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Old Jan 12th, 2012, 04:15 PM   #3589
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Re: ** Masha News and Articles! ** Vol. 2

http://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/s...108-1pq49.html

Quote:
Sharapova seeks victory to put all others in the shade

January 9, 2012
Injury-plagued Russian says winning this year's Australian Open title would be the finest moment of her career, writes Linda Pearce.

Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004 as a 17-year-old starlet, the 2006 US Open as a glamorous global brand, and the 2008 Australian Open as a dethroned No.1 who had returned - for the first time - from the shoulder injury that would plague her. She believes her next major title, if there is one, will be her finest.

''If I'm able to win a grand slam after my injury it would be my biggest victory in my career, definitely,'' said Sharapova, who dipped to No.126 in the rankings in 2009 just before resuming from shoulder surgery.

''Knowing what I had to go through in order just to play tennis, mentally and physically, and knowing that I had that desire in me to keep going.

''Whereas when you do something from when you're four years old and it's just on automatic pilot, and you're young, you're bound to improve because you're learning.

''You're learning from experience, learning from matches. So when you're kind of at a standstill and you have to start from scratch, that's when you really test your motivation levels and that determination.''

Sharapova is renowned as one of the game's steeliest and most driven competitors, but she is far more likeable in an intimate interview situation than the slightly haughty figure who presides over the world's press rooms.

She is physically striking, of course: tall, lean and green-eyed, with a presence and star power exuded by very few. She is also a young veteran of 24, as hard as that is to reconcile with the fact that she won her first, biggest and most surprising slam more than seven years ago.

If, to us, Sharapova seems to have been around for an age, she admits that ''in a way'' it also feels that way to her. After all, she started playing at four, moved from Russia to Nick Bollettieri's academy in Florida at seven, turned professional on her 14th birthday and won her first title two years later.

''Someone was saying how young Petra [Kvitova] was, and she's 21, right, and I was thinking to myself, 'Oh my God, 21. What does that make me? I'm like a grandma! I'm just three years older than her','' Sharapova laughs. ''I think just because I've been on the tour and obviously winning at a young age, I think that makes me feel like I've been on the tour longer, but I don't regret that.''

So if tennis years are like dog years, does that make her a thirtysomething? ''Oh, I still feel like a teenager,'' she declares.

The world No.4 is also a wife-to-be. Sharapova got engaged last year to basketball player Sasha Vujacic, who is based in Turkey until mid-year after moving from the New Jersey Nets to Anadolu Efes Istanbul during the NBA lockout.

Sharapova says her professional/personal mix is ''a great balance'', describing a life far from the A-list parties and red-carpet affairs of which another tennis uber-celebrity, Serena Williams, is so fond.

''I have a very normal life away from tennis, and it's simply because I choose to be normal and I choose to have simplicity and enjoy simplicity in life,'' she says. ''To me, going back home, the first days at home, are always the best of my year, because after travelling and being on the road where everything is taken care of, and you're driven around and you're going to restaurants, it's nice to have that realistic feel about life. And to obviously have someone that you can share it with makes it even better.''

Yet her private contentment has apparently not affected her tennis desire, for the owner of 24 career titles and a 2011 Wimbledon finalist works as determinedly as ever. ''I think it actually settles you in a way, because you know what you have in life, and you know a tennis career can only go for so long. You can only be physically capable of doing what you do to a certain extent.

''You know [that] at a certain point both of our bodies are not going to allow us to keep doing our jobs after a certain age. So we're very content in a way where we know that when we are done with our crazy hectic lifestyles and our travels and our sports that we're going to have so much time to spend together and that makes us very happy to know that we already have that and established that.''

She is also the highest off-court earner in women's sport, her $17 million in career prizemoney dwarfed by an array of mostly blue-chip endorsements ranging, slightly incongruously, from an anti-dandruff shampoo to the top-end jeweller Tiffany & Co, and a lucrative long-term deal with sportswear giant Nike.

Yet a love of competing is still what drives her, and pushed Sharapova to return from her shoulder operation more quickly than she was told she could. ''There's nothing else in my life that gives me that, whether it's designing, doing a photo shoot … in my work, in my career, everything is controlled in my hands, and that gives me such a freedom, in a way, because I know that if I lose the match it's because I lost the match. It was in my hands.''

The cloud now is over Sharapova's left ankle, injured in Tokyo in October, not quite right by Istanbul and still insufficiently healed to allow her to play in the Brisbane International.

After eventually deciding against a wildcard into the small Hobart tournament, she has spent almost a full week practising in Melbourne, where she will remain in the lead-up to next week's Australian Open. ''Maria's a big unknown,'' says the former tour player and now commentator Rennae Stubbs.

She is also the highest off-court earner in women's sport, her $17 million in career prizemoney dwarfed by an array of mostly blue-chip endorsements ranging, slightly incongruously, from an anti-dandruff shampoo to the top-end jeweller Tiffany & Co, and a lucrative long-term deal with sportswear giant Nike.

Yet a love of competing is still what drives her, and pushed Sharapova to return from her shoulder operation more quickly than she was told she could. ''There's nothing else in my life that gives me that, whether it's designing, doing a photo shoot … in my work, in my career, everything is controlled in my hands, and that gives me such a freedom, in a way, because I know that if I lose the match it's because I lost the match. It was in my hands.''

The cloud now is over Sharapova's left ankle, injured in Tokyo in October, not quite right by Istanbul and still insufficiently healed to allow her to play in the Brisbane International.

After eventually deciding against a wildcard into the small Hobart tournament, she has spent almost a full week practising in Melbourne, where she will remain in the lead-up to next week's Australian Open. ''Maria's a big unknown,'' says the former tour player and now commentator Rennae Stubbs.

''There's a lot of boxes that aren't being ticked right now. Her health, for one, and mentally that affects you because you haven't had a lot of matches, and she really hasn't played a lot since the US Open, so there's massive question marks.

''When Maria's on [form], she's one of the best players in the world for sure, but she just hasn't had a lot of matches. So she's coming in pretty cold, and she's a confidence player, like most players.

''Someone like Kim Clijsters can have a bad week and and then come out the next week and play 'lights out'. Maria's not like that, but if she gets through a few rounds there's no question: she's dangerous.''

And still hungry. Sharapova is a proven winner, but it is also four years since her last success. The first three slams were thrilling, satisfying, rewarding. A fourth would, for many reasons, be something more again.
Nice article and nice words from Maria!

Can`t believe it`s been 4 years now since her last Grand Slam title
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