Traveling cross country this week has made following The Championships a little more difficult, but thanks to the radio coming out of my cell phone, I’ve been able to keep track of most of the happenings during the second week. Listening to Maria Sharapova’s rout over Dominika Cibulkova, it was quite something to hear Sharapova’s screams echo out of my phone’s speaker as I drove through the rolling hills of Arkansas. Despite her prowess on a tennis court, it’s her “vocals” that seem to always get more attention, with fans either making the prerequisite jokes or complaints depending on how well their ears can take it.
After losing to Serena Williams at last year’s Wimbledon, plenty were concerned Sharapova would never be a contender again at a Major. With early losses at the U.S. Open to Caroline Wozniacki and then in Melbourne this year to Andrea Petkovic, the feeling was the rest of the tour had not only caught up to Sharapova’s game, but had passed her by with Sharapova doomed to remain mired in the top 20. A star player in name only.
But since reaching the finals of Miami and then winning Rome, Sharapova has turned it around. Reaching the semis of Paris, she seemed almost a lock for the one Major that has eluded her, until a gusty day and the tenacious groundstrokes of Li Na saw Sharapova double fault herself out of the tournament. But unlike Li who was bundled out of Wimbledon early to Sabine Lisicki, partly due I think to Li being worn out from all the incessant media attention she received, Sharapova just shook off the red dust and once again has thrived on the grass. Even with the return of the Williams Sisters, Sharapova was the bookie’s favorite to win again at Wimbledon and even though she is around the same age as her three other semifinalists, (Azarenka, Kvitova, and Lisicki) Sharapova must wear the “veteran” label, not just because of her experience on the court but off it as well. Though the WTA wouldn’t be blamed for hoping Sharapova wins her second Wimbledon to increase her leverage as the most famous tennis player in the world, a win by any of the other three would create the instant, new star that critics say the tour has been lacking for some time, even with Wozniacki’s consistent stay atop the rankings.
Maybe one of the “youngsters” will seize the glory from Sharapova on the final Saturday, but after the long road Maria has had from shoulder surgery and a 2009 and 2010 season that had many, including me, wonder if she would ever be more than just a great champion and a worldwide brand, Sharapova is proving at this year’s Wimbledon she is a force to be reckoned with again.
Loud and clear.