As you make your way down the 1-10 freeway toward Indian Wells, the large “attention” signs or whatever you want to call them pass above you. Today the message read “Gusty Winds Ahead”. That could have been an apt warning for Maria Sharapova who lost another tight early round match, this time to Zheng Jie, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
The match, which took almost three hours, was basically a question of whether Sharapova could hit enough winners to blow Zheng off the court or would the feisty Chinese player hang onto the baseline and get every ball back? Both players did a little of both today.
The second set was where I thought Sharapova had it. She fought hard in two long games at 1-1, and then 2-1 to go up an early break by trying to hit the ball as hard as she could. When Sharapova won the second set 6-2, I thought she had it.
But Sharapova’s serve let her down again as she double faulted early to go down an early break. At 3-2, Sharapova called for the trainer to look at her arm and though she kept playing, she was out of it. Credit to Zheng for breaking to get to 5-3 and then serving it out.
Afterwards Sharapova said her right elbow bothered her and it was something that also was an issue at the U.S. Open. I actually see this as a mild upset based on Zheng’s ranking but so far 2010 has not been a great start for the Russian, who let’s face it, had an opening to win Indian Wells with all the early exits. Guess she will have to hope for better luck and less gusts of change down in Miami.