A scoreline of 1-6 1-6 aside questions have still been left unanswered and maybe more have surfaced following her round one defeat at Flushing Meadows.
To be honest I didn’t expect her to win against Serena. Was it an alarming performance? To an extent, no as we didn’t learn anything we didn’t know but concerns? Yes.
Since the return from her ban which ended in April 2017 which is when she won her last title in Tianjin and last year ended her season after the US Open.
In that time she has won 45 and lost 25 matches with her top 20 record sat at 9 wins and 15 defeats since her return and this year overall has 8 wins and 7 defeats. Match rhythm is lacking.
Sharapova’s ranking is set to drop big time now. She was 88 coming into New York and will now drop to around 130 or lower.
Sharapova has said since her defeat to Serena she has to rest, be smart but wants to play as much as possible until the end of the season.
You can look at it a number of ways. She has no points to defend now until the end of the season so the ranking should pick back up and tournaments will be keen to hand out wildcards but is that smart?
Because of the ranking drop she will need a wildcard now for Osaka, Wuhan and Beijing which are big tournaments over the next 4-6 weeks. She could do qualifying but could she be smarter?
The issue with going to big tournament after big tournament is you will get tough opening matches and that gives you no momentum.
Sharapova has been competitive in matches for the majority of them but she just isn’t at it. Injuries haven’t helped and managing this shoulder is a problem for her so would a step down be a good idea?
Smaller scale WTA tournaments or even a move down to ITF events?
It would help get some momentum going and I do honestly believe that is what Maria needs and will get her body as well in the rhythm.
I do think a step down like Nishikori, Chung and what Andy Murray is doing at the moment to get some wins and momentum under the belt is a good idea and it would give Sharapova some rhythm for her shoulder to.
I don’t see the point in struggling against big opponents early on and then needing to rest shoulder and unable to built match rhythm and repeat.
Back to the match against Serena.
I didn’t think it was alarming in the fact that we didn’t learn anything we didn’t know already however they are concerns.
Sharapova has been working with Piatti at his academy of late and he was in her box last night for the match against Serena and I felt she was stuck in her own game in the tramlines but Serena pulled her about.
Some things stood out for me in the match were;
0/10 second serve points won
0/2 net points won
0/5 break points won
That is a worry. Biggest worry? Lack of trust. We saw early on in the opening few games a look to going in at the net and it went badly wrong and wasn’t revisited.
The second serve was a problem, she kept the double faults down but the serve sat up like an invitation and Serena took it.
Whether she served towards forehand or backhand it came back and was a big problem but is a similar problem.
It took seconds for Serena to control rallies and take Sharapova out of her comfort zone. The yellow is where she is comfortable on the baseline but in the blue she isn’t as so and Serena pulled her side to side.
Questions have been left unanswered, did we expect answers? Who knows.
The question is, what next?
In my opinion she needs game time and I don’t see her season progressing and her ranking improving by playing big tournaments, facing tough opponents early on and gaining no rhythm or momentum.