Sharapova's renaissance gaining momentum
On the road again: Maria Sharapova is getting back to where she's been. Photo: Pat Scala
SORRY to interrupt, but if we can just distract you for a moment from Lance, Oprah and the falling of a house of cards, a tennis match was played last night. It was between two women who have both been to the top of their sport. To our knowledge neither ever took performance-enhancing drugs.
You heard right, each woman became world No. 1 without drugs. Crazy huh? Post-Lance Cheatstrong this is an important point to make.
So, if it is OK with you, we will now proceed. But we will still borrow from cycling: Maria Sharapova was last night riding Cadel Evans' bike and made Venus Williams look like she was on a dragster. Williams was once the best in the world, but that is a while ago. Sharapova was also for a period the dominant figure in women's tennis and, remarkably, that period now seems back within her reach.
After Sharapova's peak came the drop, when she got injured and others came up the mountain and overtook her. She struggled to get back to where she had been and you doubted she ever would.
Partly (and guiltily) it must be admitted this was because she was, frankly, an extremely attractive young lady and it would only be normal to figure that there were probably other more compelling things going on in her crazy, glamorous world and tennis would become less important.
That was plainly a foolish thought. What is easily forgotten is that not only is Sharapova an exceptional tennis player but she is six years younger than Venus Williams' younger sister Serena, who is the favourite to win this tournament and the woman who still dominates this sport.
Sharapova has had a mid-career renaissance that was given true credibility with last night's merciless downing of the veteran Venus. Sharapova won in straight sets 6-1, 6-3 in 79 minutes. When Sharapova lost the fifth game of the first set, it was the first game she had dropped this tournament and so broke a winning sequence of 28 games.
At 32 and coming back from lengthy absences due to injury, Williams is trying to climb the mountain again. Her five Wimbledon titles and two US crowns belong to the last decade (2008 was her last grand slam title win).
■ Spanish running machine David Ferrer subdued Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the Australian Open third round on Friday night.
The ultra-consistent Ferrer clinically ousted Baghdatis 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 in less than two hours.