RTS Update: Maria's Big Move
Published April 28, 2014 12:15
After an up-and-down first few months of the year - semifinals in Brisbane, Paris and Miami, but then earlier-than-expected losses at the Australian Open and Indian Wells - Sharapova seems to be finding her very best again, winning her first WTA title of the year in Stuttgart over the weekend and grabbing the world's attention along the way with some dramatic wins over Lucie Safarova and Ana Ivanovic.
During her run in Stuttgart, Sharapova was asked about her early season struggles, which were clearly a hangover from missing the last four months of the 2013 season because of a right shoulder injury.
"I've had very different phases in my career," the former World No.1 explained. "I've had one when I was young and winning Grand Slam tournaments at 17 years old. Then I had another period, going through a tough injury and climbing myself back up to the top, and then winning another Grand Slam. And this year, after another injury with the shoulder, I'm finding myself again in a bit of a comeback.
"Moments like this, winning in Stuttgart, are very special because that's what you work so hard for, trying to win from the first point to the last one of a tournament. I'm really proud I did that here."
Getting back her match fitness after such a long break was one of the keys, the Russian added.
"If you saw me after those tough matches in Australia, I was just not physically able to recover. And that's from not playing. There's nothing that replicates going out and playing these types of matches.
"I just want to build on what I've started here. It's still a long way to go into the French Open, I have a couple of tournaments, but I hope to play better with each match that goes by from here on."
Sharapova is hoping to qualify for the BNP Paribas WTA Championships Singapore presented by SC Global for the seventh time this year. She won the tournament in her first try in 2004, and since then has reached another two finals in 2007 (falling to Justine Henin) and 2012 (falling to Serena Williams).
Apart from Sharapova going from 12th to 10th, the other big move among the leaderboard's top group came from Ana Ivanovic, who went from ninth to seventh place after reaching the finals of Stuttgart.
"I think I've really improved my consistency," Ivanovic said after the final. "I'm showing that week in and week out. It really showed in Stuttgart and it means a lot that the hard work is paying off."
And there are a ton of points coming the next few weeks - most notably at the Mutua Madrid Open.
"Madrid starts Saturday," Radwanska said after falling to Sharapova in Stuttgart. "I'll have maybe one or two days off first, and then start practicing again. Now I'll maybe focus more on the fitness.
"And then I'll have a couple of days in Madrid, and here we go again!"
Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci maintained their lead in the Road To Singapore doubles leaderboard with their second WTA doubles title of the year in Stuttgart. With 3,430 points, they currently lead the second place team by almost 1,200 points (Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina have 2,266 points).