Replicating Roland Garros success with a strong showing at Wimbledon can be a difficult ask but Maria Sharapova is so far making it look easy in 2014.
Following last month’s milestone French Open win, she has dropped just four games in two rounds at the All England Club, her march into the third round requiring less than two hours on court to complete.
Sharapova’s latest victory, a 6-2, 6-1 progression over Swiss qualifier Timea Bacsinsky, was her 40th match win at Wimbledon. It required an efficient 60 minutes, adding both match time and confidence in the often tricky transition from clay to grass.
“Because it's so quick from one (surface) to another, the first couple of matches are really crucial in just working on so many things as a grass court player, just trying to make that transition and trying to do it as quick as possible,” Sharapova explained.
While perhaps slightly closer than the scoreline suggests – several of Sharapova’s service games were pushed to deuce, and she surrendered a break of serve as she attempted to close out the first set at 5-1 – Thursday's overall display of powerful efficiency against the 85th-ranked Bacsinsky highlighted the Russian’s intentions to keep adding to her Grand Slam success.
It’s a decade since the then-teenager made a stunning breakthrough in defeating Serena Williams to claim her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. Sharapova has experienced some wildly varying runs at the All England Club since, with another final (in 2011, when she was runner up to Petra Kvitova) and two semi-finals contrasted by three second-round shocks.
One of those ignominious exits was a three-set loss to the then world No.131 Michelle Larcher de Brito in 2013, making a routine progression all the more welcome for the 32-time tournament champion this time around.
“I think after last year, everyone is maybe a little bit more cautious,” Sharapova said. “You can't just forget about it overnight. It's always in the back of your mind a little bit. I'm sure happy to get through an extra round than I did last year.”
Sharapova next meets Alison Riske, a world No.44 American who she has beaten in their only other career meeting in Birmingham in four years ago. “I feel like her game matches up with grass extremely well. She stays down really low, hits really flat from both sides, has had steady results on the surface.” Sharapova said. “It's going to be a challenge.”
Still, one that the fifth seed can afford to feel confident about considering the signs at this year’s Championships. With the prospect of a potential quarter-final against Serena looming, some are even suggesting that the 27-year-old is once again showing the best form of her career at Wimbledon.
Sharapova is taking a far more cautious approach. “I don't compare my game to what it was yesterday or the year before or 10 years ago,” she said. “I always look ahead and I always try to challenge myself to be better than I am today.”
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all