Same questions resurface following latest Sharapova defeat!

Once again the same questions have resurfaced. This season Maria Sharapova has a win/loss record of 5/4. The former world number one has struggled since her return to tennis with her game in my opinion look outdated.

The loss against Angie Kerber in Melbourne asked big questions and in her last tournament in Doha I described her performance against Monica Niculescu ‘messy’ as she fell in three sets to the Romanian.

Unseeded here at Indian Wells brought her up against rising star in Naomi Osaka who was fearless on route to victory in the desert.

The same questions have resurfaced.

Watching the match back it’s almost a carbon copy of what we saw against Kerber in Melbourne. Sharapova was ok when she had time, took much time and on the defensive couldn’t get herself out of that sliced backhand position which gradually get’s broken down in rallies.

Anticipation once again was lacking and with the greatest of respect it was really poor!


This backhand should be an easy put away, why not go down the line? You should not be getting past and we saw it earlier on in the match when she got passed after a poor drop shot and you can’t put this down to issues with injuries, just a poor game plan.

I said in my Indian Wells preview Tennis moves on and it shows it however at the same time I cannot believe during Sharapova’s ban from tennis her and her team did not go through improvements to her game…


Which ladies will star at Tennis Paradise?

Expect the unexpected at Indian Wells. Often described as the 5th Grand Slam this is always an opportunity to go big. 2018 celebrates 10 years since this tournament became a Premier Mandatory on the WTA tour and in the previous 9 tournaments there has only been one multiple champion that being Victoria Azarenka and oh yeah, she’ll be there!

The pressure is there for the top ranked players on the tour and it’s an equal pressure to do well and all will have an eye on the draw especially with Serena and Vika back in the mix.

Serena has arrived!

Serena has been on site for a few days. The 22 time Grand Slam champion who won Indian Wells in 2001 for the first and only time has been practicing as she posted on snapchat. Serena only returned a few years ago to Indian Wells along with sister Venus after the racist abuse they both suffered in 2001.

The crowds are going to flood in for the appearance of Serena back on a competitive tennis court and the support I imagine will be like something we have never seen before

Vika can play!

Part of the rules under the custody battle Victoria Azarenka has been in says she can’t leave California with her son Leo. However Indian Wells is in California so all noise suggests participation is likely. She won Indian Wells back in 2016 and I am surprised she has not opted to play the Indian Wells 125k event this week just to build up match fitness.

va sw

Battle for No.1

Two former champions. Wozniacki in 2011 and Halep in 2014 will battle for world number one once again but if you ask both I’m sure they’d rather take the title here in Indian Wells. Both have been playing some good tennis this season and I’d expect them to continue this here. Halep is back at world number one and with the way she has been playing with the intensity on court I’d say pressure is on her!

Eli and Garbine

Elina Svitolina and Garbine Muguruza are two to watch here. The heat could be an issue for them but watching Elina in Dubai I was really impressed with the way she composed herself on court on route to another title this year. I do feel that if both want to succeed her in Indian Wells they might need to be a bit more pro-active and on the front foot earlier.

Sharapova’s chances

Tennis moves on. I said this after her defeat to Kerber in Melbourne. Kerber was brutal and Sharapova was answerless. I question why there hasn’t been any changes to her game when she was banned as the game adapts and I don’t see her a contender here. I recently watched her play Monica Niculescu and I remember writing that it got unnecessarily messy very quickly and despite being a two time champion I can’t see her adding to her trophy cabinet here.


Niculescu 4-6 6-4 6-3 Sharapova – How a strong performance quickly turned unnecessarily messy!

When you say the name Monica Niculescu you know what you are going to get. That slice shot is one of the unique shots in the game and for the first set and a half Maria Sharapova played what I would describe as a fast, dominate and strong performance against the Romanian and then mid-way during the second set it turned into a mess.

The very loose game at 4-5 in set two took it to a third set decider where she looked rattled by Niculescu who seemed to get into her head.

Sharapova stopped producing pace and it became slow off the racket and Monica doesn’t need an invitation cause trouble. She can keep the ball low with spin off the sliced forehand and can quickly pull off a solid backhand as well.

Sharapova started to try and imitate and it wasn’t great viewing at all, here is just one moment in the third set…

sharpova slice..

You can see above it got messy. Sharapova went for a slice off the low shot but produced a lot of height, Monica sent it back with interest leaving the Russian scampering to the ball which she did make only for the Romanian to knock the backhand winner past her.

This is the other one…

sharapova bh.png

I didn’t get to see the match live but watching it back my first thought was ‘oh dear’ as I just saw what was coming. Maria up until this point played a very good point and then this happened. She made it easy going down the line and if anything a lack of trust or nerves got into her game for this to happen.

Unsurprisingly Sharapova lost this shot and Monica went on to serve out the match to love untroubled.


Big improvement needed from Sharapova if she is going to contend at the top again!

Maria Sharapova’s return to the tour has in all honesty been very anti-climatic. Having been away from the game for long I think it is fair to say the return has been disappointing and I’m not talking about results but her game and performances.

Looking at the bigger picture and with perspective it’s all been an over-hype. Sharapova won Tiajin last year and it was made out she won the WTA Finals but she only played 1 top 50 ranked player on route to lifting the title, are we just over sugar-coating wins and playing down defeats? I think so!

Quite a lot of the players she has lost to since her return I would say are good tour players and that it is with the greatest of the respect but they all have good games and have at times ‘easily’ got the better of her.

I watched Sharapova take on Kerber in Melbourne the other day and I expected the German to win with the momentum she has from Sydney but I didn’t see such a poor performance coming from Sharapova and it signals a need to move on and improve her game if she wants to battle with the best.

First of all we look at the defensive skills. The sliced backhand will only get you so far and then you rely on your movement and decisions with the racket on turning defence into attack but once Kerber got a hold of a rally there was no fight back.


Look at the body position from continually playing the slice backhand. The movement is wooden with no recovery or chance of progressing in the rally and Kerber as would anyone would just went for it and Sharapova’s slice got less effective and Kerber could come in-field and pick her winner down the line or cross-court.

Movement like this won’t win titles against the best. One thing I say regularly is tennis moves on quickly and to compete with the best you have to learn from the best, the movement of the ladies at the top of the women’s game is exceptional right now!

The second aspect is the lack of anticipation and running out of ideas even four games in.

Sharapova was doing well with the ground strokes and got good depth on the court but Kerber defended very well and at this point Sharapova stopped trying to move the German around the baseline and was quite predictable on placement but then played a drop shot she got horribly wrong.


The drop shot wasn’t a bad idea but there was no anticipation on the return! Sharapova knows Kerber is left handed and because of how close to the ground and not she is flicking up the line is the only option so why does Maria have the racket in her right hand? Her court position is a bit ‘stuck in the mud’ which didn’t help but if she was a bit more mobile with her feet and had the racket ready to potential play a backhand it might have helped her out!

I think there is a lot of work to do. I am surprised she’s come back to the tour with little alterations to her game as the game has moved on and improving the footwork is pivotal if even wants to be top 25 come the end of the season which I honestly don’t see happening right now!


Should Sharapova have been invited to the Australian Open draw ceremony? No.

Were not even mid-way through January and we have already had an unusal and in many opinions a wrong decision made ahead of the first major of the year.

As tradition with any major the defending champions are at the draw ceremony but with Serena not taking part this year Tennis Australia who have made some unsual decisions in the past have made a big error.

2 years ago Maria Sharapova failed a drugs test in Melbourne and we can dress it up however we like but it was a drug test which was failed so deciding to select Sharapova to bring on the trophy and conduct the ceremony with a chat on court about her ‘time away’ as it was called is poor and does the image of the sport no good at all in my opinion.

I think in fairness and also in respect to other players and the sport then it should have been someone different. She is one of two winners taking part this year, the other being Kerber who is in action in Sydney right now but surely they might of asked Serena to pick someone to walk on with her title and the obvious choice which the organisers should have made was Venus Williams or failing that as she’s been in Sydney is why not give the experience to a Australian youngster?



Why I don’t think Maria Sharapova will pick up her first Australian Open title since 2008!

I know the season has only just started and I don’t want to be the one who brings down the mood but ten years after her first and only win in Australia you’d say with no Serena and no news on Vika that Sharapova would stand a chance of picking up her first title in 10 years in Melbourne but I don’t see it happening.

Since Maria came back onto the tour I have felt that players have taken their matches against her like a free hit and they have every right to, there doesn’t seem to be that fear when she’s on court and she has to try and build it up again to inject that fear match by match.

Part of the issue for Maria is she’s stepping in too much and last year hit her worst % of 1st serve return points won under 40% and it’s been the same so far this week in Shenzhen and matches she should be cruising in she hasn’t.

If you compare where she was standing in 2015 compared to this year she has stepped in a little and there could be a few reasons for this. It could be a lack of trust in her movement further behind the baseline compared to what it used to be but also a factor in stepping forward could be trying too hard as we can see below.

 MS return

It is too easy to say I am going to be aggressive from the baseline. You can be aggressive behind the baseline and inside but it’s about timing as well and that is lacking with Maria stepping in as she does possess excellent ground strokes but isn’t putting them to full use since her comeback on the tour. I’d say she is over-thinking and not trusting her game to be stepping forward but not playing with conviction and to be returning serve inside the baseline which she has been doing of late but not getting rewards isn’t helping her gain any momentum and taking a step back might just give her more control in matches and strike fear into opponents.

It’s been 10 years since Maria picked up her first and only title in Melbourne and I think the wait will go on. Big wins will be needed and it’s something she hasn’t had with just two meetings against a top 10 opponent last year both of those against Simona Halep winning one but losing the other.


Wozniacki and Sharapova exchange words over scheduling…

Caroline Wozniacki has hit out at the USTA for their scheduling and she is spot on!

Last year Caro came into New York ranked outside the top 70 in the world but she fought hard and is now ranked 5 in the world and incredibly got pushed out on one of the outside courts 5th on court so Sharapova could play on Ashe…

Wozniacki said she thought it was unacceptable that the world number 5 was put 5th on court 5 after 11am. She went on to question the USTA’s decision to have all of Sharapova’s matches on centre which doesn’t send out the best message for a player returning from a drugs ban.

I’m totally with Wozniacki with the fact it doesn’t set a good example but the organisers have shown what is more important with scheduling and that is money.

Since Wozniacki’s comments Sharapova has hit back…

“Regards to scheduling, as you know I don’t make the schedule. And you know I’m a pretty big competitor and if you put me out in the parking lot at queens in New York City I’m happy to play there. That’s not what matters to me, all that matters is that I’m in the fourth round and I’m not sure where she is. (Wozniacki lost in R1)”


The debate will go on every tournament and I am with Wozniacki as it doesn’t send out the correct message and if anything has been welcomed back with open arms but at the same time Sharapova doesn’t have a say on where she plays.