Five thoughts from Day 5 of the Australian Open …
1. Maria Sharapova sends a warning shot: She may have completed the career Grand Slam and finished No. 2 in 2012, but somehow Sharapova became the woman on the outside looking in heading into the Australian Open. Blame the beatdowns she took from the other two members of the WTA’s Big Three, Victoria Azarenka (6-3, 6-0 in last year’s Australian Open final) and Serena Williams (6-0, 6-1 at the London Olympics, among others), which laid bare her glaring weaknesses.
She couldn’t match Williams’ power and movement. She couldn’t hit through Azarenka’s consistency. Her serve was a liability. She wanted those head-to-head victories so badly that she flat-out crumbled. Until Sharapova can notch big wins over either player (2-10 vs. Williams all time, 3-6 vs. Azarenka since 2010), she’ll always be considered third best.
Sure, she dominated her first two rounds in Melbourne, winning both matches 6-0, 6-0. Big whoop. We know Sharapova can trample unseeded players. The question was how she’d react against a formidable opponent. Like Venus Williams on Friday.
Despite the justified hype, this one turned out to be a complete dud. Sharapova rolled 6-1, 6-3 with a combination of clutch serving, aggressive hitting and consistent returning.