Sharapova finding her form on clay
It's been five weeks since all of the top women tangled in Miami. Serena Williams, Li Na and Victoria Azarenka all opted to skip Stuttgart but are expected to be in the Madrid draw. Now, we'll see how the field aligns itself heading into Paris.
An up-or-down accounting:
No. 1 Serena Williams: She was on fire in Miami, but elected to play the next week on the clay in Charleston. Not a good idea, Serena. Clearly exhausted, she fell in her first match to No. 78-ranked Jana Cepelova. That was more than a month ago. No telling what we'll see from her in Madrid.
No. 2 Li Na: Not much to go on here. She's been inactive since Miami. Last year's spring clay swing produced an indifferent 5-4 record. She was one-and-done last year in Madrid, losing to young American Madison Keys.
No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska: Radwanska fell to Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals at Stuttgart 6-4, 6-3. Radwanska won only 22 of her 31 first-serve points. She forged more break points (12), but converted three fewer than Sharapova. She's tied with Dominika Cibulkova for the WTA lead with 24 wins in 2014.
No. 4 Victoria Azarenka: She's the biggest question mark among the elite players. Azarenka injured her left foot three days before the Australian Open and, after reaching the quarterfinals there, has played only one match since -- a loss to Lauren Davis in Indian Wells. She's already opted out of Madrid and listed Roland Garros as her next event.
No. 5 Simona Halep: In their previous match on clay, last year in Rome, Halep lost all of two games to Svetlana Kuznetsova. In Stuttgart, the No. 2 seed had a 5-2 lead, but lost in straight sets 7-5, 7-6 (4). It was the first time this year the No. 29-ranked Kuznetsova put together two consecutive match wins.
No. 7 Jelena Jankovic: She's had a nice spring on clay, winning nine matches and losing three, in Charleston, Bogota and Stuttgart. The 29-year-old Serb is 23-10 for the season and, with her retrieving ability, beats the players she's supposed to on this surface.
No. 9 Maria Sharapova: She beat Ana Ivanovic in Stuttgart 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, winning seven of nine break points. Sharapova's never lost a match (13-0) in Stuttgart and is now the 17th player to collect at least 30 WTA titles; Sharapova is third among active players, trailing only Venus and Serena Williams.
No. 12 Ana Ivanovic: She's off to a terrific start this year with 23 match wins -- second only to Radwanska and Cibulkova. She lost in the Stuttgart final to Sharapova.