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Sharapova serves up trouble at Toronto Cup

MARIA Sharapova turned a corner in her comeback by reaching the final of the Toronto Cup yesterday only to find a long road still ahead to get back to the top.

Working her way back to form after nine months recovering from shoulder surgery, the Russian closed a constructive week in Canada with the type of ragged performance that will have reminded her of the work to be done.

A 6-4 6-3 loss to fellow Russian Elena Dementieva in yesterday's final showed the three-time grand slam winner has yet to come to grips with her surgically repaired shoulder and her once powerful serve remains a liability.

In the first set Sharapova served nine double faults while her forehand found the net more often than hit the mark. In two earlier matches she served 12 and 17 double faults.

"It's coming back from something that's a pretty serious injury with the shoulder," Sharapova told reporters. "My serve is one of my biggest weapons and coming off the injury, tweaking your motion a little bit, it takes a lot of time for adjustments.

"You do something for your whole career, since you were young and you're use to doing it a certain way then all of sudden you have to change it at a very elite level. It takes time.

"With every tournament I feel like I'm progressing. I'm understanding what feels better, what I can do better."

While Sharapova's serve remains a work in progress she showed the layoff had not dulled her competitive edge.

She beat 10th seed Nadia Petrova, seventh seed Vera Zvonareva and 14th seed Agnieszka Radwanska then out-lasted Alisa Kleybanova in a three-set slugfest for a place in the final.

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

"This was really good preparation.

"With every tournament I've played in the summer I felt like was starting to play better and get a feel for the hardcourts.

"With every match I felt like I stepped it up when I had and today I just came up a little short."


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