World No.1 Sharapova Comes Out Strong

Maria Sharapova cruised in her first round match but has a very tricky opponent in the next one.

Published June 25, 2012 12:00

World No.1 Sharapova Comes Out Strong
Maria Sharapova

LONDON, England - In her first match since completing the career Grand Slam and returning to No.1 in the world, Maria Sharapova came out firing in her first round match at Wimbledon, hitting 23 winners to just 14 unforced errors to beat veteran Australian Anastasia Rodionova in straight sets, 62 63.

Sharapova had never lost more than three games in a set in any of the pair's four previous meetings and this one went much the same, as the No.1-seeded Russian lost serve twice but broke five times to win in just 70 minutes.

"The first one's always tricky, and I had a few letdowns towards the end of both sets, but overall I'm pretty happy with the way I performed," Sharapova said after the match. "It's always a very nice feeling for me to be back on Centre Court here at Wimbledon. It's been a year - it's such a special place for me."

Rodionova is now 0-19 against Top 10 players, winning one set in 19 matches.

By winning the French Open, Sharapova not only became the first player, male or female, to win a Grand Slam title after shoulder surgery, she also achieved the aforementioned career Grand Slam and returned to No.1. One could say her comeback from her injury is complete. Would she say the same?

"In terms of a comeback, yes, because it's a Grand Slam win and getting back to No.1," the 25-year-old said. "But in terms of my career, definitely not.

"I still believe I can achieve a lot more. That's what drives me and gets me up in the morning still, no matter how much success I've had, no matter how many downfalls, I still believe I can be better. I think until the day comes that I wake up and think my game isn't good enough, that's the time you say, 'Well...'"

And there wasn't much of a honeymoon after she won that French Open title.

"The day after I won in Paris, I was in Row 20 in a European Southwest Airlines going to Spain to see my candy being produced with little babies next to me. It was like a reality check. I was travelling with a family - my physio's family - and they had a baby, which I love carrying, so I was slightly responsible."

And then she came to Wimbledon. "This sport puts you back to reality so fast. Within days you're back and practicing, and getting ready, and it starts from scratch, starts from the first round. It just happens to be Wimbledon.

"And on top of that, when you're a Grand Slam champion and you're No.1 in the world, everybody is more hungry across the net to beat you."

Sharapova's next round could be a very tricky one indeed, as well. Tsvetana Pironkova - who edged Serbian qualifier Vesna Dolonc in her first round match, 57 60 75 - has only been past the second round of a Grand Slam event twice, but they have both come here - and they have both been extremely deep runs, the semifinals here in 2010 and the quarterfinals again last year.

Pironkova also has five career wins over Top 5 players, two on clay courts (Ana Ivanovic at Rome in 2008 and Elena Dementieva at Warsaw in 2010) and three on grass (Venus Williams at Wimbledon in 2010, Vera Zvonareva at Wimbledon in 2011 and Agnieszka Radwanska at Eastbourne last week).

Sharapova has beaten Pironkova in straight sets in all three of their previous meetings, though two of those wins have been very tight two-setters.

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