Join Date: Mar 2012
Re: ** Masha News and Articles! ** Vol. 3
Found this on The Evening Standard
20 June 2013
Girl power: Maria Sharapova speaks about the strength of the women's game in an exclusive interview ahead of Wimbledon
When Maria Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon almost a decade ago it was deemed less-valuable an achievement than Roger Federer’s victory over Andy Roddick.
The Swiss earned £42,000 more than Sharapova despite the Russian beating the defending champion Serena *Williams in straight sets.
Parity in prize money arrived at the All England Club three years later and if Sharapova repeats the feat in this year’s event, which starts on Monday, she will bag a cool £1.6million.
It is, according to the 26-year-old, recognition of how strong the ladies game has now become.
“From a parity point of view it makes sense to have equal pay between men and women,” she insisted, despite former men’s champion Pat Cash arguing again recently that women should be forced to play the best of five sets, not three.
Yet with the men’s game dominated by the top four players, Sharapova believes there is now more competition among the females.
“Our game is as international as it has ever been,” she told me at Wimbledon. “We have eight different nationalities represented in the top 10. The variety shows it is a worldwide game because it is not dominated by girls who have been brought up in the same environment; everyone has found different ways to become a champion.
“There is a lot more depth than there was nine years ago. There are more tough earlier rounds than when I started on the Tour. Previously, you could have used your first matches to get warmed up in a tournament but that is no longer the case.
“You have to be on the ball from the start because most, if not all unseeded players, have beaten top opponents in the past.”
Much of the credit for the equality that women now have is down to the campaigning of Billie-Jean King.
The six-time Wimbledon singles champion threatened to withdraw from the US Open in 1973 if the prize money for the women remained less than the men.
King won the battle of the sexes as the US Open became the first to pay both the same prize money. It was the same year King became the first president of the Women’s Tour Association.
The WTA will celebrate their 40th anniversary a week on Sunday when every world No1 since the formation of the players’ union, including King and Sharapova, will be reunited at a Wimbledon party.
“Billie-Jean fought a lot for us on and off the court; for getting equal prize money, for equal rights for the understanding of what we do, how powerful it is and how inspiring it is to women around the world. If it was not for her help we would not be in the position that we are today,” said Sharapova. “She kept in touch with me when I was out of the game for 10 months injured. She texted me a lot and still does, no matter if I win or lose matches she keeps in touch.
“I remember she came up to me and my parents when I was 14 playing in the juniors at Roehampton and spoke to us, not about anything in particular, but she was incredibly friendly and supportive and she has carried that with her for so many years.”
Part of the reason the women’s game is so strong is the renewal of the rivalry between Sharapova and Williams.
They have met four times this year, including the French Open Final, and the American has won the lot.
In fact, Sharapova now has a losing streak against the world No1 that stretches back 13 matches to 2004 and a victory in Los Angeles.
“I still think if I can beat Serena as a 17-year-old going into my first Grand Slam final and beat her the way I did, with the confidence that I showed, that there is no reason why I cannot do it again,” Sharapova argued, despite her 14-2 record against the American.
“I obviously think losing the Wimbledon final to me has motivated her in all our subsequent encounters because she was not happy with the result. It was one of the biggest matches of my life is terms of shaping my career.
“I felt like I was getting a lot closer to her in the French Open Final and I have done much better in all the four matches against her this year, put myself in good positions and had opportunities to win — that gives me a great amount of confidence.” A year ago, Sharapova arrived at the All England Club as world No1 but was dumped out in the fourth round by Sabine Lisicki, losing her top spot in the process. In the past, it may have crushed her but maturity and overcoming her career-threatening shoulder injury, that required surgery in 2008, has changed the Russian’s mentality.
“I have come a long way since 2004,” she added. “I have won another three Grand Slams. I am happy with the way my career has panned out because I did not let the initial fame and expectations get the better of me and here I am, at 26, believing and knowing I can compete with everyone on the Tour.
“Coping with injury helped me to focus on what was important in my life and how much I wanted to still achieve things in tennis.
“There were times when I had many doubts and could easily have decided that I had already made enough money, won three Grand Slams and been No1 in the world so it was time to quit but I knew I could still compete and be a better player.
“It was a time that really made me reflect and it also made me happy because I knew deep down that I could do it all again.”
Maria Sharapova was speaking as an ambassador for evian, the Official Water of The Championships, Wimbledon. Catch her interview with Jonathan Ross as well as all of the off-court glamour and excitement during this year’s tournament at www.evian.wimbledon.com.
so she knows Rena's bitter