Published July 24, 2005
Sharapova's second home
Russian phenom Maria Sharapova has grown from teen with promise to big star in front of Breakers' faithful.
By Rick Devereux, Daily Pilot
NEWPORT BEACH -- She's back.
Maria Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, returned to the Palisades Tennis Club in Newport Beach Saturday to help the Breakers defeat the visiting St. Louis Aces, 22-16.
It was a much better showing than her last trip to Palisades when Nicole Vaidisova beat the 18-year old Russian, 5-3, in Sharapova's first match after her grand slam victory.
Saturday, Sharapova dominated women's singles, beating the Aces' Jamea Jackson, 5-0.
"I practice in L.A., so Newport Beach is like a second home for me," Sharapova said before the match. "The people have been very supportive."
Sharapova has been a member of the Breakers since 2003 and involved with World Team Tennis since 2002.
"I started with Delaware when I was 14," Sharapova said. "World Team Tennis gave me an opportunity to play when I was young. It's been such an amazing opportunity for me grow."
And grow she has.
The 6-foot blond bombshell is a bona fide celebrity.
She was featured as one of the 50 most beautiful people by People Magazine and is one of the most sought-after female athletes for endorsements.
While Sharapova has been compared to fellow Russian tennis knockout Anna Kounikova, Sharapova was an advantage Kournikova does not: she's a great tennis player.
Sharapova has advanced to the semifinals or better in eight of the 10 tournaments she has played this year, including titles at Tokyo, Doha and Birmingham. She is 41-7 this year and is ranked No. 2 in the world behind Lindsay Davenport.
The format of WTT play is different than what Sharapova experiences on the Women's Tennis Association professional tour, but that is one of draws for her.
"Tennis is such a competitive sport," she said. "I really like the team atmosphere (associated with the WTT). Tennis is such an individual sport, it's nice to play for a team."
Thanks to Sharapova's brilliance Saturday, her team secured a sport in the WTT playoffs.