LONDON, England - The second half of 2013 was a tough one for Maria Sharapova - she played just one match after Wimbledon, a loss in her opening match in Cincinnati - but just like the phoenix from the ashes, it's pretty likely Sharapova is going to rise up even higher because of that in 2014.
After last year's French Open, where she made it to the final as defending champion, Sharapova was No.3 in the world. But it was a comfortable No.3, as she was part of a top trio - along with Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka - that was really starting to pull away from the rest of the field.
But on a fateful Wednesday at Wimbledon - Wimblegeddon, which was one of its many nicknames - Sharapova was among a number of huge stars to fall, getting bundled out in the second round by an unheralded Portuguese qualifier, Michelle Larcher de Brito. Sharapova was joined on the sidelines that day by Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, and even Roger Federer.
The second round loss was Sharapova's earliest at a Grand Slam since she fell first round at the 2010 Australian Open. "It's frustrating," she said afterwards. "You don't want to lose matches, whether it's early or late in the draw, but this tournament is extremely special, so it's especially tough to lose here.
"But I'm going to keep my head high about it because there's no other way. I'll find the positives out of what I have done today and in my career, set new goals, and try to just keep moving forward."
Injuries got in the way of moving forward, though. Sharapova withdrew from her first two stops in the summer hardcourt season, Stanford and Toronto, with a hip injury, played the aforementioned match in Cincy - she lost to Sloane Stephens - and then missed the rest of the year with a shoulder injury.
Though her ranking only fell to No.4 by the end of the year, that meant that in the first half of 2014 she would have to defend a massive amount of points - but the Russian seemed as motivated as ever.
"Certainly when you're doing it so many years of your life there are moments where you feel you need a pick-me-up. I didn't play for a few months, and that was the reason for me to get back out there.
"I know when I'm healthy how I can play. I needed to get healthy. That was motivation on its own."
There were a few times in the first half of 2014 where Sharapova was a match away from getting bumped out of the Top 10, but she rose up and won all of those matches, and once the tour headed to clay she went into beast mode - she has won 22 of 23 matches since the hardcourt season wrapped up, winning titles in Stuttgart, Madrid and Roland Garros, and is currently in the second week here.
She's won two more matches at Wimbledon than in 2013 and has zero to defend the rest of 2014.
And with Middle Sunday upon us, check out how Sharapova would spend her perfect day...