me," the 19-year-old told Reuters on Tuesday. "It's a challenge I'm really looking forward to."
"I had a terrible claycourt season last year because of injury. I shouldn't even have been at the French Open, but I tried.
"But I feel like I can do it this year. I'm definitely looking forward to it."
Sharapova, in Tokyo for this week's Pan Pacific Open tournament, lost in the fourth round at Roland Garros last year after two months out with a foot injury.
She finished 2006 by winning a first U.S. Open title and has just replaced Belgium's Justine Henin at the top of the WTA rankings despite her 6-1 6-2 thrashing by Serena Williams in the Australian Open final at the weekend.
"Second time around it's a little different," shrugged Sharapova, who first reached the summit of the women's game in August 2005.
"When you first become number one it's more of a thrill and you sort of think about it a little more. But it's not something I worry about too much."
"Obviously it's very important and it's a dream for every young girl and boy practising and growing up," she added.
"I think when you've already been there... all you try to do is win matches and the more you win, the better situation you're going to be in to stay number one."
Her bruising defeat to Williams in Melbourne may have taken some of the gloss off her return to the top of the rankings, but Sharapova dismissed it as a bad day at the office.
"There are going to be a lot of days in my career like that where it's going to be an off day for me and you're going to run into someone playing their best tennis," she said.
"That was just one of those days. Losing is never fun but it's part of what I do. I'm not always going to be winning."
Since destroying Williams to win the 2004 Wimbledon final as a 17-year-old, Sharapova has been the biggest draw in the women's game.
"On a daily basis I get random reminders of what I've achieved and you look back and think how quick everything has happened," she said in an interview arranged by WTA Tour sponsors Sony Ericsson.
"Last year I came to Tokyo and I remember people asking me if I was going to win another slam. It was kind of funny because I just came from losing to Justine in three (sets) in the semi-finals in Australia."
Sharapova added: "I said 'It's going to take time, it's going to take time'. Then I won the U.S. Open and I just got to the final of another one (grand slam). There's always going to be your moments to shine."