Colorful Bulgarian teenager spices up tournament
KEN PETERS, AP Sports Writer
Saturday, March 13, 2004
(03-13) 16:08 PST INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) --
With the brashness of youth, 14-year-old Sesil Karatancheva spoke in no uncertain terms about how she intends to soundly beat her next opponent.
The teenager's mentor and coach, Nick Bollettieri, listened and cringed.
Bollettieri, who coached Monica Seles, believes he has another future star in Karatancheva, although he may sometimes feels like slapping a muzzle on the effusive youngster from Sofia, Bulgaria.
A wild card making her debut on the WTA Tour, Karatancheva stormed back from a 5-3 deficit in the third set Saturday to take a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory over 25th-ranked Magui Serna, the No. 17 seed at Indian Wells.
Karatancheva, ranked 282nd, next faces Maria Sharapova of Russia in the third round on Monday. Sharapova is No. 24 and seeded 16th.
"I'm saying I can kick her (butt) off," said Karatancheva, who accused Sharapova of ducking a recent practice match against her at Bollettieri's tennis academy in Florida.
"I was like, `Whatever. I'm going to get you,"' Karatancheva said.
Sharapova, told of the remarks, does some training at the academy but said she wasn't scheduled to play Karatancheva there and really doesn't know much about her.
"I'm sure she's a great young player. There are many right now. But I'm going to wait until Monday. It (Karatancheva's comments) don't bother me at all," said Sharapova, herself only 16.
Bollettieri likes Karatancheva's spirit -- and potential.
"I believe I have another No. 1," he said. "But she's so young now and too boastful."
Bollettieri said Karatancheva plays more of a power game than Seles did, and "she knows no fear."
The coach shook his head and said Karatancheva is awful in practice: "When you tell her to hit it softer, she hits it harder. That's her way."
The colorful Karatancheva, who has attended school some in the United States, speaks English like a regular American teen, liberally sprinkling in "You know" and "like."
She hated tennis when she first started playing in Sofia when she was five, saying, "I thought this is the most ridiculous, boring unbelievable game anybody every made in this world, OK?
"Why am I wasting my time instead of going to the movies, playing with my friends?"
As she got better, she noticed people were congratulating her, her parents were happy, and "you get everything you want."
"I was like, `Yeah, why not?"' Karatancheva said, grinning. "When I got to the age of 11, I was like, `You know what, that's the thing I want to make my life with. That's the thing I'm going to (use to) prove I'm something in this world."'
She has won several minor tournaments, including one in Greece and another that she described as her big shot so far, saying, "I won $50,000 in China."
My #1 in tennis
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