“Reality stinks sometimes,” said Maria Sharapova after beating Jarmila Groth 6-0, 6-4 in the first round of the LA Women’s Tennis Championships on Monday.
Of course, reality is relative when you’re talking about the life of a glamorous tennis superstar and self-proclaimed global “brand.”
“As a 22 year old, you’re almost finding yourself on the old wagon.“ Maria elaborated, speaking of how the tour has changed since her ten month injury layoff. Since making her (singles) comeback at the Warsaw Open in May, Sharapova says the competition is getting younger:
I notice many younger girls coming up. I played a few girls, say, in Birmingham (a Wimbledon warm- up tournament) where I’d never heard of them and they were quite young and had pretty good games. . .And then you’re like “Wow, where did these girls come from?” Then you don’t see them for weeks and they pop out of nowhere again. It’s funny. The tour is really interesting. You just see all kinds of characters.
Sharapova, who is ranked No. 61 in the world, needed just over 60 minutes to beat the No. 60 ranked Jarmila Groth, who is also 22 years old. Maria dominated the first set and came back quickly from a bad service game early in the second, showing no ill effects from her 2-6, 2-6 loss to Venus Williams last week in Stanford. (Venus, at age 29, should be riding the “old wagon” to the nursing home according to Maria’s standards.)
“I haven’t really set milestones.” Sharapova said of her strategy looking forward to the U.S. Open. “But I’ve really wanted to face challenges, and I’ve wanted to face all kinds of different opponents who are going to create challenges.”
Maria will face quite a challenge in her second round, where she faces the tournament’s No. 3 seed, Victoria Azarenka. Maria’s 20 year-old opponent is considered a Sharapova doppelganger, at least when it comes to big hitting, fierce mental intensity and high decibel grunting.
Will the old, rusty model fall to the latest upgrade? Maria says she’s up for the battle:
(Azarenka’s) not an up-and-comer anymore – she’s top 10 in the world. I definitely am happy I’ve created the opportunity. . . to play against her. Because as someone who’s been there before, I love the challenges of playing some of the best people in the world. I look forward to playing that one.
Sharapova told reporters that Azarenka, currently ranked No. 9, “has a great amount of potential to become number one in the world.”
But Junior might have to get in line: “That’s where I’ve been and I know what that’s felt like.“ Maria said of regaining the No. 1 ranking. “And I’ve always wanted to feel that feeling.”
Sharapova faces Victoria Azarenka on Wednesday night in LA, on a double-header bill that also features (UPDATED!) Caroline Wozniacki vs. Sorana Cirstea (Dinara Safina was moved to play Daniela Hantuchova in Wednesday’s day session.) It’s Ana Ivanovic vs. (Dodger’s singer) Vania King AND Vera Zvonareva vs. Peng Shuai on Tuesday night.
Tickets are still available! And the stadium is cozy. Click here to visit the LA Women’s Tennis Championships website for more information.