at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
LONDON – French Open champion Maria Sharapova has warned her rivals for the Wimbledon title that she is determined to cap her remarkable return to the top with back to back grand slam triumphs.
After several years struggling to recover from shoulder surgery, Sharapova defeated Sara Errani in the French Open final at Roland Garros earlier this month to secure her first major since 2008 and complete a career grand slam.
Sharapova has also moved into first place in the world rankings and a less ferocious competitor than the 25-year-old Russian could be forgiven for resting on her laurels after such a cathartic experience.
But the warm afterglow of victory in Paris didn't last long for Sharapova, who is already firmly focused on winning Wimbledon for the first time since 2004 and erasing the bitter memory of last year's surprise final defeat against Petra Kvitova.
“I'm certainly very happy with what I achieved, but that doesn't make me less eager to want to achieve more,” Sharapova said.
“Obviously when I was coming to the French for the last three years, it's been the one that I hadn't won, so that was sort of the storyline.
“Maybe there will be a new one to focus on here. There's so much out there to achieve.”
With just two weeks between the French Open and Wimbledon, it is often said that winning both titles back to back is the hardest task in tennis.
After a fortnight on the clay courts of Paris, it can take time to adjust to the faster grass and lower bounce at Wimbledon.
Sharapova, the top seed here, acknowledges the unique demands of the transition, but sees no reason why she can't rise to the challenge.
“I think it's the toughest to win back to back, no doubt,” Sharapova said. “Especially if you're coming off a French Open win or a final it's the toughest turnaround.
“As much as you want to celebrate and enjoy winning in Paris, you come here and it's like a whole new ballgame. But that's the beauty of tennis.
“It's certainly an adjustment. The first two days you're like, 'Wait, I can't really slide that much'. So you have to take a few more steps.
“I kind of got used to it. It's such a different balance, a fast game. But I enjoy it. I really do.”
Sharapova, who faces Anastasia Rodionova in the first round here, revealed that she didn't have an especially wild celebration after winning in Paris.
Instead, she preferred to savour the moment, while looking ahead to Wimbledon and the opportunity to make amends for that Kvitova loss.
“I didn't feel like I needed a huge celebration,” Sharapova said. “I was walking around for three days with the biggest smile, but then I got here and thought I better get back to reality.
“Reaching the Wimbledon final last year was definitely a big step for me in the right direction.
“But losing grand slam finals is probably one of the toughest things for a tennis player, so it's really about getting yourself back out there and improving and hoping for another chance.” – Sapa-AFP