Maria Sharapova holds her trophy during the award ceremony after defeating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the women's single final of the 2014 China Open tennis tournament in Beijing, 5 October 2014. Source: AFP / East News
After a good week in Beijing, where she won the China Open, Maria Sharapova rose to second place in the WTA world rankings. The Siberia native has now won 12 out of the 14 most prestigious tournaments in the world. At this point she only lacks titles from Miami (she lost five Sony Open finals) and Canada (where she made it to the Rogers Cup final once).
In the China Open final, Sharapova outplayed world number four Petra Kvitova – for the fifth time in a row.
Long-awaited success on a hard court
The victory in China’s capital was special for Sharapova. The Russian had not won any hard court tournaments (or even played in the finals of such competitions) in the last 18 months. Prior to Beijing, the last title on a hard court was in March 2013 at Indian Wells.
“The whole world knows that Sharapova is the real queen of the clay court. She has no equal among women tennis players today,” Andrei Chesnokov, Russian tennis legend and former world number nine, told RIR. “She also splendidly handles matches on grass courts – even Serena Williams fears playing with Sharapova on grass. Maria has a completely different relationship with the hard court,” he added. “She barely attains a 60 percent victory rate, which is unacceptable for a strong player. Maria changed her trainer in large part because of the problem with this court surface, and I see that there has been progress in her game. She has learned to restructure. The strength of her serve has markedly increased.”
Attaining the top rank
By the end of the China Open, Sharapova had acquired 6,680 points and the world number one, the American player Serena Williams, had 8,645. In Chesnokov’s opinion, Sharapova not only has a chance of catching up with the American, but also of becoming the world number one by the end of the season.
“The difference between the Russian and the American is that Sharapova does not have to defend anything until the end of the season and if Serena does not win the final tournament of the year, then she will lose 1500 points,” Chesnokov said. “Thus, Williams will have 7,145 points, which means that the difference between her and Sharapova would be less than 500 points. In such a case, Sharapova would have a real chance of attaining first place by the end of the year – and for this it will be necessary to enter the semi-finals in Singapore. Maria has not made it to the world top rank before and for her it is a big challenge. I know that she dreams of becoming first ranked by the end of the year.”
Rising after a fall
Sharapova won her 33rd career title in China and in the course of the competition she also reached her 555th victory. 2006 was the last season where Sharapova was able to win more than three titles. This year she has already racked up four.
“The tournament in Wuhan ended in disappointment. I thought that I was ready for it and wanted to fight. But I did not perform well. I needed to fix the situation over the several days leading up to the match in Beijing,” Sharapova was quoted as saying by the WTA site. “Sometimes a few details need changes – maybe such results will help in it. And I am proud that in just a few days I undertook such a large task and managed to get back in form at this tournament.”
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