An erratic serve could end up sending Maria Sharapova to an early exit at Wimbledon.
Sharpova narrowly avoided an upset loss to Tsvetana Pironkova in her second round match on Thursday. The current no. 1 ranked women's player struggled through her first two sets before cruising through the third set to defeat Pironkova 7-6 (3), 6-7 (3), 6-0.
Things started out on a bad note for Sharapova against Pironkova. She fell into a 3-0 hole just 11 minutes into the first set on Wednesday evening. Pironkova hit some low ground strokes just over the net that forced the current French Open champion to run all over the place to dig them out. Sharapova managed to rally from the early hole and forced a tiebreak in the set. She saved five set points to keep Pironkova from closing it out and used booming serves to win the tiebreaker.
Sharapova's serve faded in the second set. She raced out to a 3-1 lead in the second set before it was suspended on Wednesday because of darkness. When play resumed on Thursday, Sharapova promptly dropped a pair of games and found herself in another tiebreak situation. This time, Pironkova took advantage when Sharapova double-faulted on her first three service points in the tiebreaker and won the set to force a decisive third set.
In the third set, Sharapova looked like her old self again. She dominated Pironkova by winning 21 of the last 27 points and finished the third set with just 11 unforced errors. With the victory, Sharapova continued her mastery of three set matches. She improved her three-set match record to 9-0 this year and 21-1 since the beginning of 2011.
Sharapova is no doubt resilient. Coming back from two tough sets to slam the door on Pironkova is not an easy thing to do. She has traditionally played well on grass courts and had reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals each of the past two years. Pironkova is always dangerous in this venue and Sharapova saw first hand evidence of it.
Still, the way the first two sets played out does offer concerns that Sharapova's 2008 shoulder surgery is still negatively affecting her serve. She has been much more prone to double faults in the years since the surgery than before injuring the shoulder. Finding consistency and avoiding unforced errors will be crucial if she hopes to extend her 14 match winning streak for a few more rounds.
When she is at the top of her game, Sharapova is virtually unstoppable. It seems, as she showed at times against Pironkova, the best person at stopping her from dominating is Sharapova herself.
John Coon has covered tennis at all levels as a sports reporter based in Salt Lake City. Coon was raised in a tennis loving family. All three of his sisters played competitively and Coon himself enjoys playing at a recreational level.
- Sports & Recreation
- Maria Sharapova
- Tsvetana Pironkova