Sharapova working on 'cat and mouse' clay game

ESPN staff
April 25, 2012
Maria Sharapova admits she is still finding her feet on clay © Getty Images

World No. 2 Maria Sharapova admits she still needs to improve on clay if she is to achieve a career Grand Slam at this year's French Open.

Having reached the final of the Australian Open in January, three-time major winner Sharapova is looking to find her feet on the red dirt as she makes her first appearance at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart this week.

The 25-year-old has added Stuttgart to her usual WTA clay-court events in Rome and Madrid as she begins her preparations for next month's French Open - the only grand slam title that has thus far eluded her.

"My goal for this year's clay-court season is to improve even more physically," Sharapova said. "I can withstand longer matches and I recover better, I'm still learning about the clay court game which is a little bit like a 'cat and mouse' game, as the ball comes back more often and differently."

With all four of the current grand slam champions - world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, US Open winner Sam Stosur and French Open reigning champion Li Na in action in Stuttgart, second seed Sharapova is ready for the challenge in Germany.

"I came here because as it is the first time that it fits into my schedule," Sharapova said. "Usually I do only Rome and Madrid before Paris, but this year I had an extra week so it worked out for me. It is such a short clay-court season, so I took this chance.

"I think the last time I was in Germany it was in Berlin in '05 or '06, so it is quite exciting to come back as I am so used to knowing a tournament, so it is interesting to experience it as new."

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