In clinching her first Roland Garros finals appearance yesterday against promising tennis upstart Sara Errani, Maria Sharapova regained the world number one ranking four years after she lost it. But it’s not been an easy ride back to the top for the Grand Slam champion, and she has revealed that she feared she would never get there again following the devastating shoulder injury that almost brought an end to her starry career.
The golden girl of tennis was playing at the very peak of her powers before the surgery that took her away from the sport for 10 months. She managed to win a total of 3 Grand Slam trophies – Wimbledon in 2004, US Open in 2006 and Australian Open in 2008 – but then the dream almost collapsed as she slid down the rankings to 126th in the world following her extensive lay-off.
Her career revival started again last year, where she competed in the major championships and made her first appearance in a Grand Slam final in over three years in the 2011 Wimbledon Championships. But it’s been a tough road back to the top for her, at times seemingly almost impossible – “I was in a position a few years ago where I didn’t quite know if I would ever be here again on this stage playing professionally.”
Speaking to reporters who were gathered at the press conference following her triumph in Paris yesterday, Sharapova explained that it was her pragmatic determination and passion for the sport that she’s played in since she was four years of age that enabled her to battle through the hard and difficult moments – “It’s a long road back. It’s a lot of days of frustration and uncertainty not known if you’ll ever get there…but it’s all really worth it.”
The hard times aren’t over yet for Sharapova however, despite reclaiming the top spot she will be facing a tough opponent in the Italian, Sara Errani. Both women are entering their first final at Roland Garros, and even though Sharapova’s eye is on that trophy to complete her collection of Grand Slam titles (which will also make her the just the 10th women in the open era to complete the Grand Slam career record), Errani has that kind of dogged determination that may just prevent her from doing so.