Sharapova feels recent success can extend to U.S. Open

By Matthew Cronin

After suffering a shoulder injury in 2008 that required surgery, the three-time grand slam winner spent several months on the sidelines and dropped as far as 126th in the rankings.

"I feel like I'm getting there," Sharapova, who pulled out of the WTA tournament in Montreal last week with a heel injury, told Reuters.

"I've had great successful memories in New York as well as tough ones. Having to miss it two years ago because of my shoulder and then coming back last year with pressure ... well that wasn't easy."

She lost in the August finals to Victoria Azarenka at the Stanford Classic and to defending U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters at the Cincinnati Open but is heartened by recent victories over top players.

Until late July, Sharapova had not beaten a player this season ranked in the top 25, but in the past month has toppled world number six Elena Dementieva and two-time grand slam victor Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Sharapova is counting on her recent form to help erase the memories from last year's U.S. Open where she struggled with a reconstructed service motion and was upset by U.S. teen-ager Melanie Oudin in the third round.

She has done away with her abbreviated service motion and has been serving at pre-surgery speeds during recent tournaments where she has shown glimpses of her former self.

While Sharapova said Wimbledon is her favorite tournament, she is looking forward to returning to the bright lights of New York for the U.S. Open, which she won in 2006.

"In New York it's all about the buzz, the craziness, the rivalries and the night matches," Sharapova said. "It's exhilarating. I want to perform my best at the Open and peak there."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)