Jan 14th, 2012, 09:54 AM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Re: ** Masha News and Articles! ** Vol. 2
Sharapova doing whatever it takes
Hundreds of children – some laughing, others crying, one even imitating her infamous shriek – are bracing Maria Sharapova for any unexpected courtside distractions in the coming fortnight.
Desperate for court-time, having withdrawn from her only Australian Open lead-up event in Brisbane, the Russian fourth seed agreed to play a practice set against Elena Vesnina yesterday on the unfamiliar surrounds of an outside court, amid hordes of her youngest fans.
After dusting off the cobwebs on Margaret Court Arena, Sharapova made it clear the injury-interrupted lead-ups to some of her biggest Australian Open threats – such as Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki – made no difference to her approach.
“To be honest, I think everyone's really selfish and just thinking about themselves,” she said.
And does that extend to Sharapova?
“Yes, yes, yes,” she laughed.
The 2008 Australian Open champion was quick to allay any concerns for her injured ankle and declared herself fit to begin the year’s first Grand Slam campaign.
“I prefer to be going into the first Grand Slam healthy, not necessarily thinking that I've not played a lot of matches. To me health is the most important,” she said.
“My injury was a sprained ankle, so it was a little bit unlucky. Everyone has a few nagging injuries. It's just part of our careers.”
While a veteran of nearly 11 years on tour and drawing on her own memories of her first visit to Melbourne Park as a junior back in 2002, it is easy to forget Sharapova is still only 24.
When it was suggested she belonged somewhere in the middle-aged bracket – between the veterans, such as the Williams sisters and Clijsters and the younger brigade, including 21-year-old Petra Kvitova – Sharapova was having none of it.
“Define ‘young’,” she said. “Because 24 is not past 25 so I’m early 20s.
“I just woke up a couple weeks ago and I thought to myself when I was 18 … ‘Gosh, would I still be playing at 25? Wow, seven years’.
“But now I'm 24 and I wake up and I still feel like I have so many more years ahead of me.”
Sharapova remembers being one of those starstruck fans, much like those surrounding her on Margaret Court Arena yesterday.
“I had that experience more so growing up in Florida and going to the Miami tournament every year. I remember my parents and I would drive down just to go and see the matches,” she said.
“I actually preferred going and seeing the men playing. I remember loving going to Marcelo Rios’s matches and having a good laugh, watching some fun tennis, Kafelnikov as well.”
Four years since she held aloft the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup at Melbourne Park, Sharapova said her game was now more consistent as she looked to add to the three grand slam titles to her name.
But she agreed her title run in 2008 was among the best tennis she has produced.
“I think throughout a two‑week stage, for sure,” she said.
“No matter who you are, it's pretty tough to have a high level over seven matches in 14 days. You're bound to have some letdowns.
“It was the toughest draw that I think I ever had in my career, as well.”
Sharapova begins her 2012 Australian Open campaign against Argentina’s Gisela Dulko.