Sharapova wary of tough turnaround as Russian targets back-to-back titles
16:16 GMT, 23 June 2012
Maria Sharapova knows she must break the pattern of recent history as she begins her Wimbledon campaign.
But the Russian, runner-up last year
and a remarkable Wimbledon champion as a 17-year-old in 2004, is
determined it is possible to follow up French Open glory with grand slam
success in London.
Warm up: Maria Sharapova prepares for Wimbledon
Not since 2002 when Serena Williams performed the feat has a player on the women's side of the game achieved the double of Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles.
Sharapova's triumph in Paris came just a fortnight ago, and from the high of that moment, when she became just the 10th woman to complete the career grand slam of titles at all four majors, she has gradually turned her focus to another grass-court campaign.
The 25-year-old has spent the last week in London reminding herself of the demands of the surface, cutting out the sliding and putting in the long strides while building towards her first-round clash with Russian-born Australian Anastasia Rodionova.
The transition has not been handled well by recent French Open champions, with 2010 winner Francesca Schiavone losing in the first round at Wimbledon two weeks later and Li Na, who landed the French title in 2011, surrendering in round two in London.
'I think it's the toughest back to back grand slam-wise, no doubt,' Sharapova said.
'Especially if you're coming off a French Open win or a final it's the toughest turnaround.
'As much as you want to celebrate and enjoy, you come here and it's like a whole new ball game.
'As far as the success I had at the French Open is concerned, my first time getting to the finals and winning it and coming here, I think it's not really what has been achieved before, I think it's going out there and trying to achieve something that you want to do.'
Such an attitude has helped Sharapova return to the number one ranking, recovering fully from a shoulder injury which appeared to be ruining a bright career.
'I'm certainly very happy with what I achieved, but that doesn't make me less eager to want to achieve more,' she said.
Defeat to Petra Kvitova in the
Wimbledon final last July was inevitably painful, but it was the trigger
point to the most successful 12 months of Sharapova's career to date.
As well as lifting the French title, she also reached the Australian
Open final in January, and Sharapova looks back to last year's Wimbledon
with obvious pride at her run to a first grand slam title match since
Australia in 2008.
'For sure it was definitely a big step for me in the right direction,' she said.
'It was just really good to be at that stage of a grand slam again. I was really happy that I was here.'
Sharapova means business in London ahead of the most anticipated fortnight on the tennis calendar.
When asked whether she would be glad to see Kim Clijsters, on her final
Wimbledon appearance, lift the title for the first time, her response
left no doubt about her own intentions.
In the swing: Sharapova must change her game for SW19
'Well, it's tough to put myself out of the equation just like that with your words. I'm sorry,' she said.
'I've always admired Kim. I think she's one of the best professionals we've had on tour. Certainly she's had a lot of injuries which she's been able to come back from and do so well. She's been such a great example of coming back, even having a kid, devoting herself to the sport.
'It's not an easy task to just get back on the horse and perform as well as she has. To see her succeed is always a nice feeling for me.'
Mother-of-one Clijsters, 29, will retire at the end of the year, quitting the sport for a second time, and, she is adamant, the last time.
The three-time US Open champion reached Wimbledon semi-finals in 2003 and 2006 and begins against fellow former world number one Jelena Jankovic on Tuesday. Sharapova also starts on Tuesday but Kvitova and four-time champion Serena Williams, plus world number two Victoria Azarenka, get under way on Monday.
Williams will tackle Czech player Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and is determined to avoid another opening-round defeat, having suffered the first of her grand slam singles career in Paris last month when she fell to French player Virginie Razzano. A focused Williams delivered a warning to her rivals this afternoon.
'Whether I had won in Paris or lost like I did in the first round, I am always extremely motivated,' Williams said. 'If anything, I think losing makes me even more motivated.'
Dismissing the notion she and sister Venus, the five-time Wimbledon champion, could be close to retiring – 'I have no intention of stopping, and I don't think she does either” – Williams said it would be hard to replace the buzz of winning titles.
'Who knows, maybe I'll become a rockstar,' she joked.
Williams has scoffed at the world ranking system in the past, but can have no complaints now, with Sharapova leading the way.
'I think she's doing great,' Williams said. 'I always think if you work hard, you get whatever's coming to you.'