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August 27, 2009

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Sharapova back in shape, aims for top ranking

MARIA Sharapova has downplayed her chances of winning a second US Open crown this year after returning from shoulder surgery but believes she can go on to regain the world No. 1 spot.

"With every tournament I feel physically I'm getting better and getting a good sense of the court but it's still a work in progress," the three-time grand slam winner said in an interview ahead of the final major of the season which begins in New York on Monday.

"I'd like to forget I was gone for a long time but you have to put things in perspective."

The 22-year-old Russian, who only returned to singles action in May after a nine-month layoff, said while she would certainly give the US Open her best shot, she was "absolutely" sure of climbing back to the tennis summit.

"I'm a competitor and have played many tournaments and won quite a few," said Sharapova, who first claimed the world No. 1 spot in 2005. "You want to be the winner and if someone tells you otherwise they wouldn't be telling the truth."

While the Russian has not won any titles since her comeback, she has beaten world No. 7 Vera Zvonareva, eighth-ranked Victoria Azarenka and No. 13 Nadia Petrova and seems to be improving every week.

The Russian reached the LA Championships semifinals and on Sunday lost the Rogers Cup final in Toronto to compatriot and world No. 4 Elena Dementieva 4-6, 3-6.

"I think it was a really great week for me," she said. "Playing six matches was great leading up to the US Open."

She fondly recalled her title run at the 2006 US Open, where she beat Belgium's Justine Henin in the final.

"Winning my second major took quite a bit of time," said the 22-year-old, who won her first aged 17 at Wimbledon in 2004. "Justine was playing really well but my game had been building and it was one of those matches where I came in without a big game plan because I felt like if I was going for my shots I had a chance," she said in an interview arranged by WTA sponsors Sony Ericsson.

Last October, Sharapova had her shoulder operation and did not return to singles competition until May in Warsaw.

Her record is 22-7 since her return, pushing her world ranking up to 29th.


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