FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Maria Sharapova has sent a message to the tennis world: She’s back.
After missing almost a year due to a shoulder injury, the tall lanky Russian took the court again in Flushing Meadows. The result was a straight-set win against Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, 6-3, 6-0.
“I was pretty happy because I kind of came from a slow court in Toronto to a pretty fast court here,” said Sharapova, who is playing in just eighth match of the season. “So it was all about adjustment.
“I played a tricky opponent who doesn’t give you much rhythm. It was real important to stay on top of her and do the right things from the beginning. I thought I had a little bit of a slow start, but once I got going, I did a a good job maintaining.”
It’s been a strange year for Sharapova, who is also making a comeback. She was out for almost all of 2008 with a shoulder injury, including last year’s Open. Although, she came back in time for this year’s French and Wimbledon, Queens is the place where she is at full strength, even though they said on ESPN she was looking towards 2010.
“I have been fortunate this summer to play as many matches as I have,” she said. “I think in Toronto, I played in six matches in seven days. I don’t remember the last time I did that. I feel like I’ve learned a lot and stepped it up. I certainly feel like I’m cutting down on the errors and getting confidence back certainly.”
Of course, much like any injury, Sharapova still has to worry about the shoulder. She said it now takes her longer to recover after each tournament, which is something she is not used to.
“It’s a little bit of a new stage for me, kind of dealing with that, and really being smart on the practice court,” said Sharapova, who is now 23-7 this year. “Obviously you have a week to train before a grand slam but you want to do the right thing. I still have to work on my strength and do my program every single day of the last week, but also I want to go on the court and hit the tennis ball.”
“It’s a compromise. It’s something new in my career but that’s OK.”
That also means a new serve motion, which is easier on her arm.
“I’m pretty mobile,” she said. “My joints are pretty loose. I had a pretty loose motion but by the tie I would get to the hitting position my rotator cuff would be out of place because I am so mobile. With a shorter motion, it doesn’t have so much room to move around. It’s much more stable in the socket.”
And that will help her shoulder not get injured again.
In other words: She’s back.