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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Maria look like best heading into first Slam

Maria Sharapova cracked the elite ranks of women's tennis last season, and with an Australian Open field weakened by injuries to top players, the 17-year-old Russian has an excellent chance at winning her second major, says Tracy Austin of

Maria Sharapova

The 17-year-old Russian won both Wimbledon and the year-ending WTA Championships in 2004, establishing herself as one of the elite players on tour.
Sharapova is healthy and eager to start 2005, and her confidence really got a boost with the two prestigious titles she won last season. Her mindset should be different than last year, as she has shown she can live up to high expectations.

She feels the confidence from her achievements in 2004, but this season there will be some added pressure because since she's risen into the elite ranks of players, opponents will be gunning for her that much more. But she won't struggle with the pressure, seeming to handle all the attention well in the past.
I talked to Sharapova's trainer and he mentioned that the plan was to use the time between the year-ending WTA Championships and the start of the new season to really work on Sharapova's strength. So it will be interesting to see if the teenager is stronger in 2005. Sharapova has the skills, weapons, and motivation to get to the top after finishing last season ranked No. 4

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