Aug 6th, 2004, 03:40 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Police Nab Tennis Fan on Court at Rogers
Aug 5, 2004
MONTREAL - An 18-year-old Russian male who jumped onto the court to invite Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and Vera Zvonareva to dinner was stopped by security guards at the Rogers Cup tournament Thursday night.
Jim Anderson, head of security for the event, said the spectator was "a goofy kid" who intended no harm to the players.
The fan entered the court just as Zvonareva's three-set victory over Sharapova ended, and moved toward the players' courtside chairs. He was grabbed by guards before he could reach the players.
"He had something in his hand, which is why we were concerned," Anderson said.
It turned out to be a pen and two pieces of paper. The invitation included the phone numbers of the spectator and a friend in the stands along with an invitation to dinner — written in Russian — at a local Russian restaurant.
The spectator is a Montreal resident of Russian origin with no criminal history, Anderson said. His name was not released. He was banned from Uniprix Stadium, but no charges were filed.
"If he comes back, he'll be charged," Anderson said. "He knew he was doing something wrong, but he had never heard of Monica Seles. I think he understands fully now."
Former world No. 1 Seles was stabbed in the back on court by a spectator during a match in Hamburg, Germany, in 1993, suffering a serious wound.
Aug 6th, 2004, 10:38 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: The consulting room
Star attraction Sharapova ousted from Rogers Cup by Zvonareva
Friday, August 06, 2004
MONTREAL (CP) - Star attraction Maria Sharapova was bounced from the $1.325 million US Rogers Cup tennis tournament Thursday night by a three-set loss to fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva.
The 10th-seeded Zvonareva advanced to Friday's quarter-finals with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over the sixth-seeded Sharapova, the 17-year-old with the fashion model looks who has become the talk of tennis since her victory at Wimbledon earlier this summer. Sharapova was outworked in the duel between baseline hitters in the only singles night match on the day's schedule.
"It's disappointing but no hard feelings," Sharapova said. "I know you can't win everything and you're going to lose sometimes. I'll go home and train now and get ready for the U.S. Open."
Sharapova said she struggled with her serve after the first set, but gave credit to Zvonareva for playing hard on the key points.
"You have to play really good to beat Maria," said Zvonareva, 19. "I started serving better in the second set and that gave me more confidence."
As the match ended, a young local fan of Russian origin ran onto the court and tried to deliver an invitation to a local restaurant to the two players, but he was quickly hustled away by security guards before he could reach them. A security official said the fan was banned from the stadium, but no charges were laid.
Sabine Lisicki, Maria Sharapova, Elena Dementieva,
Victoria Azarenka, Dinara Safina, Maria Kirilenko
Nadia Petrova, Samantha Stosur, Ana Ivanovic.
0026..Eternal follower of the Golden Girl .... Official Political Advisor to the Maria Mafia.
Aug 29th, 2004, 12:33 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Wimbledon winner Sharapova inconsistent, but she's keeping focus
BY CHARLES BRICKER
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
NEW YORK -
(KRT) - Two weeks after her electric triumph at Wimbledon, Maria Sharapova was in Los Angeles to see one of her gurus, coach Robert Lansdorp, who had done so much in the previous seven years to turn "this little pipsqueak" into a ground-stroking machine.
They embraced on the practice court, and Lansdorp, whose usual persona is one part grouch and one part grumbler, melted. "You're not the princess of tennis anymore," he told her. "You're the queen."
She certainly is among the ruling royalty of women's tennis after winning her first Grand Slam at age 17, but whether she gets a permanent seat on the throne will be determined right here at the U.S. Open during the next fortnight.
This is the final major of the season, and though Sharapova doesn't have to authenticate her new credentials with a title here, she needs to go deep into the draw to build on her success. That will mean playing better than she has the past month.
It hasn't been full-speed ahead for the elegant, precocious and now 6-foot tall Russian pipsqueak since she swept aside Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final with a brutal display of nerveless hitting.
She's won three, lost three and last week in a tournament tuneup in New Haven, Conn., lost her opening match to Mashona Washington, who is at the top of her eight-year career but has hardly placed herself at the level of a champion.
Still, Sharapova looks as unflustered today as she did in that final in London, when most thought, quite incorrectly, that she would walk on court and dissolve into a pool of pudding.
"She was just too good," Sharapova summarized her loss to Washington. More likely, the reason for her loss was that she's still battling the sort of emotional vicissitudes that come with winning Wimbledon at such a young age. To what new heights could she ascend after the performance she put on in London?
"All of a sudden you want to be perfect because you won a Slam. You get that feeling that there are some shots you should always make, and I definitely know there are more people hungry to beat the Wimbledon champion."
Sharapova paused, then added: "But I'm also hungry."
How she reached this pinnacle is a study in the development of a champion. The key figures in this drama are Lansdorp, Bradenton-based coach Nick Bollettieri, her father, Yuri, and most of all, Maria herself.
She is Anna Kournikova with a total commitment to tennis, and that cannot be easy for a photographer magnet who was being swamped by offers and requests for magazine layouts long before she sailed through Williams.
Born in Siberia, Sharapova is seldom in Russia anymore, having moved with her parents to Bollettieri's tennis academy when she was 9. She was small and skinny - a waif.
"But what she had was determination," Bollettieri said. "Very focused. She didn't go up and down in the way she practiced. She didn't have more strength or a bigger serve than the other kids there, but what she had was a belief in herself. That was the trait that stood out."
Some of that strength came from having to live without her parents in the early years at Bollettieri's. Her father was off finding work and was often absent from Bradenton for long periods of time. Her mother was still in Russia.
But when Yuri was finally able to join her, Sharapova's skills increased rapidly. He took copious notes on everything Bollettieri told him about Maria's off-court training, but he never played the interfering parent, as Kournikova's mother had when Anna was working with Bollettieri.
Sharapova's workouts were hard and long, and eventually, Bollettieri said, it became very difficult for her to find hitting partners because the sessions were devoted entirely to her practice needs, not her partner's.
By the time Sharapova was 13, Bollettieri began to see the earmarks of a future champion, as difficult as that was to predict. She was growing and filling out. Her mental strength reminded him of Monica Seles. And there was the ferocity with which she attacked.
"She just hits the damn ball," said Bollettieri, explaining what he liked most about her game. "She knows no other way but to hit the crap out of the ball. Just like Andre (Agassi)."
Her progress wasn't always smooth. As she got taller quickly, her joints began to ache from the sudden growth spurts, and as a result, she went through periods where her footwork was atrocious.
"She would wobble a lot," Bollettieri recalled. "She couldn't get a jump on the ball."
In an effort to seek out experts in every phase of the game, Yuri asked Lansdorp, who had coached Tracy Austin to her early success, to take a look at his daughter.
Like everyone else, Lansdorp was surprised by Sharapova's victory at Wimbledon, though: "I knew she could do well. She had a good draw," he said. Unlike almost everyone else, Lansdorp knew nerves would not be a factor in the final. She had exhibited too much willpower over the past eight years.
Steadily, her game moved forward but without any conspicuous results - until the grass-court season began this year. She then won the lead-up to Wimbledon at Birmingham, defeating Tatiana Golovin in the final, and three weeks later, she was atop the tennis world.
Countless offers were thrown at her because she possessed that brilliant combination of great tennis and physical beauty, but she has rejected almost all of them except for a multiyear, seven-figure deal with Motorola.
"My relationship with other companies has to be where I think the connection is great," Sharapova said. It was her way of saying that she's going to avoid the distractions and the overexposure that seemed to take control of Kournikova's career and fix hard on her tennis.
She'll begin Tuesday against Chicago's Laura Granville - No. 7 vs. No. 68. Sharapova has had her grace period following Wimbledon, long enough to understand she's a target now.
It's time to start deflecting the arrows and back her Wimbledon dream with another strong performance.
© 2004 South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Aug 29th, 2004, 03:25 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
IT'S SHARAPOVA'S WORLD
In America, the beautiful
Wimbledon champion plots career course, her entourage claims she's the anti-Kourikova, as her ability-and looks-open every door
BY MICHAEL WEINREB
August 29, 2004
They are here from "Entertainment Tonight" and they are here from "Access Hollywood," which means, of course, that they must also be here from "Extra." So the representatives of the grand triumvirate of celebrity news magazines are all here and are all lined up in a neat little row behind the blue velvet ropes, each awaiting their 16 seconds of airtime with the six-foot blonde in the designer sweatpants.
They are here to film the blonde in her element. They are here because she is that rarest of pop-cultural convergences: She is fresh and she is talented and she is drop-dead Madison Avenue gorgeous. It is mid-August; it hasn't yet been two months since Maria Sharapova stunned Serena Williams at Centre Court and became, at 17 years old, "the longest shot ever to win Wimbledon," according to tennis historian Bud Collins. And the peddlers in the interminable sagas of Britney and Justin and Paris and JLo would all like their exclusives, thank you very much.
They've been instructed by the publicist to fall in line, to act as if this were a red carpet at Mann's Chinese Theatre and not a hard court in Central Park, not the staging area at a tennis clinic for inner-city youth, and this is fine with them, because this is the world from which they hail, and they would like to think the blonde belongs to their world now as much as she belongs to professional tennis.
And who's to say they aren't right?
They would like to ask Maria, please, who is her favorite movie star, and has she met Kirsten Dunst, and they're very sorry they have to ask this, but is there someone special in your life? And down the line goes Sharapova, on automatic pilot, delivering bulleted answers: Julia Roberts, and no, she hasn't, and her personal life remains personal, thank you very much.
And who's to say these are inappropriate questions?
"She's an overnight sensation, and that doesn't happen very often, and it's all fun," Collins said. "She's a goddess right now. I just hope it stays fun."
Here comes Maria Sharapova through the looking-glass, a newborn swept into the glare of celebrity. She is the story of the moment heading into the U.S. Open. She is giggly and lithe and classically beautiful, a fact that deserves mention if only because it is part of package that she proudly presents, if only because it is the thing that may allow her to become the most recognized female athlete on the planet.
But then, this beauty is also what could allow the cabal of celebrity to swallow her whole.
Dreaming up a dream girl
Let us say that you are in the business of sports marketing, and let us say that you were to spend the afternoon dreaming up the biography of the utterly bankable female athlete. Let us say you begin with a little girl born in, oh, say Siberia, to which her parents fled in order to escape the devastating effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
And let us say the father works in the oil fields and scrimps and saves and moves his wife and young daughter to a resort town on the Black Sea, which is where the daughter picks up tennis, using a sawed-off adult tennis racket because, in the midst of a crumbling Soviet empire, no child rackets are available.
And let us say that the daughter plays at a tournament in Moscow at the age of six (or seven, depending on the teller of the tale), and here is where a legendary pro - Martina Navratilova - tells the father, whose name is Yuri, to take his child to Nick Bollettieri's renowned tennis academy in Florida. And let us say the father borrows the money to get to America; he cannot afford to bring his wife, and so it is just he and his daughter at first. And let us say they show up in America with $700 to their name, and the father gets a job as a laborer, and the two of them share a bicycle to get around. And let us say, for the sake of legend, that one night, at around midnight, they travel to the Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton and show up at his doorstep uninvited.
And the rest falls into place.
"The daddy," Nick Bollettieri said, "was a very wise man."
The story is so sweet, so improbable, that it seems almost apocryphal. Some of it is already being embellished: There are a dozen minor variations on the tale, all of which have been reported in various newspapers and magazines. Bollettieri admits, for instance, that Sharapova didn't exactly show up at his academy uninvited. "She was spotted by someone," he said. But even if the story isn't entirely true - even if it's only one-third true - it's still remarkable, isn't it? It still carries that redolence of the American Dream, doesn't it?
Let us say, then, that seven years after arriving at Bollettieri's doorstep, this girl wins Wimbledon, defeating the most formidable player in the game. And afterward, on Centre Court, she tries to reach her mother on her cellular phone, and can't get any reception. And the world coos, and the suits at a worldwide technology company watch this on television and say to each other, "Can someone get this girl a phone that works?" And then they sign her to a major endorsement deal six weeks later with Motorola.
"Potential is one of the dirtiest words in sports," said sports marketing expert Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based SportsCorp Ltd. "But if she can continue to perform, her potential is essentially unlimited."
If this sounds familiar, it's because we've been through this before. Anna Kournikova was 16 when she reached the semifinals at Wimbledon (in 1997), and if you've ever done a Google search, you know what happened next. Anna Kournikova - struggling with chronic injuries and chronic distractions - became Anna, pop-culture princess and teenage sexpot flouncing about like a diva while seeming to forget that it was tennis which had led her to this position in the first place.
And now Anna is a queen of the tabloids, a regular on Page Six and in US Weekly and on the E! Network. Anna is a millionaire and Anna (who never won a pro tournament) no longer plays tennis, but who needs tennis when you've got the cover of Maxim and you've got Enrique Iglesias at your side?
Sharapova won't forget tennis, though. This is what those who know her keep saying, that she is the anti-Anna, even as she appears in the pages of the Italian edition of Vogue, even as her agent at IMG, Max Eisenbud, admits he can't imagine Sharapova still playing tennis at the age of 30. This is the girl, after all, who always seemed to find the motivation when her coach in California, Robert Lansdorp, would lay down 10- and 20-dollar bills at various spots on the court, and tell her she could keep the bills if she could hit them with her returns.
But this is also the girl who has always been oblivious to outside influences. This is the girl who carries textbooks from tournament to tournament, who clearly recognizes the burden of celebrity and seems to have planned for this contingency since the night before she left for America, when her nerve-wracked grandmother found her serenely laying out her clothes for the plane ride the next day.
This is also the girl whose coach only penciled her into the semifinals at Wimbledon.
"Champions sort of have that thing," said Lansdorp, who's based in Los Angeles, and has coached Tracy Austin and Pete Sampras, among others. "Tracy had it, and she had an 'easy life.' Sampras had it, and he had an 'easy life.' It has nothing to do with their background. It's just what they have. They have no fear."
Oh so American
And yet how can she fight this, the oh-so-American lure of celebrity for celebrity's sake? How does she stand a chance in the gilded era of garbage culture, of Hilton sisters and Joe Millionaires?
She's ready-made for this life, after all. Sharapova is so essentially Americanized - in her dress, in her taste for Palm Pilots and Louis Vuitton bags and Marc Jacobs blouses, in her rapid-fire speech patterns - that at least two other young Russians on the women's tennis tour have declared that she isn't really one of them, that she is American by default.
"She was always with her dad in the corner somewhere," said another Russian professional, Eleva Bovina, who played briefly at Bollettieri's academy. "She was always hanging around by herself. She was a little more outside from everybody else."
"I know where I'm from," Sharapova said. "I know where I was born."
But in a way, the others are right. She is no longer one of them. Not since Wimbledon. Sharapova could retire tomorrow and trade on her beauty and her celebrity for the next 10 years, and walk away with a fortune. It's been proven; it's been done before. Anna, anyone?
What about her father? This, say those who know the family, is where the difference between Sharapova and Kournikova lies.
"Anna's very special to me," said Bollettieri, who coached both players. "But the difference here is that the daddy listened, and turned Maria over to me. Mr. Kournikova would never turn his daughter over to anybody. But then again, Anna's making millions a year, so who's right and who's wrong?"
Who's right? Who's wrong? Who's to say Anna Kournikova herself isn't the personification of the American Dream?
In the end, it will be up to Sharapova herself to decide. Lansdorp insists she wants not one title, not a top-10 ranking, but the No. 1 ranking. But her place in the sport is different after Wimbledon, as Sharapova discovered last week, when she showed up in New Haven, Conn. On Tuesday night, Sharapova double-faulted a dozen times and lost in three sets to the No. 81-ranked player in the world, Mashona Washington.
"When you double-fault like that," an elated Washington said, "sometimes it's a sign of nerves."
Into the media room came Sharapova, her blonde hair still damp from the shower.
"I can't be perfect all the time," she said. "It's all about learning, and at 17, I have a lot to learn. I'm not at the biggest point in my career."
This is both true, and it is entirely false. It is true within the microcosm of professional tennis and it is entirely false within the context of celebrity. Never again will Sharapova be so dauntingly swollen with potential.
On Thursday afternoon at a news conference at the National Tennis Center in Flushing, a television reporter asked her about the New York experience, and she mentioned the shopping and the culture and the shows, the non-stop hectic lifestyle, how much she loved it.
Eisenbud was asked what he worried about, what kept him up at night with this one, and he said he had no worries with Maria, none at all. Then he slipped out of the room, in pursuit of the girl of his dreams.
Maria Sharapova file
Birthplace: Nyagan, Russia
Grand slam history: Became youngest singles winner at Wimbledon in July ... The Open will be her eighth event ... Has a 17-6 career record.
Career: Has four singles titles ... Currently has WTA rank of No. 7, her highest ... Is 0-3 against countrywoman Anastasia Myskina ... Finalist at 2002 Junior Australian Open.
Odd fact: Off-court interests include movies; she lists "Pearl Harbor" as her favorite.
Aug 30th, 2004, 09:35 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Maria a smash hit in tennis' fishbowl
By Douglas Robson, special for USA TODAY
NEW YORK — It's one thing to win Wimbledon, the biggest trophy in tennis. Quite another to live with it.
That is the tricky road of risk and reward Maria Sharapova must navigate as she takes aim at the U.S. Open this week wearing the Wimbledon crown — and the more burdensome mantle of The New Face in Women's Tennis.
"It is tough," says the Siberian-born, American-trained teen, whose stunning 6-1, 6-4 upset of Serena Williams in July's Wimbledon final unleashed the irrepressible forces of money, fame and celebrity. "A lot of people want a piece of me, of victory."
It's not just the hordes of fans who now recognize her model-good looks and hound her for autographs. It's not the paparazzi who invade her privacy by trying to snap cameos in uncompromising positions. It's not the news of her every move splashed across the Internet instantaneously to every reach of the world.
Mostly, it's the weight of expectation.
"Yes, a lot more people are expecting me to win all the time," says the leggy, flaxen-haired prodigy, seeded No. 7 at the U.S. Open. "But you can't win everything. In tennis, there is only one winner. Everyone else is considered a loser. It's part of the game. That's why I try to work hard and get better to make sure I do not lose."
Lose she will, as she did in all three tournaments she entered since becoming the third-youngest winner in Wimbledon's 127 years. That included her loss to 81st-ranked American Mashona Washington in New Haven, Conn., her first loss to someone outside the top 50 since Sharapova broke into the top 100 in 2000.
But the focus, determination and self-awareness Sharapova continues to display are why many observers believe the 17-year-old can cope with the onslaught ahead.
"I think she's been bred to be ready," U.S. Federation Cup captain Zina Garrison says.
Ready or not, her time has come. Mariamania is here.
Her vivacious personality, maturity and poise — not to mention a smash-mouth game that, like her 6-foot frame, has not reached full development — have already catapulted her into the realm of one-name wonders like Anna, Serena and Monica.
"Maria" no longer needs elaboration.
"I've seen Mariamania all over the place," says her agent, Max Eisenbud.
This has been a busy summer for a player with just four career titles and still without a driver's license. In the days immediately following her Wimbledon victory, Sharapova appeared on Live With Regis and Kelly, NBC's Today show, CBS' The Early Show and MTV's Total Request Live.
She kept commitments to appear at a charity event for the public summer camp program in New Haven, Conn., and to play a World TeamTennis match in Newport Beach, Calif. She did shoots for Italian Vogue and Hello! magazine, both running spreads on the Russian star.
The first round of post-Wimbledon whirlwind left her so depleted she pulled out of a scheduled tournament in Los Angeles in July.
"I was really exhausted," she says, explaining she had been on the road for 10 weeks in a row. "I was just like, 'I'm too tired to do anything.' People wanted me to go out and party, and I said, 'I'm so tired. I'll party later.' "
Sharapova already has a contract with the modeling arm of IMG, her Cleveland-based management company, and endorsement deals with Prince, Nike and Speedminton, a product that combines tennis, badminton and racquetball.
More recently, she signed a mid-seven-figure global marketing contract with Motorola Inc. The deal is a clever tie-in to her failed attempt to make a phone call to her mother after winning Wimbledon, which was broadcast live to millions. She'll be conducting clinics and making appearances for the telecommunications giant, as she did at New York's Central Park on Aug. 19.
"When you win Wimbledon, for a month or two, it's totally chaotic," says Spain's Conchita Martinez, who beat Martina Navratilova to win Wimbledon, her only major, in 1994. "You're completely busy. Maria's really young, and she's going to have a lot of people knocking on her door. It's going to be hard to stay focused."
Sharapova admits that popularity has its rewards and risks.
"I do feel like I'm being pulled in many different directions," Sharapova says.
If Mariamania has arrived, her close-knit group of handlers has taken pains to make sure their jewel does not become overexposed.
Sharapova's team has turned down David Letterman's show, interview requests with major publications, commercial deals and innumerable celebrity invitations.
"She could have gone on private jets all over the place to cool events," Eisenbud says of the post-Wimbledon demand, "but we just had to say no."
In addition to dropping out of the Los Angeles tournament, Sharapova spent several days holed up at home in July. After playing just two events over a six-week span, Sharapova spent two weeks before the Open tune-up in New Haven working on fundamentals at her base in Bradenton, Fla.
She clings to the center of her personal entourage, which includes her California-based coach, Robert Lansdorp, her omnipresent father, Yuri, and her mother, Yelena, whom Sharapova says is her "best friend."
It's all part of the effort to keep things the same — even though they never will.
"I try to stick to the people who were with me before I won and who knew me and believed in me before I won," Sharapova says. "My parents are the two people who have been with me my whole life. They have believed in me. What they have been through with me is amazing."
But that cocoon of security is sure to be tested in the media glare of New York, as well as in the months to come.
Lansdorp, who helped groom the young games of champions Pete Sampras, Tracy Austin and Lindsay Davenport, says his latest star pupil seems to fall into the "crossover" category of an athlete whose talent and panache captures the public's imagination.
"The adulation with Maria is more than with Pete or with Tracy, who didn't have all the stuff that comes with it, the modeling, the Kournikova look-alike comparisons," Lansdorp says.
Risks and pressures
How does out-of-nowhere success or sudden fame alter the personal and professional landscape?
Pam Shriver was just 16 and in her first year on the pro tour when she reached the U.S. Open final in 1978. "My family and I were astonished," says Shriver, now a TV commentator.
The Hall of Fame player was so nervous from all the sudden scrutiny she lost her first match after the Open in straight sets.
"I almost hyperventilated," Shriver says.
Austin, the pigtailed prodigy of the late 1970s who won the Open at 16 in 1979, was already one of the top players in the world with big titles under her belt; she was accustomed to the pressure of big-time tennis.
Sharapova, in contrast, was seeded No. 13 when she stormed to the Wimbledon title. She had never beaten anyone in the top five until she upset Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals.
"Now it's going to be, 'So you've won one. When are you going to win another one?' " says Austin, a TV analyst. "I don't think she's ready to win Slams on a consistent basis, and the public doesn't understand that."
On a personal level, many young major winners are unnerved by a loss of their "space."
"I didn't like people looking at me all the time, walking by and saying my name as if I was deaf and couldn't hear them," says France's Mary Pierce, who won the first of her two career Slams in 1995, at the French Open. "I was 20 years old so there was a lot of things that were difficult for me. The only good thing about it was that I actually won the tournament."
Confidence of a breakthrough
And that is the goal, after all, to keep on winning.
"I'm probably a different player because I got a lot of confidence with all my victories," says Belgium's Justine Henin-Hardenne, the top seed at Flushing Meadow and winner of three of the last six majors. "I feel it on the court and I think the other players, they see it, also."
As Austin says of the Wimbledon breakthrough, "It could make (Sharapova) more hungry to be No. 1 faster." Asked about her goals for Flushing Meadow, Sharapova says without missing a beat, "I want to win it. I just want to go out and play great tennis and show everyone how I can compete."
It's that kind of focus, fearlessness and imperviousness — as she displayed at Wimbledon — that sets her apart.
"I think she's completely ready," Lansdorp says. "She's a sharp girl who knows how to control what she wants. Maria is going to do what Maria wants to do. She will succeed the way Maria wants to succeed.
"She's a lot more mature than people think she is."
Sharapova insists she has not changed, that the demands will not deter her from her desire to be No. 1 and win more Slams.
She's aware of how off-court distractions — such as former No. 1 Serena Williams' fashion designing and acting gigs — can impede on-court preparation.
"I don't think I model enough for it to be a distraction," Sharapova says sternly. "I know my limits. I know when to work hard."
Now she will know life in the fishbowl, although it's an American phrase with which she is not yet acquainted.
"No, I've never heard of that," she says, pausing, then laughing.
Aug 31st, 2004, 12:38 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Another article, this time by Nick Bollettieri:
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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