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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sharapova Looks to Wimbledon

BIRMINGHAM, England -- Maria Sharapova returns to her favorite tournament next week feeling stronger than ever and confident that she can repeat her 2004 success.

The grasscourt season is the Russian's happiest hunting ground, and she reached the final of her first grasscourt tournament of the year at the Birmingham classic on Sunday, before losing 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 to Serbia's rising star Jelena Jankovic.

It was a promising start for the 20-year-old, who earlier this month surprised many people, including herself, by reaching the French Open semifinals, on a surface where she generally struggles, while still recovering from a shoulder injury that sidelined her for two months.

"I think that definitely gives me a lot of confidence moving on to the grass season," the world No. 2 said.

"If my shoulder holds up and goes the way it went the last two weeks, then I'm definitely really confident."

On grass she looks a far cry from the 'cow on ice' moniker she gave herself on clay in Paris and her record at Wimbledon of two semifinal appearances since her 2004 win backs up her belief that she is a top contender this year.

"Grass definitely suits my game. With the power and the big first serve, I feel I can get a good start on the point," she said.

Since winning Wimbledon as a 17-year-old, Sharapova has worked on the physical aspect of her game and gone from what she described as "a little skinny girl the size of spaghetti" to a more powerful-looking player.

"That's something that I've been working on for the last few years and I feel like I'm getting there. Year by year I feel stronger than last year so I've definitely made progress," said Sharapova, who won the U.S. Open last year.

Booed by sections of the crowd in Paris following perceived gamesmanship during one match, Sharapova said she expected onlookers in southwest London to show much less hostility. "The crowd in London is definitely more traditional. I think they're respectful and very proper," she said.

Even if they should turn against her, she will not let it bother her.

"I don't usually focus on the crowd because when I'm playing tennis I'm in my own little bubble, and that's when I play my best, when I go without any other distractions."

She said the players posing the greatest threat to her title bid could be the lesser known ones rather than the big names on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

"Sometimes girls that have nothing to lose are the most dangerous because they come out swinging," she said.

Sharapova admitted that while a second Wimbledon crown would never be as special as the first, it would still mean a lot.

"I haven't held up that trophy in three years, so I definitely want to put my name back on the board and update it."