Maria Time

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 /by

Maria Sharapova won Birmingham over the weekend, beating Jelena Jankovic 6-2,4-6,6-1, to position herself for a title defense at Wimbledon.  The win bought Sharapova’s winning streak on grass to 17 matches, dating back to the start of last  year’s Birmingham DFS Classic.

Sharapova is on the cover of the June 20th ESPN Magazine, and the magazine contains a piece on Roger Federer as well, although the story is really about how much privacy Federer is afforded in his hometown of Basel. I guess the writer, Lindsay Berra, doesn’t really understand the conservative Swiss mindset. She (or is that a guy’s name? And no, I’m not trying to be funny)  seemed to expect people to jump around, screaming “Go Roger!” the moment she showed up, pulled out her notebook, and asked if they were Federer fans.

Neither of these pieces is a must-read, and I’m forgoing a link – mainly because I can’t connect to the site myself at the moment and am not sure if the content is free. Poke around on your own if you wish at http://espn.go.com/magazine/.

I like Sharapova’s chances at Wimbledon. She was a surprise winner last year, and instead of doing the kind of fade some other young stars performed after unexpectedly winning big (see “S” for “Sampras” – of all people), she did a lot in the past 12 months to consolidate her position as a very strong, consistent, Top-Three performer. She would have made her own life easier by beating Serena Williams in the semifinals in Australia, but she bounced back from that heartbreaking loss with admirable resilience.

Whatever happens at Wimbledon, Sharapova is no fluke. A lot of people probably wish she were, given how much adulation and filthy lucre has been lavished on her,  but it isn’t her fault that she’s drop-dead gorgeous, blond, and six feet tall. Each time I’ve seen her at a press conference or some other tennis-related event, she’s been a model of poise and professionalism. And she’s also shown a few flashes of ironic wit.

Money quote from Sharapova after the three-set Birmingham final: “I'll take this confidence to Wimbledon. I'll go into it thinking I can play tough matches. Once I get there, it will bring back great memories.”

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