Let’s take a look at the Maria Sharapova Biography and break down her game in detail as usual. She is probably the most popular female athlete on the planet!
Maria has been a tennis phenom from a very young age!
At the age of 7 she moved with her dad to live in Florida and attend the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. She was signed by the talent management firm IMG at the age of 9 years!
During her junior career she won the prestigeous Eddie Herr International Championships in the Under16 division at the age of only 13.
In 2001 she started her pro career with a few events but her breakthrough came in the year 2004 at the age of 17. That year she became the third youngest woman to ever win Wimbledon and won several other tournaments on the WTA Tour.
Throughout her career she has managed to win 3 Grand Slam Titles and 22 overall WTA tournaments!
During recent years she has struggled with several shoulder injuries and currently is trying to regain her top form.
Let’s have a look at Maria Sharapova’s game in the context of the four areas of Tennis (Technical, Tactical, Physical, Mental)
Sharapova Practicing at the 2011 Australian Open
Watch for the intensity and focus that Maria
has in this practice session!
Maria is known for her powerful groundstrokes. Her forehand is a real weapon off the ground. She was taught by the legendary technical coach Robert Lansdorp, who is known to teach flat clean groundstrokes to his students.
She has what most people would call a semi-western forehand grip and hits a rather flat ball that really penetrates the court.
Her swing shape is classical which she combines with a neutral stance a lot of the time.
Even though I consider her forehand to be a good stroke from a technical point of view, there are situations where she struggles with it.
She makes what I would call a rather big loop with the racket travelling kind of far behind her back. This results in late contact points in certain situations.
I believe that shortening the backswing just a little bit would allow her to keep the contact point in front of her body more often and be even more consistent with that forehand!
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Maria has a very strong backhand!
Her backhand is a lot more consistent than her forehand. Again you can really see the work of Robert Lansdorp here who taught a very similar backhand to Lindsay Davenport as well.
Maria has a great unit-turn and gets into the fully prepared position perfectly on almost every backhand!
Her swing shape is inside-out, she keeps her head still at contact and hits through the ball with incredible extension. These great mechanics allow her to absolutely nail the backhand cross-court or down the line.
To learn more about great stroke mechanics visit the Tennis Video Instruction page on this website!
Sharapova is not known for her net game. Nonetheless she comes in to finish points. Whenever the ball is a bit higher she likes to use topspin or swinging volleys to finish off points. She hits those very well.
When it comes to her regular volleys I would say that her forehand volley is reasonably solid and her backhand volley is definitely the weaker side.
Like many women she has trouble stabilizing the racket head at contact when volleying!
Even on her forehand volleys you can often see the racket move way down after contact. Her grip seems good on the forehand volleys that I have seen.
On the backhand side she sometimes uses two hands and usually lets go of the left hand when contacting the ball. Many female players add the left hand to help them stabilize the racket head. This works well when the ball comes right at them like in the warm-up but is difficult in real points when balls come to different spots every time.
Early on in her career Sharapova’s serve was regarded as one of her big weapons.
She can serve extremely hard and with great accuracy and disguise. Over the last couple of years though Maria has suffered several shoulder injuries and her serve has become a bit shaky probably because of that. There have been periods where she double faulted 10-20 times in every match.
Have a look at this slow motion of her serve
A very fluid motion with solid mechanics!
Overall I think Maria Sharapova has a good service motion!
Definitely one of the better ones in the women’s game! She has a very continuous/fluid motion. Internal rotation and pronation are key parts of a great serve and she uses both extremely well.
Try to see how the edge of her racket travels towards the ball with the racket face pointing towards the left fence until right before contact. At the last second she adjusts the racket face through pronation of her forearm which results in great acceleration of the racket.
The one thing that I believe could be improved upon in her service motion is the extreme tilt of her upper body to the left at contact.
This tilt has varied on her serve over the and possibly this could be a source of her shoulder problems as well! That is only speculation on my part though.
Many people have argued that Maria does not play very smart Tennis. They argue that she mindlessly hits the ball as hard as possible without much variation in her game. I agree with this but only to a certain extent.
Maria tries to keep points as short as possible because she has one big weakness and that is her movement!
Her game plan is structured to stay on offense and keep points as short as possible. When Robert Lansdorp developed her game I am sure he realized this and therefore wanted her to have a very aggressive mindset on the court. The belief was that she needs to overpower her opponents and that was instilled in her mind.
As an overall strategy I think this fits Maria’s body type and probably personality very well.
Nevertheless I believe she could improve her game by adding a few more defensive elements!
She tends to go for broke from defensive situations and if I was coaching her I would try to add a defensive slice as well as some high defensive shots to her game. As for the overall tactics though I believe trying to overpower opponents is the right strategy!
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Maria is listed as 6’2″ or 188 cm tall on the WTA Tour website. This probably makes her the tallest player in at least the Top50, probably the Top100. Her height certainly helps her with her serve but also causes her to be less agile around the court.
I know that Maria is a very hard worker when it comes to physical conditioning and that she most likely maximizes her capacity when it comes to movement around the court.
Overall I would consider her strong on the physical side of the game. She can overpower opponents with her sheer firepower and she moves pretty well for her height in my opinion.
Maria Sharapova is one of the strongest players on the tour when it comes to the mental side of the game!
She has incredible fighting spirit and does not seem to lose her composure on the tennis court. When it comes to crunch time, Maria usually shows her best stuff!
One thing that she does extremely well from a mental standpoint is the in-between point rituals. She always uses the same ritual no matter what happened on the previous point! When she is at her best, I would usually bet on her winning close matches.
The only thing that has been hindering her in this aspect of the game is the occasional shakiness of her serve. When she cannot rely on her serve, which used to be one of her biggest weapons, that really hurts her overall self-confidence I believe.
Again like any great champion, Maria Sharapova is strong in all four areas of the game.
I decided on the following ranking for her:
There are a few things I think Maria could work on to improve her game.
First and foremost she needs to find a way
to stabilize her serve again!
With all the shoulder problems she has had though, her serving problems are most likely related to the fear that she has in her head from those injuries. This is something that will only go away once you are serving again without pain for longer periods of time.
Her serve has changed a lot over the years but one technical thing to look for is the extreme tilt of her body to the left at contact. This tilt has varied over the years and I think it could be a reason for her shoulder problems!
The other big area for Maria to work on is her defensive game!
Of course her game plan needs to be offensive but when playing against really strong opponents like Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams or Caroline Wozniacki for example, she will not be able to avoid those long rallies.
In those rallies she needs to be able to defend better. One option would be to develop a strong defensive slice backhand and the other option would be to use more high balls when on defense!