Maria Sharapova sure to welcome Europe’s clay after a tough spell on American hard courts

After a disappointing spell on the north American hardcourts, Maria Sharapova must surely welcome a return to the European clay, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Maria Sharapova in action during her second round defeat to Daria Gavrilova at the Miami Open on March 26. Rhona Wise / EPA
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A few years ago, Maria Sharapova likened her movement on clay courts to that of a “cow on ice”. That surface is now her sanctuary, and the Russian is sure to be looking forward to getting back on the red courts of Europe after a disappointing stint in North America.

Knocked out by Flavia Pennetta in the fourth round at Indian Wells, the world No 2 was stunned in straight sets by world No 97 Daria Gavrilova in her opening match in Miami last week. Those two losses must have dented her confidence and a return to the clay courts of Europe, where she lost only once in 20 matches last year in winning the Stuttgart, Madrid and French Open titles, could provide a much-needed boost.

Her disappointing stint in North America followed yet another grand slam tournament final defeat to her great rival Serena Williams, at the Australian Open in January, her 16th straight loss to the American.

Sharapova has previously struggled after losing a grand slam title to Williams. She failed to go beyond the second round at Wimbledon after losing the 2013 French Open and then a shoulder injury cut short her season.

In 2007, the Russian failed to string together three wins on the trot after losing the Australian Open final until she reached the last four at Roland Garros.

Sharapova has been known to be tough on herself after defeats to Williams, but returning to a surface where she has had so much success in recent times should clear the mind.

She has got plenty of time as well, with the next tournament on her schedule being Stuttgart, which starts on April 20.

Sharapova has won that tournament three times in a row, so there are sure to be plenty of good memories to give her morale a boost.

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