Maria Sharapova is feeling more confident this season after reaching two… (John G. Mabanglo / EPA )
Maria Sharapova is fond of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Even if she has won it only once in her first nine tries, even though she's suffered some of her most lopsided career defeats here.
"It was one of my first big pro tournaments," Sharapova said Wednesday." I won my first round and then I played Monica Seles for my only time. She was seeded, I thought I played extremely well and then I looked at the score line and it was bad. It was pathetic."
The score was 6-0, 6-2 in favor of Seles and even now, Sharapova said, looking at that score is painful. "It's like a bullet hits your head," she said. "It was a huge reality check. Because when I finished the match you don't think you could have done anything better and wonder, 'Where do I go from here?' Later at the practice court I started to think a little bit and learn. There's no better lesson at that age than just learning."
Sharapova's uncompetitive loss to Seles was in 2002 and it wasn't the worst experience she would have at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. In 2005 she lost a semifinal match to Lindsay Davenport, 6-0, 6-0. A year later, though, Sharapova was the tournament winner, and she enters this year's event seeded second behind only Victoria Azarenka.
Sharapova said she feels much more confident in her game than a year ago here, when she lost to eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki, 6-1, 6-2, in the semifinals.
She's played in two major finals since then, at Wimbledon in 2011 (where she lost to Petra Kvitova, 6-3, 6-4) and at the 2012 Australian Open (where she lost to Azarenka, 6-3, 6-0).
Though she's won three major titles and is on the cover of the WTA Tour media guide, Sharapova hasn't won one of the majors since having shoulder surgery in September 2008.
"Twice in the last few months I've been a match away from winning a Grand Slam," Sharapova, 24, said. "Obviously, the next stage is to get them.
"Looking back a year ago when I was sitting in this chair, I'm in a much better position now with two Slam finals. It's challenging but it's extremely great I've put myself in this position. It gives me a great amount of confidence."
Jamie Hampton, 22, won her third WTA Tour-level match Wednesday, 6-0, 6-1, defeating 38th-ranked Polona Hercog of Slovenia. Hampton is ranked 99th in the world and made her debut as a top-100 player last week. She's the seventh-ranked U.S. player in the world.