Maria Sharapova might decline the given Wimbledon wildcard.
Sharapova reigns in silence
By Phil Shaw, at Edgbaston
13 June 2003
"Buena! Buena!" exulted Maria Sharapova's father, slipping into Spanish as the 16-year-old Russian disposed of another seed in the DFS Classic yesterday. Given the way his daughter had complemented her natural power with poise on the key points in her 6-0, 7-5 defeat of Switzerland's Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian, perhaps he was calling "Bueno, Bueno".
In the four decades since Maria Bueno was a Wimbledon favourite, the women's game has been transformed almost beyond recognition. The Williams sisters are living proof of that. Yet the rise of Sharapova, who has soared from No 532 in the world rankings to the outskirts of the top 100 in just 15 months, highlights the relentless pace of change.
In the quarter-finals here today, Sharapova faces the toughest test of her fledgling career. She meets another Russian, Elena Dementieva, who is not only the No 1 seed and ranked 13th in the world but stands, like herself, a fraction under 6ft and shares her tendency to grunt on virtually every shot.
Or at least Sharapova did. After complaints from her previous victim, Nathalie Dechy, the only racket she employed against Mikaelian, the 11th seed and world No 39, was the one she held in her right hand. Her concentration or performance were unimpaired. "My dad [Yuri] said I played much better [without the noises]," she said.
The backhand was like a sword. The ground strokes, such as she needed in a match dominated by baseline rallies, were crisply timed. And the second serve was long, strong and confident, much like herself. She was last night given a wild card entry to Wimbledon, but had earlier suggested she might decline it because qualifying would offer extra experience on grass.
"I played really well and felt relaxed," Sharapova said, as if stating a fact rather than crowing. "The first set was easy. I just played like I've been doing and [Mikaelian] wasn't ready for that. She got it together more in the second set, but I raised the level of my game. That's telling me that I can compete with the top girls."
The extent to which that is true she will learn in her first tussle with Dementieva. The 21-year-old Russian No 2 won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a fractious encounter with Marion Bartoli, of France, which came to the boil in a final set that featured five breaks of serve.
Bartoli appeared to be going quietly when she trailed 5-2. In the previous game, she had left Centre Court for five minutes to change a troublesome shoe. She then admonished Dementieva, shouting: "Don't keep calling the ball out when it's good. You're not putting me off." If anyone was distracted it was Dementieva, who found herself only 5-4 ahead and 15-40 down on her own service before recovering to win.
Dementieva later bemoaned the surfaces on which England's main summer tournaments are played. "It's impossible to play tennis here," she said. "You never know where the ball is going to bounce."
Sharapova is not the only qualifier still in the tournament. Maria Vento-Kabchi, of Venezuela, advanced by beating another French player, Virginie Razzano, 6-3, 6-3.
~Sunflower~ is also known as Sharky
0011..Eternal follower of the Golden Girl