Sharapova eyes No. 1

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

Her limp is gone and the sniffles are subsiding, leaving Russian tennis queen Maria Sharapova healthy and ready to defend her Wimbledon title next week.

In a somewhat difficult warm-up for the famed tournament, Sharapova fought through a thigh injury and a bad cold en route to winning the DFS Classic grasscourt tournament in chilly Birmingham, England, on the weekend. After disposing of Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 in the final -- the third time in the tournament she was stretched to three sets -- Sharapova headed to London, site of her breakthrough victory in 2004, in a positive frame of mind.

"Everything's okay now," Sharapova said yesterday on a conference call from the All England Lawn and Tennis Club. "I think my thigh was just soreness from playing on the grass. I played five more matches after the injury."

Sharapova, who tentatively is scheduled to play in the Rogers Cup at Toronto in August, enters Wimbledon trailing Lindsay Davenport by 262 points for the world's No. 1 ranking.

"I don't have any butterflies yet, just a lot of excitement about being back on the Wimbledon grounds," Sharapova said. "It brings back a lot of good memories. A lot has changed on and off the court for me (since 2004). I've got so much more experience, I've met amazing people in different industries and I've been able to give back charity-wise."

The sport's 18-year-old pin-up girl has 10 career titles to her credit, including three this year, and has a 17-match winning streak on grass.

"The bounces are so different on grass," Sharapova said of the coming challenge. "It's very low and the ball is quick and the points are shorter.

"The level of women's tennis is very high right now. Anyone in the top 20 or 30 is a tough opponent. It would be amazing to be No. 1, but I have to get there first."


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