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Article from i7 Sport portal

Maria Sharapova is a champion in the making. Allsport.

IT will be no surprise when, in a couple of years, Maria Sharapova stamps her name all over the women's game. The 14-year-old Russian is tall, blonde, and tanned, and she has a flattened-out forehand that calls to mind Venus Williams. She beat Taipei's Su-Wei Hsieh in three sets this afternoon to advance to the girl's singles final. But that's not why we're almost guaranteed to see more of Sharapova in the future.

Sharapova is the latest off the Nick Bollettieri production line. She has been training at the Sports Academy Bollettieri started in Florida - the academy that nurtured Monica Seles and Andre Agassi to name but a few - since she was just six-years-old. She won her first girl's tournament in October 2000, aged 13, and is playing here unseeded against girls up to three years her senior.

A journalist dubbed her "Kourni-clona" last year, after another famous Bollettieri graduate, but Sharapova said: "No, thank you. I want to be a winner." Lacking confidence she ain't. She lists her favourite tennis player as herself.

Sharapova struggled in tumble-dryer conditions in her semi-final against Hsieh on Court No2 this afternoon, but she dug deep enough to win 7-6, 2-6, 6-3. She leaned on her racquet after a particularly long rally early in the third, but pumped herself up soon after and closed out the game playing faster, fitter tennis.

Hsieh is the tournament's No9 seed but she hits the ball so softly that sometimes - if there is a breeze - you can't hear it come off the racquet. Her only real weapon is her willingness to tear after every ball that arrives on her side of the net. Most of the points Hsieh won on serve came from Sharapova's errors: forehands a foot long, backhands punched an inch or two wide of the sideline.

In contrast to Hsieh, when Sharapova nails a forehand you know about it. She also hits a strong-shouldered double-handed backhand. Her first serve is solid enough, but her second isn't much chop. She hails from Sochi, in Russia, the same Black Sea resort that gave the world Yevgeny Kafelnikov. On her performance so far this week, she has all of Kafelnikov's game and every bit as much self-belief.

She will play Czech No7 seed Barbora Strycova in tomorrow's final.
 

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Can't believe this is Maria's 1st GS event and she is in the final!

In the girls’ event, Sharapova was also pushed hard in her semi-final, defeating Taipei’s Su-Wie Hsieh 76 26 63. Despite playing her first ever Grand Slam event, Sharapova proved the smarter player against the more experienced Hsieh. The Russian teenager struggled with her form for much of the match before her determination carried her through.

“I battled it out,” said Sharapova afterwards. “It wasn’t the best day of the tournament for me. I played at fifty percent I think but I fought it one hundred and that really helped me through the match.”

Sharapova’s efforts so far this week have earned her plenty of attention but she is anxious not to let it go to her head. “It feels really great because it’s a Grand Slam final and I’m fourteen years old, and I love it.” said Sharapova, “But I can’t let my mind go away and think ‘I’m very good’ so I just have to keep calm and play my game.”

Strycova could be her toughest challenge yet. The Czech is seeded 7th here in Melbourne and will be full of confidence after her 36 76 61 win over fellow Czech Eva Birnerova in the semi-finals.

Go Masha!
 

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Actually its her 2nd GS

she made her debu at the US and lost to the #1 Kaia Kanepi in 2R
 

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Janie, thanks for the article. But how in the world did you find it?
 

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Maria lost the final 0-6, 5-7. BUT, what a great battle she made of that 2nd set, after the devastation of that first set! :D

I am pretty darned impressed with Maria! And she turns 15 in April -- but will she be ready by then to take on the pros?
 

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No Janie, Maria will not be ready to take on the pro's by April of 2002. Not the top pro's anyway. Before she is ready for the pro's, Maria must add some weight. Especially to her lower body. As you know Janie, lightweights don't do well on the WTA tour. But maybe Maria will buck that trend. Congratulations to Maria on a successful first trip to Australia. Udachi Maria!
 

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Maria will learn and get better.

She disapopinted herself and her fans especially in set 1.
she was just too nervous and against Barbora she couldn't

Still she exceeded all expectations and she will be in top 20 of ranks and seeded in all comps from now on
 
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