Sharapova win sealed with a kiss
By James Mossop
Once she was the Siberian tot who had nothing. Now with her 24-carat tennis shoes, Porsche in the garage, multi-million dollar endorsements and cover-girl appearance, 18-year-old Maria Sharapova is defending her Wimbledon singles title with fitting elegance.
Yesterday's third-round victim was the tenacious Slovenian, Katarina Srebotnik who set Sharapova more challenges than the 6-2, 6-4 margin might suggest.
Through the entire 1 hr 31 min of the match, though, Sharapova was coolly aloof, punctuating her play with the ferocious ground strokes that have become the hallmark of her play.
When it was all over and the spectators on Court One rose as one, she blew kisses to her audience while her father, Yuri, danced a jig in the stand. There appeared to be a case of family relief all round.
Sharapova won the opening three games seemingly intent on a finish as fast as those matches against Nuria Llagostera Vives and Sesil Karatantcheva in the first two rounds, a total of 104 minutes for the pair of them.
This time her opponent showed more resolve, broke back to 1-3 and although Sharapova later lamented the quality of her own serving, it was enough to carry her through to the end.
There were moments of stunning brilliance, too. Her forehand shots flew low with powerful top spin.
Her appeal to the spectators is her background. When she and her father left Siberia the family were so hard up that mother, Yelena, stayed behind. Maria had shown some promise hitting tennis balls and Yuri took her, aged nine, to the Nick Bollittieri academy at Bradenton, Florida.
She used to ride there on the handlebars of her father's bicycle. Her promise was instantly recognised and her development was swift with Bollittieri soon telling the world about "the girl who has ice running through her veins."
That may have had something to do with the driving nature of Yuri who, she says, used to insist: "No crying. Tears are a weakness and a wasted emotion."
Sharapova arrived at Wimbledon last year seeded 13th and apparently without a real chance but hit such a vein of form that she ran through to defeat Serena Williams in the final and within seconds was desperately trying to reach her absent mother on her mobile phone as the Centre Court crowd looked on in amusement.
If she wins this year she will be only the third female player to repeat grand slam titles after Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Martina Hingis.
As a slender, six-footer she is a marketing man's dream. She carries the sponsorship of several global brands and has ten pairs of those dazzling shoes with the gold shavings, each costing £400 a pair.
Martina Navratilova, nine times a singles winner in SW 19, has suggested that Sharapova should spend more time on her tennis and less on publicity, which is an area where she has taken over from another Russian pin-up, Anna Kournikova.
She replies icily: "I am pretty much in control of the things I focus on. I'm No 2 in the world and I don't think anything has distracted me so far.
"I don't want to change anything right now because I really feel satisfied with how much I work on the court and what I do off it."
There was more hard work than she probably anticipated from 31-year-old Srebotnik
who played with confidence and had some spectacular bursts of her own but failed to take the chances that would have made the scoring much closer.
According to her WTAtour Bio shes 24!!
KATARINA SREBOTNIK (SLO) pronounced: ka-ta-REE-nah zree-BOT-nik
Residence Velenje, Slovenia
Date of Birth March 12, 1981
BirthplaceSlovenj Gradec, Slovenia
Height5'11'' (1.80 m)Weight137 lbs. (62 kg)PlaysRight-handed (two-handed backhand)
Is this journalist just an idiot or is the WTA wrong?