Sharapova and Djokovic Hitting Their Stride
In the past couple of months, I’ve been a Sharapova naysayer – and rightly so. Her results this year have been dismal. For a player of her caliber and trajectory, it has been nothing short of a complete disappointment. We all expected this five-time Grand Slam champion to come back from her drug suspension, and at the very least get back into the top 10. One year into her comeback, she has not, and I was starting to believe that she was not going to get it back. That is of course, until she showed a little life in Madrid a couple of weeks ago by reaching the Quarters and losing to Bertens in three tough sets. Along the way she beat quality opponent Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets and pretty routinely.
Fortunately, she was able to build on that victory and reached the Semis at the Italian Open this week. Remember, both Madrid and Rome are top tier and mandatory events, meaning all the top players must enter. For her to go deep in both those tournaments was important for her, because now she will be seeded at the French Open. She won’t be a top seed, but she’ll get a couple of routine matches in the first couple of rounds before meeting anyone that could provide a real challenge. Also, at the Italian Open she had her most impressive win in a long time, beating world number 5 seed and defending French Open ChampionJelena Ostapenko in the Quarters. Sharapova may not be 100% back to the top of her game, but she will be dangerous at the French Open, a tournament she’s won twice.
Just when everyone was counting Djokovic out, he shows up in Rome and reaches the Semis, where he loses to eventual champion, Rafa Nadal in two tough sets, 6-7, 3-6. Djokovic and Sharapova’s recent results slightly mirror each other, with both of them starting to look decent in the last couple of weeks or so. After a horrible spring swing where he lost early at Indian Wells and Miami, he had a decent run in Monte Carlo losing in three tough sets to Dominic Thiem. He then loses in the first round at Barcelona but continues on to Madrid where he beats a resurgent Kei Nishikori in two routine sets. Looking back, it seems like he was just getting warmed up, because he shows up at the Italian Open as the 11th seed and proceeds to easily make his way to the semis, beating Nishikori for the second time in a month along the way. This has to be great news for the Djokovic camp given his lethargic results in the last year. Let’s hope he continues his excellent play at Roland Garros!