x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Maria Sharapova is taking clay courts in her stride

With a 124-22 record on clay, Sharapova has the best winning percentage on the surface among active players.

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates winning a point against Simona Halep of Romania during the Madrid Open final. Andrea Comas / Reuters
Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates winning a point against Simona Halep of Romania during the Madrid Open final. Andrea Comas / Reuters

“For someone who likened her movement on clay to a “cow on ice” in 2007, Maria Sharapova is creating an impressive legacy on the surface.

The Russian boasts an impressive 11-0 record on clay this season after ending a 12-month title drought with her third consecutive title at Stuttgart and adding the Madrid crown on Sunday by defeating Simona Halep. Starting with Strasbourg in 2010, eight of Sharapova’s past 10 tournament wins have come on clay, including the 2012 French Open.

Before that, only one of 21 titles had come on clay.

Since her defeat in the semi-final of the 2011 French Open to eventual champion Li Na, she has lost only three of her 50 matches on the surface – all to Serena Williams. With a 124-22 record on clay, Sharapova (0.818 per cent) has the best winning percentage on the surface among active players, with Serena (134-33) second at 0.809. Venus Williams is third (0.763), followed by Jelena Jankovic (0.704), Svetlana Kuznetsova (0.703) and Li (0.703).

Sharapova’s improvement on clay can be attributed to her maturity as a tactical player, and she has learnt to slide as well. But is she a better player on clay than Serena?

Probably not.

The American world No 1 has a 16-2 record against the world No 7, and has won all four of their duels on clay.

However, going into French Open, Sharapova could be the favourite. Serena pulled out from Madrid with a thigh injury and is unlikely to be in her best shape.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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