Maria Sharapova has called time on her season.
As expected the former world number one followed up with her withdrawal from Linz and has withdrawn from Luxembourg ending her season with 8 wins and 7 defeats.
So, where next for the Russian?
It is difficult because the question is, how fit is she? This isn’t a problem that seems to be going away and has plagued her tennis since last year.
By the time the Australian Open begins she will have fallen outside the top 300 in the world.
I said after New York, what would be the right path back? Sharapova isn’t going to rock up at big tournaments and get wins, it has to built back up.
We’ve seen Murray, Nishikori and Chung take that role to find momentum again and I think Maria should too.
Tournaments will hand out wildcards, Maria will need one to get into the Australian Open now even to go through qualifying I believe she will need one.
Tournaments will hand out wildcards but you have to be in a good place tennis wise to perform, I don’t get the point in a player picking up a wildcard and going home in round one barely breaking sweat because they have no momentum or match rhythm. The last time Maria played a tennis match she got hammered 6-1 6-1 by Serena at Flushing Meadows.
Nothing is confirmed but I’d expect St Petersburg, Doha, Indian Wells and Miami to throw one out before April. Big tournaments, is that the right way?
For me, if she is serious about a return with a little bit of longevity attached to it then a build up is required.
Just once this year she won three matches on the bounce in Melbourne so will turn up to 2020 with no rhythm.
Add to no matches the fact that tennis has moved on and games adapt adds to the challenge as well.
I am interested to see where Maria goes from here and how she attacks 2020.
The target has to be fully fit before tennis even takes place, this shoulder needs sorting. From there I think lower tournaments to begin with make sense. Obviously play in Melbourne if it comes up to get points on the board.
However, if Maria goes big tournament after big tournament and we get to Roland Garros for example just playing majors, Premier 5 and mandatory events with 16 wins and 10 defeats which on average is 2 wins a tournament isn’t a progressing season.
Another twist to the tale is the 2020 Olympics. Obviously we aren’t 100% sure on Russian participation yet but she has a big challenge to get in.
Only the top four qualify for each country in the top 56. Sharapova right now at world number 137 is the 15th highest ranked Russian so isn’t in contention. There is an appeal process but there are unanswered questions with it. Maria could appeal on the fact of being injured and the ITF will consider but do you then take a spot away from someone ranked higher? Having been ranked in the top 30 for 5 months this year and 6 months last year she might have a leg to stand on.