YOU KNOW something's wrong with your sport when one of its top practitioners doesn't bother to pay attention. "I'm watching only men's tennis on TV," fifth-ranked Jelena Jankovic said last Saturday.
Not that you can blame her: In the year since former No. 1 Justine Henin retired, the women's tour has been a rudderless ship: heeling this way and that, with a crew—including former No. 1 Jankovic, who lost to 41st-ranked Sorana Cirstea in the fourth round at Roland Garros—incapable of producing "a boss," as Henin said last Thursday. "The tour needs a leader."
Voilà! One instantly appeared. Former No. 1 Maria Sharapova, returning from a nine-month layoff following shoulder surgery, bulled through four rounds in Paris. Beloved by marketers for her looks, Sharapova's best quality is actually her hunger to win, which contrasts sharply with the Williams sisters' on-again, off-again approach and Jankovic's dithering.
Sharapova repeatedly called on her resolve to dispose of 25th seed Li Na of China on Sunday. "She was fighting every point," Li said of the 102nd-ranked Russian. "I would say she's the top player in all the world."
Sharapova found it too painful to watch the 2008 U.S. Open on TV, but by January she was rushing home from practice to watch the Australian Open. That was bad news for her foes but great for the game: More than ever, Sharapova is looking to take tennis by the throat. "This is where I belong," she said.
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