MOSCOW: Russia lavished praised 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.
Sharapova cruised past Italy’s Sara Errani 6-3, 6-2 to win the French Open final on Saturday and seal a rare career Grand Slam of winning the four biggest tournaments in the sport during her career.
“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,” said Putin in his message to Sharapova. “This is a deserved award for your talent and outstanding work.”
Medvedev offered his congratulations to the tennis player on his Facebook page. “You showed magnificent play there. All of Russia, millions of your fans across the country supported you and wished you to win there.”
Sharapova has also made clear her loyalty to her home nation, competing in the Fed Cup and almost always wearing a necklace with the cross of the Russian Orthodox Church when she plays.
No hint of complacency
While celebrations ensued, Sharapova remained motivated to achieve more. “I have a lot more in me,” said the Russian. “I have money; I have fame; I have victories; I have grand slams.
“But when your love for something is bigger than all those things, you continue to keep getting up in the morning when it’s freezing outside, despite knowing that it can be the most difficult day.”
Meanwhile, Russia’s tennis federation president Shamil Tarpishchev said that he was happy that Sharapova managed to overcome the hardships that were caused by her shoulder injury to move herself on top of the WTA rankings again. He was confident of Sharapova doing well at this year’s London Olympics as well.
“She has lost two years of progress following that shoulder injury, but her natural talent and strong character helped her overcome that rocky period,” said Tarpishchev. “We pin our hopes on a successful performance at this year’s London Olympics as well now.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2012.