Last week in Indian Wells, Maria Sharapova’s semifinal against Caroline Wozniacki began with promise and ended in disaster. Today it was the reverse. She started her match with Sam Stosur with an inauspicious double fault, but ended it by running off six straight games to win easily, 6-4, 6-1, in 81 short minutes. By doing that, Sharapova extended her perfect—surprisingly perfect—record against the Aussie to 7-0.
Sharapova, like Ana Ivanovic, is trying to learn to live with her decidedly imperfect serve. She had four doubles by the fifth game today, but the shot held steady when she needed it. Sharapova came back from 15-40 down to hold at 4-3 in the first set, and she came up with two very big service winners—and no double faults—to run out the first set.
These two players have had their struggles in recent months. This match, along with her semifinal result in Indian Wells, leaves Sharapova looking up, while it keeps Stosur mired in season-long mediocrity and inconsistency. After losing a few deuce games, and not capitalizing on her break chances at 3-4 in the first, she seemed to lose heart. Stosur's second set was marred by loose forehand errors and repeated shanks—she didn’t even try to get turned for a few of them. In the final game, she didn’t run for a very gettable Sharapova return of serve.
Where does this leave Sharapova? One step farther along her long and zig-zagging comeback road. What was heartening today was her determination, as the match wore on, to move forward once she had Stosur on the run and take balls earlier than she normally does. Ground strokes aside, it’s been noted here and elsewhere that Sharapova will only go as far as her shaky serve will let her. Today she showed that if she can weather the bad moments, that shot can take her all the way to a convincing win over a quality opponent.