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MARIA SHARAPOVA: HOW SHE QUALIFIED

Superb spring launched Finals bid

The foundations for Maria Sharapova's successful bid for a place at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global were laid on European clay.

Maria Sharapova missed the end of 2013 following a recurrence of her shoulder troubles and took a little while to find her stride on her return to action this January. A semifinal in Brisbane augured well, but she was unable to kick on at the Australian Open, where she was outplayed by an on-song Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round.

The search for her best form continued in Paris, where she suffered a rare loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the semifinals. Further near misses were to come in Indian Wells and Miami before the Russian finally got her hands on some silverware as the tour returned to Europe for the clay court season.

For someone who once described her own movement on a clay court as reminiscent of "a cow on ice", Sharapova looked decidedly sure-footed this spring - winning three of the four events she contested on the surface.

The first of these came in Stuttgart, but bigger prizes were to follow, with victories in Madrid and then Roland Garros. The last of these, completed with victory over the high-flying Simona Halep, saw Sharapova catapult herself to the top of the Road To Singapore leaderboard, where she would stay for the rest of the summer.

After her heroics on the terre battue, Wimbledon was something of an anticlimax as she slumped to a surprise fourth round defeat to Angelique Kerber.

Preparation for the US Open began in Montréal, where she fell to Carla Suárez Navarro in a rusty outing. Cincinnati proved more fruitful, a couple of hard-fought wins over Singapore rivals and a tight semifinal defeat at the hands of Ana Ivanovic setting her up nicely for Flushing Meadows.

While there was to be no second major in New York, Sharapova falling to a resurgent Caroline Woznacki, it was enough to secure her ticket to Singapore, and if she can find top gear there she has every chance of capping off her season with another significant piece of silverware.




 

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