Sharapova wants to emulate Billie Jean King
Maria Sharapova hopes she can emulate women's tennis pioneer Billie Jean King and set an example for the players who will follow in her footsteps as she once again sits on top of the world
Tomorrow the Russian will officially become World No 1 for the first time in four years, and she will do so as the 10th woman to win all four Grand Slam titles in her career after lifting the French Open trophy yesterday.
Sharapova defeated Italy’s Sara Errani 6-3 6-2 to put the icing on the cake of her long road back to the top after 10 months out with a shoulder injury in 2008 and 2009.
“I’m just extremely happy to be back at this stage. It means a lot to me personally,” she said.
“I’ve played the sport for so long and the sport itself means a lot to me, so my goal is to represent it in the best way possible and to be professional, on and off the court and set a good example, not just for now but a generation that follows after.
“Like Billie Jean King did. Obviously it’s something that’s always on my mind because I feel like, ultimately when you retire, what you put in place now, a whole new generation will follow in your footsteps.”
Sharapova will now take a few days off — four if she has her way, three if she has to give in to coach Thomas Hogstedt — before beginning to practise on grass.
Meanwhile, Russia lavished praise on its “legendary” tennis star Maria Sharapova after her French Open victory, the highpoint of a career that took flight when she left her homeland aged seven.
President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev sent congratulatory telegrams to the Florida-based star while the country’s tennis chiefs hoped she would now bring gold for Russia at the London Olympics. “You have reached the peak which was conquered earlier only by the world’s strongest and legendary tennis players — the wining of all four Grand Slam events,” Putin said in his message to Sharapova. —