Serena spurred by Sharapova defeat
Tue 20 July, 2004 09:33
By Matthew Cronin
LOS ANGELES, July 20 (Reuters) - Serena Williams feels her shock defeat by Maria Sharapova in the Wimbledon final will spur her on to regain the top spot in the rankings.
The six-times grand slam champion was dislodged as world number one last August, when she was sidelined with a knee injury, and has since slipped to 16th.
While Sharapova's Wimbledon triumph earlier this month left Serena without a grand slam title for the first time since May 2002, the American believes she will soon regain her form.
"She didn't have anything to lose and I put too much pressure on myself," Serena said before her first-round match on Wednesday at the JP Morgan Chase Open.
"I don't even think of her. I just think about the present, the future and me. I need to focus more on me. If I keep working hard, I'll be back where I belong."
Serena returned to the tour in March after spending eight months recuperating from knee surgery.
Since winning her comeback tournament in Miami, the American has struggled to regain the form which made her the holder of all four grand slam titles following last year's Australian Open -- a feat she dubbed the 'Serena Slam'
Serena's victory at the Nasdaq-100 Open remains the high point of her 2004 season and her only title.
The 22-year-old accepted she might have set the bar too high for herself following her comeback.
"Maria played well and I was really disappointed but now I think that after not playing for more than eight months, it wasn't that bad," said Serena. "No one really knows about all the rehab I had to go through.
Serena, whose sister Yetunde Price was shot dead last September in a Los Angeles suburb, added: "I learned a lot last year about life in general. I realised that tennis isn't the most important thing in your life and you can't take things for granted."
Having skipped the second half of last year, the American has nothing to lose for the rest of the season as she does not have any ranking points to defend until March 2005.
"When I was dominant, I was playing every week. I'm going to get back there," she said.
Although Serena may no longer be the force she once was, she reigns supreme as a tennis celebrity.
On Monday, she became the first women's tennis player to have a souvenir bobble-head doll created in her likness.
"It's amazing," she said. "But I guess that happens when you become overly famous. Every week now, I get more famous."
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