In Tennis someone as young as 17 playing in a Grand Slam is pretty normal. With wildcards and qualifying one entry into a major at a young age the opportunity is always there.
Not many 17 year olds turn up to a major as the 13th seed and make their first Grand Slam final. Maria Sharapova announced herself at Wimbledon not only making her first Grand Slam final but winning her first Grand Slam final.
Since the 3rd of July 2004 a lot of tennis has been played but to this day she still remains the youngest winner of a Grand Slam over the past 16 years in both mens and women’s tennis and is just one of ten players to have won a major under the age of 18 and is the fourth youngest in that list.
In a piece I wrote when she retired at the beginning of 2020 I spoke about her aura and her intimidating presence on court and how she conducted herself on court at such a young age sent a chill down opponents spines. You weren’t just playing the player Maria Sharapova but the person with all her superstitions and her no-nonsense approach.
Re-visiting this final from 2004 and within the first few minutes we saw the trademark of Maria Sharapova, her sharp backhand and her ability to hit that off forehand but maintain control as she broke for a 3-1 lead against Serena early on.
I think it’s a testament to Sharapova that the tennis we saw in 2004 was not that different at all to how she has played in her career. Maria has won soo much in her career but has always stayed true to the basics of her game. I believe in tennis you do have to move with the times or you get left behind, six months out of tennis for example could leave you behind others in rankings but also in what you do on the court.
There were slight alterations and new things tried by Maria but she always competed at the top and to do that for over 10 years is simply impressive especially with the time she missed due to injuries.
Sharapova continued to run away with proceedings and broke again, she really opened up the court with her forehand and at 5-1 served for the set.
Nerves were always going to settle in at some point but some gutsy play and big serving got the Russian out of some trouble saving three break points and eventually came through her longest game of the set to lead 6-1 after 30 minutes.
31 minutes later there wasn’t much to separate them in set two, with Serena serving first and a set down there was some added pressure on the American as the Russian bided her time well.
The chances came on the Sharapova backhand and the depth she painted the baseline with left Serena in big trouble facing break points at the worst possible time.
Serena saved the first three but the Russian continued to apply relentless pressure from the baseline. Serena tried moving into the net to halt the onslaught from Maria but put slipped whilst approaching the forehand and Maria Sharapova at the age of 17 would serve for the Wimbledon title.
Little over 70 minutes two match points came for the Russian. The first was lost from a forehand error and the second was taken following a forehand error from Serena to become the youngest Wimbledon champion of all time at the at of 17 years and 75 days which is 153 days less than Boris Becker in 1985.
image credit – Wimbledon