| TAIPEI, Sept 21
TAIPEI, Sept 21 You will not find Maria
Sharapova moaning about crowded schedules after a year in which
the Russian has returned to within sight of the summit of
The world number two has some sympathy for the top male
players who have made rumblings about possible strike action
over what they see as a too punishing calendar but after having
her career knocked sideways by injury she is clearly happy to be
globe-trotting again and winning tournaments.
"I really missed doing what I've done since I was four years
old and I really felt that there is so much more in me that I
could bring to the court," the 24-year-old told Reuters in
Taipei where she will play an exhibition match against fellow
Russian and world No.4 Vera Zvonareva on Thursday.
"(The schedule) is so much better than it was years ago,"
she added, when asked about the demands on the serving shoulder
that needed major surgery in 2008 and kept her out of the game
for 10 months, in which time she dropped to 126 in the world.
"We finish two or three weeks before the men do. You can say
that's nothing but it's huge in our sport, it gives us more time
to take a breather whereas before after the season you could
maybe take a week off. Now you can take two weeks off and not
feel guilty about it."
Sharapova, who returned to the top 10 in March after
reaching the final in Miami, was a semi-finalist at the French
Open and runner-up at Wimbledon and recently won her 24th career
title in Cincinnati.
While she did suffer bouts of illness early in the season
she has crucially remained injury free this year -- a major
factor in her rise up the rankings.
Now she is looking forward with renewed optimism.
"That's what drives me, that's the reason why today I find
myself in that position and a position also to even do better,"
she said. "I'd love to win Wimbledon again, that's always a goal
of mine, the French Open is one that I haven't won but I feel
like with every year I compete I play better at the French Open.
"I have many goals and that's what's drives me to keep
With no dominant force in the women's game this year, the
path does seem open for Sharapova to add to her three grand slam
titles, although the depth of the field makes it tricky.
Three of the four grand slam titles went to first-timers
this year and Sharapova dismissed any suggestion that it was
evidence of a lack of top quality.
"A few years ago you would come into a tournament in the
first few rounds and people were saying 'well women's tennis
you're winning first rounds 6-0 6-1,' and now it's kind of like
'well why are the first few matches so tough'," she said.
While Sharapova probably does not want the year to end,
Zvonareva was less enthused about the calendar.
She said the current WTA schedule was "quite tight" and said
players would like to have more flexibility and choice over
which tournaments they could play in.
"With this kind of schedule we have to play every single
weekend and sometimes you feel good but sometimes you don't feel
good but you still push yourself hard and at the end of the day
you could get sick or get injured," she told Reuters.
She said players want more discussion on the issue, though
there were different views with some players wanting to play
more and some less.
"We have to find some solution where we can find the right
balance, because right now it's a little bit too busy for us. We
travel too much, but on the other hand we get a lot of
opportunities to play, so we have to think about it and we're
working on it and we're trying to find the right balance."
Next stop on the Tour for Sharapova and Zvonareva is the Pan
Pacific Open in Tokyo starting on Sept 25.
(Editing by Martyn Herman)