Sharapova takes long road back to the top
Maria Sharapova, a veteran on the tennis tour at the age of 24, is seeking her first Grand Slam title in four years as she seeks to return to the top of the women's game.sports Updated: Jan 27, 2012 13:13 IST
Maria Sharapova, a veteran on the tennis tour at the age of 24, is seeking her first Grand Slam title in four years as she seeks to return to the top of the women's game.
The 6ft 2ins (1.88m) Russian made her breakthrough on the big stage when she won Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004.
That triumph over Serena Williams showed tennis fans that there was more to Sharapova than just her striking looks and the loud scream she makes when she hits a ball.
She followed up her Wimbledon win with victories at the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008, but a shoulder injury forced a nine-month layoff that kept her off court until May 2009.
When Sharapova returned to action following surgery it was unclear whether she would be able to recapture her best form, and it took until last year's French Open for her to make it back to a grand slam semi-final.
But since then she has reached the finals of Wimbledon and now the Australian Open, climbing back to number four in the world and if she beats Victoria Azarenka on Saturday she will once again be world number one.
The 24-year-old, reputedly the world's most popular female athlete on Facebook, conceded this week there were times during her rehabilitation when she wondered whether she would make it back.
"As positive as I always try to be, you always question what you're doing, obviously, because sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't," she said.
"I knew some examples of some people that did not quite recover from surgery and that was a little frightening, but I really had no option," she added.
"So it was either give it a go or not do anything about it. Of course it took a long time and it was a process, but it was just something that was in my steps that I had to go through. And I did."
She said reaching the final in Melbourne was vindication of the hard work she had put in over the past two-and-a-half years.
"It means so much to be back in a grand slam final, a stage I have been to before a few years ago here," Sharapova said.
"It's nice to get that far again after losing quite early in the last couple of years. It means a lot to me."
"I feel happy and excited that I still have a chance to play the sport and play it at this level and be in a grand slam final," she added.