Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dirt-y Questions (Part Two): Last Minute Preps

It always puzzles me when top-ranked players choose to play the warm-up events the week prior to a major.

This week there are two case in points: Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova. While the two have raised eyebrows off the court with their rumored relationship, neither have done much on their respective tours over the past few months.

April and May have never been the kindest of months to Mr. Roddick. Following his win in Houston in 2005, Roddick is just 9-7 on the red stuff. This year, he's 2-1 (counting his win yesterday), and with the French looming just days away, Andy is hoping to hone his clay skills just in time for his most hated major of the year.

To put Roddick on the same page as Federer and Nadal on the red stuff would be an outright joke. However, the effort of the American to pick up the slack when it comes to European tennis can certainly be admired. At least he's making an effort.

We can't say the same about the clay boys and grass, right?

Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova has had a little more success on clay than Roddick, but as of late, she's more worried about pain in her shoulder than dirt on her dresses.

Yet Sharapova is in action this week, winning her opening match in Istanbul.

It was the first on-tour win for the Russian since her 6-1, 6-1 thrashing via Serena Williams at the Nasdaq in March.

Not only is Sharapova fighting injury, but recently she has begun to fight the media's doubt (and her own) in her serve, and therefore, her entire game.

So while most top players avoid the week-before tourneys, Roddick and Sharapova look to capitalize off of the match play. And just maybe we'll see some of the benefits of that game plan in week two at Roland Garros. But that's a big maybe.

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