She may be down and out with injury, but Maria Sharapova has shown before that when in this situation, she comes back with a vengeance.
And that’s precisely why you want her playing for your town at the upcoming Australian Open.
That’s if she makes it to Melbourne Park, of course. The Russian has struggled mightily with injury in the second half of 2013, limiting her to just one match – an opening round loss in Cincinnati – since Wimbledon. A hip injury sustained at the All England Club has since given way to shoulder bursitis, forcing her to miss the elite season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul.
But we’ve been here before. In 2007, Sharapova was bothered by that troublesome right shoulder, and after playing just one event that year when she returned, she set about making up for lost time at the Australian Open in 2008.
There, she produced one of the more dominant Grand Slam performances in history, romping past stellar names such as Lindsay Davenport, Elena Dementieva, Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic to hoist the trophy, and didn’t surrender a set all fortnight.
If that outcome is anything to go by, we could see something similar in January.
So how can you get Sharapova playing for your town at Australian Open 2014?
It’s easy – the more points you earn by completing challenges, the more points you earn for your nominated town. And the higher your town finishes on the leader-board, the more chance it will have of being represented by a highly seeded player. The top two towns on the leader-board will flip a coin to see which one scores the top-seeded male player, or the top-seeded female.
Your town could be associated with the world No.3 at Australian Open 2014; giant information screens around Melbourne Park, plus scheduling signage, would feature her name, nationality and the Australian town she’s ‘playing for’.
It’s a pretty exciting concept, especially when you consider the prizes on offer. If your representative player wins the men’s or women’s Australian Open singles title, your town will be treated to an AO Blitz party for the entire community, and a whole host of other prizes.
And given motivation levels will be sky-high for the ultra-competitive Russian because she’ll have been sidelined for almost six months, it’s quite possible that Sharapova could be that very player holding aloft the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
She’s got a history of success at Melbourne Park; in addition to her title run nearly six years ago, she reached the final in 2007 and 2012, and semifinals in 2005, 2006 and 2013. This year she put in a particularly impressive performance, storming to the last four for the loss of just nine games, the fewest games surrendered to that point in tournament history.
Then there’s her game, one of the more powerful and dominant on the women’s tour. Sharapova likes to take charge of rallies with brutal first-strike tennis, her depth, power and pace off both wings generally too much for most of her rivals to handle. Her renowned fighting qualities give her the mental edge over most of the field too.
Prior to her injuries this year, Sharapova had cemented herself at world No.2 after a stunning first half of the season, including the French Open, that begat two titles, a win-loss record of 36-6, and no losses prior to a tournament quarterfinal.
Desperately wanting to recapture such rich form, Sharapova could be positioned for yet another strong run at Melbourne Park. And by registering for the AO Blitz and completing as many challenges as you can, you'll increase your chances of having her possibly playing her way to victory for your town at Australian Open 2014.