More Maria Magic: Sharapova stares down another deficit, advances to quarterfinals

French Open 2009
By Matthew Zemek, June 1st, 2009

maria sharapovaThe official public record indicates that Maria Sharapova has played four women’s singles matches at the 2009 French Open.

For all intents and purposes, however, it sure seems as though the three-time Grand Slam champion has played only one match during her stay in Paris. The key, though, is that the globally-recognized figure has found a way to play that one match on four separate occasions.

In yet another awe-inspiring comeback, Sharapova-whose world ranking of 102 is a very misleading technicality at the moment-escaped from a 4-2 deficit in the third and deciding set to oust China’s Na Li in a pulse-pounder on Court Philippe Chatrier. Sharapova’s 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 win, achieved in 2 hours and 13 minutes, moves the indomitable and unshakable Russian into the quarterfinals, a result that transcends this tennis warrior’s wildest dreams.

It is often said that “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics,” and that old adage applies more to this current incarnation of Sharapova than the player who claimed three major titles before suffering a torn rotator cuff in the spring of 2008. In the years before her injury-induced hiatus from the WTA Tour-a 10-month break that created a very artificial dip in her world ranking-Sharapova stood on very even terms with her foremost competitors in the women’s game. Now, however, one of the world’s most-photographed females is playing with a shoulder that’s still bandaged, a game that’s still rusty, and a body that hasn’t yet acquired peak fitness. Late in this match against Li, a very competent professional who took a No. 25 seed to Roland Garros, Sharapova asked for a massage from the WTA trainer. The medical timeout was a response to cramps that will almost inevitably emerge for anyone who returns to world-class athletic competition after a prolonged layoff. The inconsistency in Sharapova’s game-seen most clearly when she was bageled by Li in a mercifully short second set (29 minutes)-is a product of substandard physical health. There can be no denying that the former world No. 1 is far from the height of her powers.

Yet, she’s winning matches-long matches, three-set matches. Matches just like the one seen on Sunday against her Chinese challenger.

William Hill Tennis Betting

If this comeback from 4-2 down in the third sounds familiar, it should. Sharapova overcame a 4-2 (and 40-15) deficit against another seeded player-fellow Russian Nadia Petrova-to escape from the second round of this 15-day tennis festival. In her first- and third-round matches, Sharapova didn’t have quite as much of a problem, but that’s only from a relative standpoint: Sharapova lost the first set in rounds 1 and 3, but came back to win each of those matches as well. As has been said repeatedly at Roland Garros, Sharapova’s all-around game might not emerge for some time, but the one thing this relentless woman knows how to do is compete. Within the realm of women’s professional tennis, only Serena Williams possesses the same junkyard-dog ferocity Sharapova does. With the aging of Venus Williams and the retirement of former world No. 1 Justine Henin, it’s clear that only Sharapova and Serena can be viewed as the foremost closers in their sport.

Sharapova-who was happy just to play tennis again when the women’s singles event started on the terre battue of France-is now in the round of 8. Her body might have little left in the tank, but if there’s any fuel in Maria Sharapova’s long and lanky frame, you can bet that it will be spilled in full as the French Open moves forward. No drop of sweat, no ounce of energy, will ever be conserved by a lady who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit.”


1 Comment »

  • what a great article for sharapova. very well written.

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