Although Venus may have eclipsed the screaming soviet at this year's Wimbledon Championships, Maria Sharapova's combination of cover-girl looks and shot-making skill has assured her position as poster girl of professional women’s tennis. With a little help from Dhruva Interactive her position atop the digital sporting charts looks pretty safe, too, as Maria Sharapova Tennis is a simply smashing example of how to make a mobile phone sports simulation.
The game looks good, serving up a slick menu system giving way to a clear, quasi-3D tennis court as viewed from a camera behind the female player you control. Crucially the game also has a locker-full of shots, allowing you to pull of cross-court passes, lobs, drop shots, forehand and backhand smashes and generally play your own game. Admittedly the control system does take some getting used to as you use the joypad to control movement and use the number keys for different strokes. However, the system is responsive and can be mastered relatively quickly, allowing you to experiment with the subtleties of changing the angle of your shot (move left and right as you hit the ball) and decide between baseline rallies or more direct volleying from the net. Service is handled similarly well, with a directional gage and power bar allowing for a variety of serves that’ll produce aces or faults depending upon your timing. Add in some well-pitched opponents that offer a decent challenge and the game competes well with any other tennis sim we've come across.
This on-court performance is ably supported behind the scenes too, with 3 surfaces (grass, hard and clay) upon with you can play one-off matches or a season of tournaments based on the four majors of the tennis season. Progress through these and not only will you win prize money for each successive round, earning you a place in the hall of fame, but also stack up bonus points allowing you to unlock images of Maria which can be used as wallpapers on your handset. The in-depth statistics that follow each match are also worthy of note, adding an extra layer of realism and giving you some pointers about what aspects of your play could be improved upon. There's even a doubles option available in the quick game mode. In fact, all that's missing from our perspective is a little more audio input (something which 'screaming Sharapova' is famous for). A satisfying racket-on-ball sound effect, crowd applause and the odd grunt wouldn't have gone amiss!