Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Wimbledon: Sharapova relishing test

Maria Sharapova insists power is not everything in tennis as she prepares to face Serena Williams on grass for the first time since causing a sensation in the 2004 Wimbledon final.

The Russian was 17 when she thrashed Williams 6-1 6-4 to land her first grand slam and the result was hailed at the time by Martina Navratilova as “the best thing” that could have happened to the women's game.

At the time, the Williams sisters were the dominant force in the game, closely followed by the Belgian pair of Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters.

Six years on and little has changed in that respect.

Sharapova has won two more slams, at the US Open in 2006 and Australian Open in 2008. But for injuries, she might have had more, and a fourth may not be far away. However few have tipped her for Wimbledon glory this year.

Shoulder trouble has been her most recent problem, but the 23-year-old Sharapova (below) has shown outstanding form so far in these Championships and should ask more questions of defending champion Williams than the American's three opening opponents.

So far, Williams has won each first set 6-0. Her phenomenal force on the court has blown away opponents but Sharapova should be able to live with it better than Michelle Larcher De Brito, Anna Chakvetadze and Dominika Cibulkova have managed.

“Tennis is obviously not just about power,” Sharapova said.

“I think on grass it's a big key to the game. But I don't think that's everything in tennis.”

Finesse and teenage appetite won out six years ago, but Sharapova also hits the ball more heavily than most so should not be smashed off court.

She remembers well the clash which made her an overnight superstar, but insists it will have no bearing on the outcome today.

“I think that was our last meeting on grass,” Sharapova said.

“It's tough to take anything away from that match as it was many years ago. This will be a new day. I don't really think about yesterday or the day before.

“Whoever I play when I go out there, it's a new match. You have to take it as a new day.

“There are always wonderful memories. But when you step out on the court, it's new.”

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