Picket Fence Newsreel: Re-beginning 2010.
We might be half-way through February already, but for Maria Sharapova, the season has barely started.
After a disappointing loss in the first round of the Australian Open to MariKiri, Sharapova is looking for a second chance to open the year in style as the top seed in the tournament in Memphis this week.
She’ll be happy with her first round performance, after destroying Shenay Perry 60 62 in just 51 minutes.
Meanwhile, major “underarm boobage” going on with this two piece version of her AO dress. Seriously Nike?
I’m not sure how to assess Maria Sharapova these days. On a good serving day like today, she’ll pop 60% of her first serves in, lose only 3 points on them for the entire match, and keep her double faults count at a respectable 3.
But was it because she has slowly improved her serve in the past month? Or was it simply because Shenay Perry never put her out of her comfort zone? I’m leaning towards the latter.
Like Federer’s forehand of 2008, the Sharapova serve has developed a tendency to depart for “Sasha-land” when she’s under pressure. If Maria wants to show that she is to remain a contender in this sport, I’ll need assurances, and the first one better come on Sunday this week.
Also looking for a fresh beginning this week is Rafael Nadal, who’s back on court practicing ahead of Indian Wells.
“Right now, this week and these first few days back, it’s a matter of taking things slowly,” Nadal said after his first training session of the month.
“I think things are progressing very well. I have been working with the appropriate machines to help the tear heal as quickly as possible and also done a lot of physical work in the gym.”
Speaking to Reuters, Rafa revealed that he’s in a solid mental shape to defend Indian Wells. Not that I never doubted anything to do with mentality when it comes to Rafael Nadal.
Perhaps the only small question mark I’d have in this regard would be whether he’ll be able to fully trust his body again and how that might affect his movement, particularly when matches go the distance and things get tight.
“It’s a tournament where I have almost always played well [Indian Wells],” Nadal said. “Let’s see what happens.
“It’s the first event I will have played for a month and a half and it’s always more difficult to start like that. I am hoping to play well and build confidence for a strong start to the claycourt season.”
Personally, I thought the question marks surfacing over Rafa’s career over the past month are valid, but nevertheless overstated.
Pick any one of the myriad of media obituary for Federer this time last year, replace his name with Rafa’s, and the word “back” with “knees”, and you could be the next columnist on [insert prominent tennis blog here].
But Rafa sounds less worried about his “impending doom”.
“I think I was there during the first month of the year,” he said. “I think I am working well enough to get there again.
“That’s sport. You never know when you start (your career) and when you finish.”
Sure. Stylistically, Nadal’s game is always going to be injury-prone. But it’s a rhythm that I think Rafa himself has become accustomed to: play lights-out tennis for 5-7 months, crash, reboot, play another 5-7 months of blistering tennis.
If you have any doubts as to whether he’ll be able to rebound from this one, simply flip through a magazine while you wait for the clay season.
When asked about a possible extended break from tennis, Rafa denied that he would consider such a strategy to avoid injuries.
“I am very content with what I am doing and I feel very lucky to be playing tennis,” said Nadal.
“I am not planning right now to do anything else than dedicate my life to playing tennis.”
Nor does he feel that he would have a different attitude going into the French Open this year because he’s no longer the defending champion.
But Roger, I suspect, will.
“As always I will be excited about playing a good tournament and trying to win,” he said.
“I don’t think it changes anything not being champion. Of course you’re not going to win Roland Garros every year.”