Sharapova eyes Wimbledon title, more Grand Slams | sports | Hindustan Times
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Sharapova eyes Wimbledon title, more Grand Slams

sports Updated: Jul 02, 2011 17:31 IST

AFP
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Maria Sharapova takes aim at a second Wimbledon title on Saturday which she hopes will spark a Grand Slam streak to add to her three majors.

The Russian fifth seed is the overwhelming favourite to defeat Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova, seven years after she won her first All England Club crown which launched her on the road to mega-riches and global stardom.

"This year I feel like I've grown as a player and I've gotten better. It gives me a lot of confidence moving forward," said Sharapova.

"But it doesn't stop here. I never say that. I've reached this level and I'm just so happy and so proud. I always feel like there's more to improve and things to get better.

"You have to set goals for yourself in terms of a tennis player and your life, otherwise it's not interesting."

Sharapova's victory here in 2004 was followed by further Grand Slam titles at the Australian and US Opens by the time she turned 21, a period that also saw her rise to world number one.

But her march to the summit of women's tennis was blown off course when a serious shoulder injury led to a long lay-off which led many to wonder if she could ever be the same player.

Yet this season has provided the first solid proof that Sharapova is ready once more to fulfill her vast potential, with a semi-final run at the French Open followed by her serene progress into the Wimbledon final.

With Serena and Venus Williams showing signs of decline, Justine Henin retired and Kim Clijsters injured, there is a vacancy at the top of the women's game that Sharapova looks equipped to fill.

Sharapova admitted she had endured dark days in 2008 and 2009, when she was struggling back from shoulder surgery and she dropped out of the top 100.

"There were doubts because I had many expectations on when I would come back. I set myself certain goals and I never really met any of them, to be honest," she said.

Sharapova is bracing for a stern challenge from Kvitova, the 21-year-old Czech challenger who is appearing in a Grand Slam final for the first time.

"I expect her to be a really tough opponent because she's a really good grass court player," said Sharapova, who won her only previous meeting with Kvitova on hard court at Memphis last year.

Kvitova is the first left-hander to make the final at the All England Club since her childhood inspiration Martina Navratilova in 1990 and has been The Lioness by the Czech media.

Her coach David Kotyza told the national CTK news agency that she should not be written off.

"I don't think that Sharapova starts as the big favourite. She's played and won a Wimbledon final already but Petra knows what to do," he said.

"She always plays well in finals. She will be nervous in the final, but whe she has nerves she is courageous and knows what to do to be able to win."