The “Siberian Siren” has left the premises earlier than expected, and will have to wait 12 months to see if she can duplicate her Wimbledon championship exploits of five years ago.
Nevertheless, Maria Sharapova, at 22, has already done enough good works to carve out an alcove for herself at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport, Rhode Island. Add the Australian, 2008, and U.S., 2006, singles crowns to her millinery, and there’s no doubt she’ll make the Hall someday after retirement.
But what about today, the immediate trials of post-shoulder-surgery life? Nobody expected a title, although I felt her fighting spirit would carry her a few rounds with her long-distance eyes on September and the U.S. Open. It wasn’t to be because a pretty blond-haired Argentine, No. 43 Gisela Dulko, stepped up with “the match of my life” to put down Sharapova, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.
“I didn’t think it would ever end,” said Dulko of her first visit to the shrine, Centre Court, even though this is her sixth Wimbledon. She meant the concluding game of 4 deuces in which the heartstrong Maria ducked 4 match points and looked ready to take over. One more point and she might have, but she missed a routine short forehand on the 5th MP.
But “It was a little too late to start picking yourself up,” Maria said.
Realistically, Dulko said it was better to catch Maria now rather than in the past or future.
Realistically, Sharapova said, “It’s just the way it was, so many easy balls and I just made unforced errors. Balls that would have been pieces of cake. And today they weren’t. My serve slowed down in the third set. I didn’t have enough juice on it.”
This was her fourth post-surgery tournament. She is philosophical about the injury. ”You think of injuries as basically preventing you from playing your sport. But if you look at the bigger picture there are many things that can happen that can limit you to doing things in life or even having a life.
“So at the end of the day, if you put things into perspective when you get injured, yes. My career is a huge part of my life, what I do on a daily basis. So it is frustrating when that goes away for a while. But if you have a good head on your shoulders, you also know there’s a life to be lived. And if you stay positive, everything’s gonna be all right, no matter what, no matter how bad the injury is. I wasn’t kidding when I said just being here is a wonderful accomplishment. I had the pleasure of playing on Centre Court again.
“Losses are tougher here than any other tournament. But it puts some perspective in your life. It’s all right. I have many more years ahead of me.”
Including the remainder of this one. I look for her to be a factor at Flushing Meadow.
The “Siren” will not be heard again this time at the Big W, a relief to innumerable eardrums. But we also lose her beauty, and go-for-broke shotmaking. I guess it’s a tradeoff.