Tennis queen Maria Sharapova, who has shot back up the rankings, coming back after a shoulder injury that almost ended her career, feels she is hitting her stride and has a good chance of capturing her second U.S. Open title in four years. After suffering the shoulder injury in 2008 that required surgery, the treble grand slam winner spent several months recuperating on the sidelines and dropped as low down as 126th in the rankings.
But Sharapova is now ranked 16th in the world heading into the tournament starting 30th August, and said that reaching the finals of two straight tournaments in recent weeks has convinced her she can snap the grand slam drought , which has now lasted almost three years. She has not won a grand slam title since she triumphed at the Australian Open in 2008.
Sharapova, who pulled out of the WTA tournament in Montreal last week with a heel injury, believes that she is approaching full fitness.
"I've had great successful memories in New York as well as tough ones. Having to miss it two years ago because of my shoulder and then coming back last year with pressure ... well that wasn't easy."
It was post surgery that her form slumped, losing the August finals to Victoria Azarenka at the Stanford Classic defeat by current U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters at the Cincinnati Open, but she has been heartened by recent victories over top players.
Until late July, Sharapova had not beaten a player this season ranked in the top 25, but in the past month has toppled world number six Elena Dementieva and double grand slam victor Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Sharapova is hoping her recent form helps her erase the memories from last year's U.S. Open where she struggled with a different service motion due to surgery and was upset by U.S. teenager Melanie Oudin in the third round. She has done away with her abbreviated service motion since and has been serving at pre-surgery speeds during recent tournaments where she has shown glimpses of her former self.
While Sharapova said Wimbledon is her favourite tournament, she is is looking forward to returning to the bright lights of New York for the U.S. Open, which she won in 2006.
"In New York it's all about the buzz, the craziness, the rivalries and the night matches," Sharapova said. "It's exhilarating. I want to perform my best at the Open and peak there."