So what was everyone looking at, anyway?
Sharapova was a supermodel who wins Wimbledon. Not bad. With her, women's tennis could keep its credibility as selling its sport, and not something else.
But her career path has been broken, mostly from a bum shoulder. She landed the biggest endorsement contract ever for a female athlete, $70 million from Nike, at the same time she was on an embarrassing streak of futility in the major championships.
She still hasn't broken the streak. But it's about to end.
Sharapova is going to win the U.S. Open, which starts Monday in New York. You heard it here first. She's ready.
Well, almost ready. Just when women's tennis is desperate for a superstar, it's second-biggest marketing tool -- after Serena Williams -- is about to return.
Williams is out with some mysterious foot injury that apparently involved broken glass. Justine Henin is out hurt, too, and you wonder if her comeback might be over.
Venus Williams hasn't played since Wimbledon. She can still play at 30, but not win majors anymore, though this is probably her last, best chance.
The women's game is a mess, with a player most people couldn't identify as the No. 1 seed at the Open. That's Caroline Wozniacki, who will lose to Sharapova in the fourth round.
What we're going to see these next two weeks is an example of life after the Williams sisters. Venus still wants to play in the 2012 Olympics, and Serena has a few years at the top left.
But their careers, especially Venus', are well past the midway point. And life without them threatens to be life in hiding for women's tennis.
Sharapova can fix that.
This is going to get to Serena Williams fans. Williams has won far more than Sharapova, yet Sharapova gets the bigger endorsement dollars. Why?
This has been source of hard feelings, as a giant, blonde, white Barbie Doll gets more attention than Williams, a black woman who does not have the typical white ideal shape.
If Sharapova does take back the spotlight while Williams is out, though, that might give women's tennis a great rivalry over the next few years.
The Open draw was announced Thursday on ESPN2, and if you watched it, then you have no idea who is playing or when. It was the worst show like this, in any sport, in history. Analysts Brad Gilbert and Mary Jo Fernandez were fine, but ESPN kept putting the draw on the screen, and you couldn't see the left two-thirds of anyone's name.
I'll take Pova, but it's actually a tough one. Earlier this year, Sharapova would have lost that match.
Eventually, ESPN adjusted, shrinking names to fit on the screen. They went overboard, and you can't follow a draw in fine print.
Truth is, in women's tennis, the draw doesn't seem that important now. Most of the women play the same style -- bashing away -- with no one standing out. Meanwhile, at last year's Open, there was a choking epidemic. Remember?
So it's not easy to say one player has a good draw, or one a bad one.
The good news is that defending champ Kim Clijsters, who will be everyone's favorite, is on the opposite side of the draw from Sharapova. That means they wouldn't meet till the finals.
Victoria Azarenka has started to reach her potential, and Gilbert picked her to win. Sam Stosur has been struggling since reaching the French Open final, but has the athleticism and marketable looks to become a star. Elena Dementieva is always close, and figures to stay there.
The irony about Sharapova is that publicly, she's now only keeping up the supermodel side of the equation, not the tennis player side. But it's her determination on tennis that is truly defining her.
At the U.S. Open last year, she panicked on her serve, having changed her motion to relieve pressure on her shoulder.
Tiny Melanie Oudin out-toughed her.
That doesn't happen often to Sharapova.
She lost in the first round of the Australian Open, just after signing the Nike contract, but then started to win matches in February. Still, she wasn't beating any top players.
The turning point came at the French Open in May, when she nearly beat Justine Henin on clay. At Wimbledon in July, she was the only player to push Serena Williams.
She was playing well again, but needed a big win. Since then, she has gone 5-2 against players in the top 20, including a win over Dementieva. And she has gone back to her old serve motion.
"I'm hitting bigger serves,'' Sharapova said. "Maybe I'm missing a few more first and second serves, but I'm not hitting second serves (just) 70 miles an hour.
"I mean, I'm going to win tournaments by going for my shots ... rather than waiting for my opponents to miss. That's not my game.''
She's going for it again. But I did say she's only "almost'' ready.
The thing about Sharapova is her mental toughness, certainly not her speed. She fights to the end, and I used to call her Killer Barbie.
But lately, you can see doubts. Against Clijsters in Cincinnati, Sharapova had the match won, then lost the second set. Her coach, Michael Joyce told her she couldn't go to the third set with the attitude that had crept in.
He was trying to get her confidence back.
Sharapova, ranked No. 16, lost that match. The demons are fading, but still there.
She's not a lock. But it's time for Killer Barbie to return. Take Pova over Isters in the final.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @gregcouch