Maria's physical well-being is a worry

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Maria Sharapova has been handed the kind of Wimbledon draw that she'd struggle to improve if she picked it herself. And she has the game to win it, as she did so stunningly against Serena Williams last year. But two questions make me hesitate, just slightly, in endorsing her totally as this year's favourite.

Maria Sharapova has been handed the kind of Wimbledon draw that she'd struggle to improve if she picked it herself. And she has the game to win it, as she did so stunningly against Serena Williams last year. But two questions make me hesitate, just slightly, in endorsing her totally as this year's favourite.

Is she healthy? And will she exhibit the mark of a true champion by handling the special pressure that being a defending Grand Slam title holder brings?

I've known Maria for more than half of her life. And I know that for her to play at her extraordinary best she needs to be in great shape. But her leg, specifically her thigh, has been bothering her in recent weeks.

I think that was certainly a factor at last week's Edgbaston tournament, where three of her matches went to three sets and she was extended in the final by Jelena Jankovic. Maria still won, but winning Wimbledon will require superb, injury-free health.

As I've said before, becoming a champion is only one hurdle, remaining so is the bigger test. Everyone is hungry to beat you and it takes mental toughness to cope. Maria is tough as tungsten. She has the temperament, I've not doubt whatsoever.

What will be interesting is how Maria copes with no longer being the new kid on the block. She's drawn to face a fellow Bollettieri girl, 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva, in the second round, then another, 17-year-old Tatiana Golovin, in the fourth.

The downside to that for Maria is that Sesil, a French Open quarter-finalist, has a "to hell with it" attitude and will go for broke. Sesil is a wild colt, who overstepped the mark last year by saying she was going to kick Maria's butt at Indian Wells, then lost. She's matured in her approach but she still won't be afraid of Maria.

The upside in potentially facing those two younger players is Maria knows she can beat them. She's twice beaten Sesil, and has twice beaten Tatiana, and on grass, including in the Edgbaston semis last week. At the academy Tatiana was always psyched out by Maria and I'm not convinced she can beat her, just yet.

Maria has a good path to the semis at least. If fit.

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