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post #8 of (permalink) Old Oct 3rd, 2005, 06:03 AM Thread Starter
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Beware: Maria has a cousin

July 15, 2004

Dasha Sharapova. Photo: Reuters

Sochi, Russia: There was no clenched fist, no victory squawk, no dropping to her knees; none of the gestures Maria Sharapova made famous when she won Wimbledon earlier this month.

Nine-year-old Dasha, Maria's younger cousin, simply raced to the net to shake her opponent's hand after a 6-0, 6-0 victory in the first round of an annual Black Sea youth tournament.

But the similarities are startling, way beyond the long blonde ponytail. Playing her first match since Maria became the queen of grasscourt tennis, Dasha displayed a crisp forehand, accurate two-handed backhand and strong first serve on the clay.

And if she missed an occasional ball here and there, her father Alexander, sitting nearby, would yell instructions.

Dasha's coach, Yuri Yudkin, 67, was Maria's first coach when she was 4. "Yes, there are many similarities between the two," he said. "[Maria] was a very smart girl . . . I never had to repeat instructions twice to her.

"Dasha, too, is very smart, although she took up tennis when she was seven. That's a bit too late, I think. In my view, you have to start at four or five.

"Of course, it's very hard to predict anything right now, but I think Dasha has a good chance to follow in her cousin's footsteps, mainly because she loves to play tennis so much."

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