Martina Hingis, a former world No 1 and Wimbledon champion, writes for The Tennis Space:
I first met Maria Sharapova when she was 12, and even then she was a fighter – she was a little blonde girl, but she was a real fighter. She was hungry then, and she’s still just as hungry now at the age of 25. And there’s nothing more important in women’s tennis than desire.
When she was out for all those months – after the operation to her shoulder in 2008 – she would have realised how much more she wanted to achieve in tennis. That happens when you’re out of the sport for a while, you get the desire back. Without that desire, Maria would never have returned to No 1 in the rankings, and she would not be one of the favourites for this summer’s Wimbledon.
I think you could say that Maria is not the most talented player of her generation, but she has always got the most out of herself. Yes, she is tall and has great reach, and is a good ball-striker, but her greatest attribute has always been that she has dedicated herself to her tennis, and done everything she can to be the best player she can be.
The first time I saw Maria was when I was practising at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida, and I was impressed by her attitude, and how aggressive she was on the court. It was certainly no accident that she was a Wimbledon champion at 17. She had no fear back then, just as I didn’t have any fear when I won Wimbledon at 16; you don’t think too much and you’re not scared of losing. Without a doubt, Maria has improved in the eight years since she won the Wimbledon title. There was a lot of hype around then, but she’s a better player now. Maria has matured and gained experience and her forehand – which used to be a little fragile – is a much stronger shot.
It’s great to see her back at the top of the sport. I noticed that, in her speech after winning the French Open, which gave her a career grand slam, she made a point of thanking her physical trainer, as she knows how important it is to be healthy again.
I believe that Laura Robson has the potential to be a top-10 player. She could be very annoying for Francesca Schiavone, a former French Open champion, in their first-round match. I certainly think Laura could win the match, especially as Schiavone hasn’t been having the best year. Laura’s a lefty, has a lot of promise, and she’s playing in own backyard, and she will cause Schiavone a lot of problems. Laura can certainly get as high as the top 20, and after that it’s all about desire, and how much she wants to succeed, so she could reach the top 10. There has been a lot of attention on Laura since she won Junior Wimbledon in 2008 at the age of 14, and she’s been handling everything well. I look out for her results.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Victoria Azarenka does at Wimbledon. I think she’s going to be eager to do well because it didn’t work out for her at the French Open, a tournament she started as the No 1. I will also be looking at how Serena Williams plays after her first-round defeat in Paris, and watching the defending champion Petra Kvitova. Women’s tennis is very unpredictable at the moment, maybe as unpredictable as it has ever been.