WIMBLEDON, England --- There was a time, not all that long ago, when Maria Sharapova wondered when she would be back at Grand Slam tournaments, let alone winning matches.
Surgery in October on her right shoulder forced Sharapova off the tour for the better part of a year. She returned to singles action last month, and she struggled quite a bit Monday before reaching the second round at Wimbledon.
She lost four consecutive games at one point, was broken five times and generally seemed on the verge of losing control. The 2004 Wimbledon champion did manage to steady herself just enough to get past qualifier Viktoriya Kutuzova of Ukraine 7-5, 6-4.
"If someone told me four months ago that I'd be here playing Wimbledon, you know, I mean, I wouldn't be surprised, but I would be really happy about the fact," Sharapova said. "And I am happy to be here."
While some women have already played 35 or even 45 singles matches in 2009, Sharapova is 11-3, having only started her season at a clay-court event in Poland in May. She reached the quarterfinals at the French Open and the semifinals at a grass-court event in preparation for coming to the All England Club.
Over the weekend, Sharapova played down her chances of a second Wimbledon championship -- and fourth Grand Slam title overall -- because of general rustiness.
There were traces of that Monday against Kutuzova, who is ranked 79th and hasn't advanced beyond the second round at a major tournament.
As a precautionary warmup for her shoulder, Sharapova has taken to throwing around a football to loosen the joint before practice sessions. And she has adjusted her service motion, something that she acknowledges is a work-in-progress.
How long will it take to get her serve up to speed?
"Definitely time; I don't know how long. I don't know how long till everything comes together," she said. "That's why I'm here."
Pleased as she might be to be here, one victory this year at the All England Club is not exactly going to satisfy her.
So she'll be on the practice courts soon enough, football in tow.
"There are definitely things I'm going to be working on the next day or so. But that's always the case at every single tournament," Sharapova said. "I mean, if you feel perfect, then there's something wrong."