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Ignore me at your peril, MaSha warns Stanford field


 

Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:39

A has-been, at just 22? Not likely, says Maria Sharapova, who has arrived in California in bullish mood for the Bank of the West Classic.

The three-time Grand Slam champion, clawing her way back up the rankings following a lengthy spell on the sidelines after shoulder surgery, says that just playing tennis is not enough for her – she is intent on lifting titles again, and soon.

“I’m a competitor and played many tournaments and won quite a few,” said the world No.61, who faces Ai Sugiyama in the first round in Stanford. “You want to be the winner, and if someone tells you otherwise they wouldn’t be telling the truth.”

“You want to be the winner: if someone tells you otherwise they wouldn’t be telling the truth”

If she plans on lifting her first title in over a year this week, she will have to do it the hard way. The field on the US west coast boasts Serena and Venus Williams as well as fellow former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic. The Russian won the last of her 19 titles at Amelie Island in April last year, before struggling with shoulder problems. Eventually she underwent a shoulder operation in October, not returning to competitive action until May this year.

Things looked rosy shortly after her return as Sharapova reached the French Open quarter-finals, but Gisela Dulko put her to the sword in the second round at Wimbledon.

“Coming off shoulder surgery I was trying to prepare my arm for the season and it got up to speed, but then I was playing catch up in tennis department,” she said. “I only had a maximum of five weeks of training before the clay courts.

“After such a long lay-off, it wasn’t enough for me. Even though I pulled through some tough matches at the French Open, physically I didn’t have it.”

Despite stating that her shoulder is now 100%, the Russian is still trying to adjust to her abbreviated her service motion, but her biggest concern right now is her lack of match practice.

“There’s no better way to get into shape as a tennis player than playing tennis,” she said. “I can do all the running or Pilates I want, work myself until I’m blue in the face, but when you go on court for the first time after months on end, your body isn’t used to the whole thing.”

“Now it’s a matter of forgetting what I went through and to get on court and try to do the right thing over and over. These tournaments are going to be crucial. As far as results, I’d like to be champion because that feels pretty darn good and I want that feeling back, but I’m not saying that in the next month and half I will or won’t be.”

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