View Full Version : ARTICLE: Maria Sharapova: Coming on Strong (TENNIS Magazine May 2004)

Apr 26th, 2004, 08:31 AM


Maria Sharapova: Coming on Strong

4/22/04 0:41 AM

The latest product to pop out of the Russian pipeline is barely 17, but she's 6 feet tall and armed with a solid game that's still growing

By Peter Bodo

From the May 2004 issue of TENNIS Magazine

Just moments before she stepped onto the brightly lit set of Craig Kilborn's Late Late Show in Los Angeles last November, Maria Sharapova was sniffling and cradling a cup of tea as she battled the aches and pains that accompany a savage cold.

When her name was called, though, the teenager pulled herself together and put on a celebrity game face as quickly as if someone had flipped a switch. It was showtime. And few prodigies have understood that call and responded to it as impressively as the 6-foot, 130-pound Russian with a body by Botticelli and a game by, among others, Robert Lansdorp.

Last year, Sharapova became the latest Russian to take the fast track to tennis glory. Although she was hampered by age-eligibility restrictions in 2003, she leapt 154 places to a No. 32 ranking, created a sensation at Wimbledon (she beat Jelena Dokic en route to the quarterfinals), and unveiled a grunt that put Monica Seles' to shame--but didn't deter IMG Models from signing Sharapova as a client.

"It's not easy in your second year just to go and know everything," Sharapova, now ranked No. 24, said earlier this year. "I have to tell myself to be patient. I don't want to set any goals for myself. I want to work hard and keep my head cool."

For a Siberian like Sharapova, remaining cool may seem a familiar assignment. But Yuri Sharapov whisked his daughter from Russia's frigid precincts when she was just 6, accompanying her to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla. (Sharapova's mother, Yelena, was unable to secure a visa and remained behind, separated from her husband and daughter for two years before she could join them.) Sharapova's family still lives in Bradenton, though Maria gets most of her instruction from Lansdorp, the guru of Southern California coaches. When asked about her national identity, Sharapova says things like "I'm really Russian inside of me," or "I'm Russian in my blood all the way."

As a youngster, Sharapova had such pronounced ambidextrous tendencies that she nearly became a left-handed player, which helps explain why her two-handed backhand is such a devastating weapon. Her stature is also an advantage; a 2-inch growth spurt in 2002 topped off her height at 6 feet, though it did hurt her game temporarily.

Sharapova didn't win a match through Roland Garros of 2003, but she got her game together at the All England Club, slashing her way through the draw as doggedly as she was tearing through chapters of the latest Harry Potter book. Of her transformation, she said, "It was tough at the beginning of the year. I had a big feeling in myself that I couldn't really move. I felt uncoordinated. My body just like said, 'Uh-uh, no way. You're not going to run to that ball.' I only began to feel good when I began to prepare for the French Open."

By the end of Wimbledon, fans had a snapshot of Sharapova's potential. Her game is a potent combination of stinging ground strokes, strong serves, and outstanding court coverage, all executed with a fearless disposition.

"Maria is the kind of 16-year-old who'll get in a car and feel completely comfortable giving you directions," says Tracy Austin, a Hall of Fame player and a former protege of Lansdorp. "She's a hard worker with amazing discipline who makes decisions promptly."

Three months after her Wimbledon debut, Sharapova won the first of her two WTA Tour titles. That's a stark contrast to the experience of another Russian blonde to whom Sharapova is often compared, fabulous burnout Anna Kournikova. Unfazed by the inevitable comparisons--after all, the poised and charismatic Sharapova had the cynical Kilborn eating out of her hand in no time--she says, "I always just try to be myself. I just try to do my own thing."

the cat
Apr 26th, 2004, 03:13 PM
MSF, thanks for posting the cover and article. :) The most interesting part of the article is learning that Maria was nearly ambidextrous as a child. I would love to see her occasionally serve lefthanded to change things up and annoy and frustrate her opponents. :devil:

Apr 27th, 2004, 12:09 AM
thank you for posting the article! :)

Apr 27th, 2004, 08:30 PM
Maria's coming back to Brum Apr 27 2004

By Paul Berry, Evening Mail

Teenage Russian sensation Maria Sharapova has confirmed she is returning to Birmingham to compete in this year's DFS Classic at Edgbaston Priory.

The recently turned 17-year-old took last year's competition by storm, becoming a crowd favourite after qualifying for the main draw and progressing all the way to the semi finals.

It was the tournament which launched Sharapova on the route to stardom - she then equalled the best performance by a qualifier to reach the quarter finals at Wimbledon - and now stands at number 21 in the world.

"Maria is an extremely popular player and we hope to see her in fantastic action again this year," confirmed tournament director Marjory Howie.

"We are delighted that she is returning to wow the crowds."

Sharapova, recently named WTA Newcomer of the Year, can still only play a certain number of tournaments because of her age making her decision to return to Priory a feather in the cap for tournament organisers.

"I remember speaking to Maria at Wimbledon and she was still talking about how much she enjoyed the DFS," said Warwickshire and tournament press officer Bob Malden.

"I know her coach Robert Lansdorf was also very impressed and it's great that she's decided to come back."

Sharapova followed up her flourishing grass court debut by claiming her first tour titles in Japan and Quebec towards the end of last year, and recently reached a career high 19 in the rankings.

Apr 27th, 2004, 09:01 PM
Nice cover.

- L i n a -
Apr 27th, 2004, 09:04 PM
Masha needs to remind us how cool she is.

Apr 28th, 2004, 02:09 AM
Thanks a lot for the article.

the cat
Apr 28th, 2004, 02:21 AM
You're cool too, Lina. :)

- L i n a -
Apr 28th, 2004, 02:25 AM
"Maria is the kind of 16-year-old who'll get in a car and feel completely comfortable giving you directions," says Tracy Austin, a Hall of Fame player and a former protege of Lansdorp. "She's a hard worker with amazing discipline who makes decisions promptly."
I knew I could find something that would make me giggle.

Apr 28th, 2004, 03:15 AM
I knew I could find something that would make me giggle.
Go ahead and keep giggling.

- L i n a -
Apr 28th, 2004, 03:23 AM
Go ahead and keep giggling.
I get the feeling that you don't like me very much.

Apr 28th, 2004, 03:54 AM
I get the feeling that you don't like me very much.
Why not? Of course I like you.

But I just like you and everybody else less than I like Masha. That's all.

May 3rd, 2004, 12:21 AM
Sharapova Commits To Pilot Pen
Photo By Siggi Bucher By Tennis Week

Maria Sharapova, the young Russian star who has already won two WTA Tour events on her way to a No. 24 ranking, today became the first player to commit to the 2004 Pilot Pen presented by Michelob ULTRA, A USTA Event, set for August 20-28th at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale.
The 17-year-old Sharapova will be making her first appearance at the Pilot Pen. She has been profiled in such publications as W magazine and USA Today and was named one of the "coolest girls in America" by YM magazine last year.

"I've heard a lot of good things about the Pilot Pen and New Haven from the other players," said Sharapova. "So I'm really excited to play there for the first time this August."

Sharapova made a splash last year at Wimbledon, reaching the fourth round in her first main draw appearance there. She improved by 154 spots in the WTA Tour rankings last year, finishing at No. 32 following singles titles at Japan and Quebec City late in the campaign. She was also featured as "On the Move" by People Magazine in its September 1st, 2003, issue; in 2002 she appeared on Teen People's list of 20 teens who will change the world.

Sharapova has had a strong start to 2004, reaching the third round at the Australian Open and the semifinals in Memphis en route to a career-best ranking of No. 19 last month. She and partner Vera Zvonareva of Russia also reached the doubles final at Memphis.

May 5th, 2004, 09:05 PM
Sharapova Takes Tennis To Street In New Haven
Photo By Siggi Bucher By Tennis Week

A striking Maria Sharapova can already stop traffic around some tournament sites, and the rising Russian will shut down a street this summer.

On July 6th, the 17-year-old Sharapova will take tennis to the streets of New Haven, Connecticut as she joins hundreds of kids from the New Haven Parks & Recreation Summer Camps program in turning the asphalt and double-yellow lines of Church Street into a regulation-size tennis court — complete with lines, net, umpire chair and grandstand — for the third Pilot Pen Tennis Street Clinic in front of City Hall.

The 22nd-ranked Sharapova follows Lindsay Davenport (2002) and Monica Seles (2001), who have both participated in past Street Clinics, to the delight of the kids and the hundreds of spectators who lined the streets both years.

"The Street Clinic is a special way for me to connect with youngsters in New Haven," said Sharapova. "My parents and I came to this country when I was six years old. They didn't speak English and didn't have any money. But they worked hard and instilled values in me that I want to help pass on to these kids. If we can make it, so can they."

Downtown businesspeople and area residents are invited to enjoy their lunch in the grandstand around the court to watch the afternoon's festivities. Pilot Pen Tennis, the City of New Haven and USA Tennis New England have again collaborated to organize the event.

The day will include a kids' clinic featuring Sharapova and teaching professionals volunteering their time to instruct the children beginning at noon. The clinic, conducted by USA Tennis New England, will offer a brief introduction to the basics of tennis, a sport they can enjoy for a lifetime, and will be followed by a "Pro-Celebrity Challenge" at 1 p.m. in which Sharapova will match shots with area celebrities and media personalities.

A two-time WTA Tour title holder Sharapova is among the 70 top pros who will compete in the Pilot Pen presented by Michelob ULTRA, a US Open Series event, held August 20-28 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale.

"Connecticut has really embraced the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament as its own," said Ron Shaw, president and CEO of Pilot Pen Corporation of America. "The Street Clinic in a way serves as a 'thank you' to our community as well as a reminder that New England's premier women's sports entertainment event is just around the corner."

Sharapova has had a solid start to 2004, reaching the third round at the Australian Open and the semifinals in Memphis. She will make her Pilot Pen debut this summer joining a field that will included second-ranked Kim Clijsters, fourth-ranked Lindsay Davenport and sixth-ranked Nadia Petrova.