The Comeback Kids: Sharapova and Kuznetsova In Auckland

The new year has marked massive changes for Maria Sharapova; new schedule, an additional coach and a brand new racket endorsement. As has been well-documented over the last couple of days, she signed onto Head with her own exclusive line of rackets. Her 6-3 6-2 victory over lucky loser Alberta Brianti was an interesting affair, she came out firing as usual, but what I liked the most was that she was looking to use the full court again. I think one of her biggest problems in 2010 was that she neglected angles and the full width of the court, preferring to hit the majority of shots down-the line. For someone notorious for producing Seles-esque angles on her backhand side and using the full width of the court to crush opponents, it was a massive come-down which meant that her movement was more exposed than ever. But it’s good to see her addressing and attempting to improve on the right things. Her appearance at Auckland has brought sold-out crowds to Auckland, so let’s hope her level of play this year is as high as her celebrity and popularity is.
Svetlana Kuznetsova’s performance wasn’t as encouraging though. For the vast majority of her match against the 253rd ranked hometown girl Sacha Jones, she stood miles behind the baseline and just chipped the ball back into the middle of the court, waiting for errors from her opponent. And though she improved during the second set to record a straightforward 6-4 6-2 victory, it was a pretty unconvincing performance. That said, it’s her first match so we just have to watch and see how she progresses over the next few matches and tournaments before jumping to any conclusions.
Recently, Kuznetsova lamented on the need for the top Women’s players to all start playing well simultaneously. And it is completely right. Outside of the injuries that have ravaged the tour over the last few years, the problem is that so many players have fallen into, and seem unable to find a way out of slumps and bad patches of play. There are so many quality players on the tour today, it’s just about them playing at the level they have played in the past. Between 2009 and 2010, we saw only a handful of matches between the elite players. Meaning we have only seen a handful of elite-quality matches. And thanks to those slumps, most of these matches have been occurring in the second/third and fourth round of events, rather than the quarters, semis and finals. Things need to change in 2011, and they need to start with these two multiple Grand Slam Champions.