Maria Sharapova’s return to the tour has in all honesty been very anti-climatic. Having been away from the game for long I think it is fair to say the return has been disappointing and I’m not talking about results but her game and performances.
Looking at the bigger picture and with perspective it’s all been an over-hype. Sharapova won Tiajin last year and it was made out she won the WTA Finals but she only played 1 top 50 ranked player on route to lifting the title, are we just over sugar-coating wins and playing down defeats? I think so!
Quite a lot of the players she has lost to since her return I would say are good tour players and that it is with the greatest of the respect but they all have good games and have at times ‘easily’ got the better of her.
I watched Sharapova take on Kerber in Melbourne the other day and I expected the German to win with the momentum she has from Sydney but I didn’t see such a poor performance coming from Sharapova and it signals a need to move on and improve her game if she wants to battle with the best.
First of all we look at the defensive skills. The sliced backhand will only get you so far and then you rely on your movement and decisions with the racket on turning defence into attack but once Kerber got a hold of a rally there was no fight back.
Image Credit – Australian Open
Look at the body position from continually playing the slice backhand. The movement is wooden with no recovery or chance of progressing in the rally and Kerber as would anyone would just went for it and Sharapova’s slice got less effective and Kerber could come in-field and pick her winner down the line or cross-court.
Movement like this won’t win titles against the best. One thing I say regularly is tennis moves on quickly and to compete with the best you have to learn from the best, the movement of the ladies at the top of the women’s game is exceptional right now!
The second aspect is the lack of anticipation and running out of ideas even four games in.
Sharapova was doing well with the ground strokes and got good depth on the court but Kerber defended very well and at this point Sharapova stopped trying to move the German around the baseline and was quite predictable on placement but then played a drop shot she got horribly wrong.
Image Credit – Australian Open
The drop shot wasn’t a bad idea but there was no anticipation on the return! Sharapova knows Kerber is left handed and because of how close to the ground and not she is flicking up the line is the only option so why does Maria have the racket in her right hand? Her court position is a bit ‘stuck in the mud’ which didn’t help but if she was a bit more mobile with her feet and had the racket ready to potential play a backhand it might have helped her out!
I think there is a lot of work to do. I am surprised she’s come back to the tour with little alterations to her game as the game has moved on and improving the footwork is pivotal if even wants to be top 25 come the end of the season which I honestly don’t see happening right now!