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Old Jul 22nd, 2004, 06:00 AM   #9
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Great post Lakan, I agree with your thoughts.

For anyone who hasnt read Boris Beckers article, here it is:

Enjoy it all, Maria, but give yourself time to grow as a player
As a 17-year-old, just like Maria Sharapova, he won Wimbledon. Now Boris Becker tells us what's ahead for the Russian starlet

SEVENTEEN years old, precocious, hard-hitting, no fears, a Wimbledon champion appears before the eyes of the world and the world is astounded. Where have I heard that before?

Maria Sharapova will find for the next few months that all the serenity she needs in her life will come in just one place, on the tennis court, because the rest of the world is a little crazy at the moment.
I am thinking this an hour after the final and I hardly want to know where she is right now: the champagne corks popping, people in their millions wanting to talk to her, back-slapping, congratulations.

Maybe not tomorrow, but soon, very soon, it is going to be time for her to get back to basics and remember what it was that made her so strong and continue that progress to make her better still.

One thing I regretted about winning this title at 17 is that I didn't give myself, nor did others give me, enough time to grow as a player. To try things out, to risk six months of losing a little bit, but improving your strokes at the same time, because from the time I stood on the Centre Court that day, every tournament became so important, every loss was a disaster.

I was measured for the rest of my life against this one success.

At least I can watch Maria with different eyes. I see two sides of her -- the incredible competitor, the pure tennis player arriving in the final wanting to do great, but also wanting to win; and I see the young woman, not knowing quite what to expect.

In 1985, my parents were in the competitors' box and just at the moment I won they were taken away downstairs, out of the glare of the cameras, away from the madding crowd. I met them later for the first time with a brief embrace and a few words.

On Saturday, her father climbs out of the box and kisses Maria maybe 20 times - I think that was enough.

We have to get back to reality - the celebration was a little on the edge already for my taste. For now, all the sideshows must become just that. Her father has had a huge role in her life and this has been a wonderful day for the family Sharapova and, most importantly, for Maria. But now Yuri has to be a father, because she needs guidance more than ever before.

Yes, she has the exuberance of youth - taking the mobile phone and trying to text her mother in the United States. That is already the next big commercial for her, a script that might have been written by an agent, if I didn't know better!

The multimillion-dollar deals are going to be thrown at her now, especially as she has also taken away from Steffi Graf the mantle of having the best legs ever in women's tennis.

Maria would have had breakfast on Saturday morning and gone through her normal routines, but by 3.30pm she will have looked into the eyes of people and seen them staring back at her in a very different way. She will have seen it in the eyes of the media when they spoke to her.

I remember being afraid for a long time, wondering what they were saying and thinking about me.

It took me a while to adjust to what happened when I walked into a room, the way the fingers pointed, the way people stopped talking loudly and began to whisper.

I must say that the way she handled the whole day bodes well. The way she played, the things she said, were mind-boggling. And she is only a baby. Maybe she is more mature than I was. At 17, I think girls have learned more in life than boys.

Maria is a true power player, going for her serves and her second serves, but I believe she can improve a lot. Her forehand isn't there yet, and that's a frightening thought.

She has a perfect backhand, but the forehand goes up too quickly with the follow-up.

I'm sure her coach will have known that and will work on it. She doesn't come in as much as I'd like -- she volleyed twice and the next time she was at the net was to shake hands.

I had thought with her performance against Lindsay Davenport in the semi-finals that she had the talent to go all the way.

Serena Williams was totally uncomfortable in the first set - her body language was too negative, she didn't get her footing right, she was rarely standing right to hit a ball.

Still, she got to 4-2 in the second set and it was then that Sharapova showed that she is a true champion, with nerves of steel allied to the innocence of youth.

She came into the match not thinking at all of failure; losing was not a concept that entered her mind. I loved it - and not just because I'd been there myself.

The Times

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