Another Sharapova makes her mark
Date: July 14, 2004, 8:43pm
There was no clenched fist, no victory squawk, no dropping to her knees - Maria Sharapova's trademarks since she won the Wimbledon championship this month.
Dasha Sharapova, Maria's younger cousin, simply raced to the net to shake her opponent's hand after a 6-0, 6-0 victory yesterday in the first round of the annual youth tournament at the Black Sea resort town of Sochi.
But similarities between the two cousins, and not just the long blonde pony tail, were startling.
Playing her first match since her now famous cousin became the queen of Wimbledon, nine-year-old Dasha displayed a crisp forehand, an accurate two-handed backhand and a strong first serve on the clay courts.
If she missed an occasional ball here and there, her father, sitting nearby, would yell instructions, while a handful of onlookers, parents and coaches, watched in silence.
Dasha's coach, 67-year-old Yuri Yudkin, also Maria's first mentor until she moved to the United States 10 years ago, has been following the elder Sharapova's progress.
"Yes, there are many similarities between the two," said Yudkin, who began coaching Maria when she was 4 1/2.
"She was a very smart girl, catching everything on the fly. I never had to repeat instructions twice to her.
"Dasha, too, is very smart, although she took up tennis when she was seven. That's a bit too late, I think. In my view, you have to start at four or five.
"Of course, it's very hard to predict anything right now, but I think Dasha has a good chance to follow in her cousin's footsteps, mainly because she loves to play tennis so much."
Young Sharapova barely broke into a sweat as she trounced her opponent, 10-year-old Nastya Antipova, in just 36 minutes.
She then ran to her father, who congratulated her on a job well done. But there was no victory embrace and no post-game interviews.
"No, we don't give any interviews," said Alexander Sharapov, making his position abundantly clear with a hint of menace.
Sharapova's beaten opponent did not shy away from the media.
"I'm not too disappointed, although I wanted very much to win just a game off her," Antipova said before her mother Ilona joined the conversation.
"Of course, my daughter wouldn't have a chance against someone like Sharapova. She trains like a pro," Ilona said with a wry smile.
"This is a hobby for us, we have other goals in life besides tennis."
Asked what she wanted to be when she grows up, Nastya said matter-of-factly: "I want to become a police investigator. I want to have my own gun, a suitcase and a big office. Tennis can wait."