Sharapova's Clay Court Transformation
Published April 28, 2014 12:11
For someone who once described her own movement on a clay court as reminiscent of a "cow on ice", Maria Sharapova has looked decidedly sure-footed on the surface in recent years.
In fact, six of her last eight titles have come on the terre battue that she once so openly loathed.
The latest of these came in Stuttgart, where on Sunday she drove away with the silverware for the third straight year. So what is the secret from her transformation from clay court neophyte to serial title winner?
"It was back in 2007 that Sharapova first mentioned "cow on ice", explaining how unnatural she felt playing on clay. That was when she was struggling with her serious shoulder injury. Fast forward seven years and if anything she looks more comfortable on clay even than on hard courts, her most successful surface, with 17 titles.
"So how has she done it? Well, she's matured, for a start, into a more tactical player when the surface does not do the work for her. Her groundstrokes are virtually flat, so she misses out on the reaction of the clay to top-spin, but her point-construction is far superior now to when she first came on the scene and relied on blasting people away.
"Secondly, she has learned to slide on clay, especially to her backhand side. It still looks a little ungainly at times, but it's hugely effective and since her backhand is her better wing, she has the strength on the run/slide to be able to punch the ball back with the two-hander, even when pushed to extremes. That's something she couldn't do until a few years ago and is a massive improvement."
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