Maria Sharapova began 2014 as the #2 ranked women’s tennis player in the world, but it was a tenuous grip she held on that spot. She had played only one match since Wimbledon 2013. She also had a packed schedule off the court to begin 2014, including being an ambassador for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Her points vanished as she came precipitously close to falling out of the top 10. She started to right the ship during the clay court season, eventually capturing her 2nd Roland Garros title. The climb back up the rankings was underway. Since she basically didn’t play after Wimbledon 2013, save for one match, any points she gained in the second half of 2014 would propel her. The big jump in points has come via a 6-4 2-6 6-3 victory over Petra Kvitova to capture the championship at the 2014 China Open in Beijing. It was a see-saw match in which both players seemed vulnerable. For Petra, it was her 9th match in 13 days, having won last week in Wuhan. Kvitova admitted to being tired, but no excuses. Masha blew a few leads, an earlier match point opportunity and double faulted 10 times. But Sharapova is one of the most resilient players in women’s tennis history. More often than not, she makes the shots she needs to make. Actually, both Masha and Petra would unseat Simona Haley for world #2 with a win. In the end, Sharapova had just a little more in the tank on this day.
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4 MARIA SHARAPOVA (won 6-4 2-6 6-3 vs 3 Petra Kvitova)