By Ros Satar
- Maria Sharapova snapped a four match losing streak this week in Madrid
- Lost to Kiki Bertens in the quarter-final 4-6 6-2 6-3
MADRID, SPAIN – Maria Sharapova stepped up her level after some tough moments following her coaching split with Sven Groeneveld in March, with some positives to take away to Rome.
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It might have been a tough fight and loss in her first meeting with Kiki Bertens in the Madrid quarter-final for Maria Sharapova, but her level of play stepped up considerably in the altitude of the Mutua Madrid Open.
She snapped a four-match losing streak dating back to her third-round match against Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open, and it was a miserable period of time that saw her split from her coach of four years Sven Groeneveld after a first round loss to eventual winner, Naomi Osaka.
Groeneveld had started working with Sharapova in 2014, guiding her to the French Open title, and more crucially stayed on her team throughout her 15-month ban for taking meldonium in 2016.
She re-joined forces with Thomas Hogstedt a little over a month later – he had been her coach between 2010 and 2013, but there was obviously a small period of adjustment. She withdrew from Miami, and after being downed by Madrid semi-finalist Caroline Garcia.
However, her fortunes changed this week in Madrid, and perhaps we started to see a shadow of the old Sharapova back. There has been a definite step up in the level of play, which she attributed to working through some tough moments after Indian Wells.
She said:” I think it’s a little bit of everything. There’s no, like, definite answer. I think a lot of things always have to come together.
“But I think maybe post Indian Wells, which was a tough few weeks for me, I think I don’t know many people that would be like, ‘Let’s keep going.’ It was really tough.
“I was willing to make changes, willing to get back out there, willing to put in the work. I think that attitude certainly helps, that perspective on things.
“When you do it for yourself, when you try to make the right decisions for yourself in a very selfish sport, maybe somehow in the end it works out. I think we all try to make little adjustments to make ourselves better.
“But, of course, it’s so nice to play when you can hold the racquet in your left hand, when you’re not worried about other things, when you can just play tennis. It’s a really nice feeling. That doesn’t happen all the time. That’s just part of the sport, as well. But it certainly helps.”
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Areas to improve
A three-time former champion, Sharapova will head to Rome for her final preparations before Roland Garros (which she has won twice).
She continued: “There’s still a few weeks in the leadup to that. I mean, I thought I just should have made those smaller adjustments with my feet, moving back.
“[Bertens] hits a deep, heavy ball. But seeing that shorter one a little bit faster. I was just a little slow on that. Just a little hesitant.
“Some of those opportunities. Keep improving the return. A much better week on that for me this week. But I think there’s a lot more work I can do on that. It’s a few percentages here and there. It’s little margins.”
The Internazionali BNL d’Italia takes place between 14-20 May.
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