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Old Aug 31st, 2004, 12:38 AM   #29
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Another article, this time by Nick Bollettieri:

Quote:
Nick's Picks: First Round
by Nick Bollettieri
Monday, August 30, 2004

Nick Bollettieri is the legendary tennis coach whose vision created the first tennis academy of its kind, which is now Bollettieri/IMG Academies, the world's premier multi-sport training facility in Bradenton, Fla. Nick has coached eight No. 1 players in the world - Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Jim Courier, Martina Hingis, Marcelo Rios, Monica Seles, Serena Williams and Venus Williams. Click here to read the full biography of this tennis legend.

NICK'S FEATURED PICK:

I'm guilty. That's right your honor… I'm here today to defend the incredibly talented 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as you are well aware, there is a plethora of information floating around out there about this young lady. With your permission, I would like to separate fact from fiction.

Here are the facts: Maria spent her early childhood living in Siberia. She started playing tennis at 5 years old, but the weather and lack of sufficient facilities hindered her development as a player. Her parents made the difficult decision that if Maria was going to reach her full potential, she had to leave her homeland and train somewhere else.

Maria and her parents had many hurdles they had to clear along the way. Maria and her father Yuri were able to get the necessary visas to leave Russia; however, Maria's mother was not so fortunate and had to stay behind. Yuri and his little 7-year-old daughter set out for America. Their first stop was playing at parks and clubs in the Venice/Fort Myers, Fla., area.

Maria was in the right place at the right time when Betsy McCormack from IMG Academies saw her play and told her she needed to be training at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton. So they headed north. Maria lived in the dorms and trained with a group of young players in the junior program on campus. Her father worked all kinds of odd jobs in order to survive and to give his daughter the opportunity to train with the best.

Through normal rotation, she finally got a chance to play on my court. I hadn't noticed her before because she was so young and so thin that if she stood sideways she disappeared completely. But in that tiny package was the determination of a champion. She would hit the ball with all her might every time. At that age, hitting it hard was much more important to her than where it actually went.

Maria's father was constantly taking notes. He would study and listen to what the professional coaches said and what the professional players did. At night he would review his notes with Maria.

Maria is a creature of habit. In training, she walks on the court and goes directly to the baseline. She loves hitting the same shot to the same place over and over again. She absolutely hates missing one ball. If Maria had her way, she would stay close to the baseline and never back up.

Maria is a student of the game, just like her father. She not only enjoys playing the physical part of the game, but she breaks the game down mentally. Maria tries to learn something from every game and every player she goes up against.

Maria is personable and friendly to others off the court… but once she steps onto the court there is little love lost between her and her competition. She is out to accomplish one thing… to win.

Her style of play became apparent as she developed into a professional. She likes to hit the ball early and hits it very flat. Maria likes to control the court and returns every ball as if it is the deciding play. When she does get into trouble, she goes for the big shot.

To her credit, she is a 17-year-old girl who has already won the Toyko AIG Open, Quebec City and Birmingham, and she is the reigning Wimbledon champion. Now she has her sights set on another Grand Slam win -- the US Open.

Since her recent win at Wimbledon, she has lost several tournaments. She is great but not invincible. Maria has now become the player to beat. Psychologically, that can either motivate a player to greatness or cripple them with the fear of failure. The US Open could be a pivotal tournament in Maria's career. It all depends not only on the outcome but how she handles it.

My prediction for the first-round match between Maria Sharapova and Laura Granville is as follows… Maria will hit every ball on the rise with very little spin. She will serve with one thought in mind -- get a short defensive return and go for broke. She will not serve a pushy second serve but will once again go for the big serve.

Maria will move Laura at all times and come in whenever possible. She will return serves for winners. Laura was a big hopeful for America but has not lived up to her expectations. Laura moves very well and will come to the net. Her groundstrokes are also hit with very little spin, but that demands she be in position at all times or the balls will fly.

PREDICTION: Granville must attack and accept that if she pushes every part of the game, it will be over. Sharapova in 2 sets.

CONCLUSION: I sincerely feel the Open will strain Maria physically, but not mentally. In her draw, she will not be hard-pressed for two or three rounds. It will be interesting to see how she performs as she moves her way towards the top.
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