Maria Sharapova is in the midst of a valiant come back effort from shoulder surgery. The injury she battled with, most notably in Wimbledon 2008, was caused in part to her violent serving motion. Sharapova once generated one of the WTA's most incendiary serves of all time from her 6' 2'' frame. Now she has a rebuilt service motion to go along with her rebuilt shoulder and a new coach, former ATP World Tour player Michael Joyce.
"Before the injury," Joyce said, "her serve was a huge weapon for her and it's difficult to make a change like this. But right now her arm isn't ready to serve the way she did before the surgery and maybe it never will be and that's why we've made the adjustment."
"It's a tough thing for an athlete at Maria's level to do, to make a big change like this to something that had been second nature. She used to have a very loose, long, drawn-out motion. She had a tough serve, but her arm was going in a lot of directions."
Sharapova is in her sixth tournament since returning to WTA play. She has most recently advanced past Alona Bondarenko in the LA Women's Tennis Championship , rallying for a 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 win, avenging a 6-2, 6-2 loss in May when she rejoined the tour after her seven-month layoff.
"It was good to get the win and get my revenge," Sharapova said. "The second set I started serving a lot better and harder and I returned great and put a lot of pressure on her serve. Then I was able to get the break in the third set and keep the momentum going from the second."
With Dinara Safina being upset by China's Zheng Jie 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 and the Williams sisters not entering the tournament, Sharapova could be looking at her first tournament win since returning. The win would come just in time and would be ideal in setting her up for her first Grand Slam win since her hiatus, all the while propelling her up the ranks to reclaim her seat as the "Princess of Tennis."
All of that is just wishful thinking for Sharapova who is just happy to be competing again.
"While I was off," she said, "I missed the game every day. That I did learn. I want to be out here very much."
Let's hope she stays competing, for having the privilege of watching a true gem of the game is something we all missed.