SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova is used to having to rebuild from scratch after suffering a string of debilitating injuries throughout her career, but the Russian is still surprised at how well she is playing in her latest comeback at the WTA Finals.
Sharapova arrived in Southeast Asia having failed to complete a match since July because of leg and arm injuries, but the five-time major winner has looked in ominous form since setting foot on the Singapore Indoor Stadium court on Sunday.
Round-robin wins over Agnieszka Radwanska and Simona Halep were followed by a classy 7-5 6-1 victory over U.S. Open champion Flavia Pennetta on Thursday as the 28-year-old advanced to the semi-finals, top of the Red Group with a perfect record.
The Russian could afford to lose that final rubber, having already qualified for the semis, but she told reporters: ”Every match for me just counts at this point in the season in the last tournament.
“I wanted to try to play a high-quality three matches and I didn’t know the results would have gone the way that I have expected,” the world number four added.
”I‘m actually also a little bit surprised that I’ve been able to win three matches, as physical as some of those matches were.
“Knowing that I qualified allowed me to be a little bit more aggressive today. I played quite aggressively in the second set and had a good ratio of winners and unforced errors (and) was quite solid.”
Sharapova’s career has been punctuated by three major shoulder operations since her breakthrough triumph as a 17-year-old at Wimbledon in 2004, and the latest injury break has provided her with the opportunity to compete in the Fed Cup final next month for the first time since turning professional 14 years ago.
“The layoff gave me a chance to look through my schedule and understand that I had an opportunity to be part of an event that I’ve never played before, such as the Fed Cup final,” she said of Russia’s showdown against the Czech Republic in Prague on Nov. 14-15.
“So that changed a little bit, because I think if I (had) had a full season I would really have to reconsider playing.”
Sharapova also admitted being a bit of a tennis television junkie and may tune in on Friday to watch the conclusion of the White Group and her possible semi-final opponent.
“I know I always say that’s the last thing I want to be doing but when I‘m at a tournament I do enjoy watching,” she laughed.
”When the matches are on TV I do enjoy watching who is playing, no matter if I‘m playing against them or not. It’s part of the spirit, the tournament.
“You start your day with tennis. Everything is surrounded by tennis. I don’t shy away from watching my opponents. So, yeah, I might tune in.”
Editing by Neville Dalton