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SHARAPOVA EYEING MORE MAGIC IN MADRID

2015-4-29


MADRID, Spain
- It's been a tough month and a half for Maria Sharapova - after winning 17 of her first 18 matches of the season, she's lost her last three in a row. But the Mutua Madrid Open kicks off in four days - she won it last year, so what's to say she won't rekindle her magic there this year?

In the last three years, clay has become Sharapova's very best surface. She's won 54 of 59 matches on clay since the start of 2012, and it's almost the same ratio in Madrid - she's won 13 of 15 matches in the Spanish capital since the start of 2012, the only two losses coming to nemesis Serena Williams.

Last year Sharapova went all the way to the title, beating back-to-back-to-back Top 5 players the last three rounds - Li Na in the quarters, Agnieszka Radwanska in the semis and Simona Halep in the final.

"I don't take any finals for granted, and every tournament means a lot to me," Sharapova told the crowd a year ago after her enthralling 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 championship victory over Halep. "I came close last year, and I didn't have a great first set today, but I knew it wasn't over until the last point was played."

She'll go into her title defense on the aforementioned three-match losing streak - Flavia Pennetta in the fourth round of Indian Wells, Daria Gavrilova in her Miami opener and Angelique Kerber in her Stuttgart opener - but Sharapova came so close to breaking the pattern against Kerber, coming within a few points of victory up 6-2, 5-4, and Kerber is easily the hottest clay court player of the year.

If she got out of that one, she might have been on her way to a fourth straight Stuttgart title.

Will Sharapova find her winning mojo again in Madrid?

"It always makes it easier knowing that you've turned a surface that's always been one of the most challenging ones for you to one that you look forward to going out on, and practicing on, and playing matches on," Sharapova said in Stuttgart. "I'm looking forward to the rest of the clay court season. I look forward to working on things, improving and looking back to the great memories I've had on clay.

"That always helps motivate you a little bit more."

And her plans for the last 10 days between falling in Stuttgart and her Madrid opener?

"Just training physically, just getting that cardio back," the World No.3 said.

"That's really important, especially for clay."



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