Sharapova would give up on other Grand Slams to keep winning at Wimbledon
Robert Millward Canadian Press
Saturday, June 04, 2005
BIRMINGHAM , England (AP) - Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova says she wouldn't mind missing out on all the other Grand Slam titles if it meant she kept on winning at the All England Club.
The Russian, who produced a stunning performance last year by winning Wimbledon as a 17-year-old, said she was happy to be labelled a grasscourt specialist.
"If I could win 10 Wimbledons and not another Grand Slam I'd take that," she said Saturday. "It's amazing. It's the best tournament in the world."
On Monday, Sharapova returns to the low-key grasscourt tournament that served as a warmup to her winning performance at the All England Club.
Last year's triumph at the DFS Classic was a just a glimpse of what was to come at Wimbledon as Sharapova - the tall Russian teenager with the looks of a model - outplayed two-time defending champion Serena Williams 6-1, 6-4 in the final to become the third youngest winner in the 127-year history of the championship
In two years, the 18-year-old Russian has gone from promising teenager with a headline-making on-court grunt to the best grasscourt player in the world.
Back then, she was asked about her dreams as a rising tennis star. Now the questions are about whether she fears burnout.
"It's been a year and I haven't seen myself burn out yet," she said. "There's 365 days in a year and that's a long time to get burned out. I'm still here fresh as a daisy. If you see fire coming out of me let me know."
It was here at the Priory Club two years ago that Sharapova was warned by tournament officials to reduce the noise of her on-court grunting whenever she hit the ball. Her high-pitched shrieks brought complaints from the players on the next court.
Eventually it was the standard of her play that took over and now she is one of the most recognized faces in the sport.
"I have gotten so used to being recognized that I don't have time to think about it because it's normal now," she said. "Before, it might have been a bit of a surprise that people recognized me but now it has become a part of my life that I have to deal with.
"But, if I wasn't winning, then people wouldn't be recognizing me and you people wouldn't be writing about me. When they don't write about you you know you're in trouble."
Sharapova's height and power makes her a natural on grass and she has joined the likes of Lindsay Davenport and the Williams sisters - also tall players - on the list of winners at the All England Club.
"I think I have a better chance than anybody on grass because it's my favourite surface and because it suits my game and I love it," she said.
"I think (the DFS Classic) is just a really great warmup for Wimbledon because it's a low-key tournament. It still has great competition. I have played well here for the past two years so I'm glad to be back."
She has lost just once at the Priory, in the semifinals two years ago to Japan's Shinobu Asagoe, and that was after a third set tiebreak. None of her big rivals are here and the biggest danger is second-seeded Alicia Molik of Australia.
Sharapova was beaten in the French Open quarter-finals by Justine Henin-Hardenne, who went on to win the title at Roland Garros on Saturday.
The Russian said she was confident she could deal with the extra pressure of being Wimbledon champion.
"I have really never taken pressure too seriously because it's always part of the sport," she said. "I'm the defending champion here and at Wimbledon so there is extra pressure. But pressure drives me and I enjoy it."
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