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Old Jun 24th, 2011, 08:04 PM   #2721
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Re: ** Masha News and Articles! ** Vol. 2

Sharapova: 'Robson has great potential'

Some wins are served up on a plate, but when Maria Sharapova tasted 7-6(4), 6-3 victory over Britain's Laura Robson, she had to earn it. The 2004 champion - many observers' favourite for the title this year - was facing a player world ranked No.254, who only earned her maiden career Slam victory in the first round here this week. But after the match Sharapova, a notoriously tough competitor, was impressed by her opponent's refusal to cave in mentally.

"I thought she played really well," said Sharapova. "She started off really good, quite the opposite of me. She hit the ball deep, on the line many times, and was serving really well. I found myself on the defence just retrieving."

Robson, junior champion here three years ago, said before the match she had dreamed of playing Sharapova or one of the Williams sisters on a Wimbledon show court for years. No doubt in her dream the end result was somewhat different, but it is difficult to imagine the dream featured her in more gamely competitive mode. Far from being overawed by the occasion or the stage, she engaged with both - and for a long time in the first set the results were enthralling. But Sharapova made the point that while competitive innocence has its uses, experience is never anything less than a further weapon in the armoury.

"She has great potential," affirmed Sharapova, before adding cautiously: "I think for everyone it's a really long road. There will be many tournaments, many losses, many wins. It will be important to learn from all those situations. It's great, and important, to play in front of thousands of people, and with the support of a British crowd. But as you develop your game it's just as important to play the lower tournaments, where there are fewer people watching and you win in the third set. She'll get that experience behind her back and she'll be a better player. Experience is priceless."

Good point, well made. This match was patently several classes beyond anything Robson had previously encountered, her best previous career win coming over the world No.55 Anastasija Sevastova last autumn. Besides, Sharapova knew better than to under-estimate a huge underdog playing in front of her home crowd.

"The match was absolutely not tougher than I expected," said the Russian. "I expected her to play really well. I don't think she had anything to lose and that brings out the best in someone."

The Russian also struck an interesting footnote about the debate involving the theoretically unfair scheduling of some women's matches outside Centre and No.1 Courts.

"I have no problem with playing on Court Two or Three," declared Sharapova robustly. "They're pretty big courts. I believe I played on Court Two in my first round last year. It gave me that vibe, like one of my favourite courts which is at Roland Garros. It's that second court, as well. I think it's a great feeling inside, similar to Court Two [here]. Maybe it's a little longer walk, but it's a good warm-up."
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