Tennis Betting: Next stop, Paris.
After such a long career, it's easy to forget that Sharapova is still only 25 years old.
After Maria Sharapova's win at Rome last week, Ralph Ellis feels she may have finally mastered the clay and could be the sneaky outsider at the French Open.
Even among the other girls on the tennis circuit, Sharapova always attracted a mixture of envy and disbelief.
Why should she get so much attention, and so many million dollar advertising contracts, when there were never too many trophies to back it up?
Even now, 12 years into her career, she has won only three Grand Slams, and the verdicts are rarely charitable.
But somewhere under the glamour, I've always felt there was a proper tennis player waiting to get out. And her win in Rome at the weekend makes me wonder if Roland Garros next week could be the place where Grand Slam number four happens.
First of all she moved far more easily on the clay than she has done in the past.
Second, she seemed to be serving more consistently.
And third, yet probably most importantly, there was a ruthless streak of determination that emerged in a rain-affected three-set final that took more than five hours to complete.
The Maria of old has always tended to crumble on match points, or under any sort of pressure. But in Rome she not only saved one, but then returned from a 150-minute rain break at 6-6 in the third knowing the whole contest depended on one tie break.
And she won it.
A fit Sharapova is 7.8 third Betfair favourite to win the French Open, and, given the current state of the other main contenders, that's worth looking at. Serena Williams is 3.8 favourite, which is no value at all for a 30-year-old who went home early from Italy with a back injury. World number one Victoria Azarenka (5.4) also quit the Rome tournament early with a poorly shoulder. Petra Kvitova (15.5) lost to a qualifier in the second round. And US Open champion Samantha Stosur 15.0 hasn't been the same player since admitting she couldn't handle the pressure of being expected to do well in her own country at the Australian Open.
After such a long career, it's easy to forget that Sharapova is still only 25 years old. That's the sort of age at which superstar players tend either to retire and count their money, or realise how much they love competing and get serious about winning. Maybe it is wishful thinking after putting some money on her, but the way she saw off Na Li in Rome might just be an indication that she's ready to follow the second path.
That's my hope, anyway.
Five things you might not know about Samantha Stosur
1. Born March 1984 in Brisbane, she moved to Adelaide aged six after the family's home on the Gold Coast was destroyed by a flood.
2. She started playing tennis with older brother Daniel for something to do while her parents Tony and Diane worked long hours in a café they had opened. It was Daniel who convinced their parents to pay for tennis lessons to nurture Samantha's talent.
3. Ranked with Lisa Raymond as the world's number one doubles pairing, her career was put on hold in 2007 for ten months after she suffered Lyme disease, a debilitating condition caused by an insect bite.
4. She lifts in Tampa, in Florida, now but hasn't forgotten her Aussie roots when it comes to taking time off - she is keen on surfing.
5. She admits to having a fear of flying, especially at take-off and landing.