Tennis: Even without crowd support, Sharapova advances

AP, Friday 24 Jun 2011

Unusually for Maria Sharapova, the three-time Grand Slam champion was not the player receiving the unconditional adulation from the fans at Wimbledon on Friday

Maria Sharapova
Russia's Maria Sharapova goes for the ball during her match against Britain's Laura Robson at Wimbledon

That distinction instead went to her British opponent, 17-year-old left-hander Laura Robson.

The win, though, went to Sharapova.

"There will be many tournaments and many losses and many wins. I think it will just be important to learn from the situations," Sharapova said of Robson after beating the teenager 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the second round on Court 1.

"And, yeah, obviously it's great and it's important to play in front of thousands of people with the support of the British crowd." The fifth-seeded Sharapova is more often the one reaping the benefits from a partisan crowd. After all, she won the title at the All England Club in 2004, when she was only 17. But Robson, the 2008 junior champion at Wimbledon, is Britain's new hope for a first singles champion since Virginia Wade won the women's title in 1977.

And in the first set, it looked like Robson may have the potential to end the drought. The British teen led 4-1, and later led 4-2 in the tiebreaker, before losing the first set.

"I felt like I started off really slow and she started off really well," said Sharapova, who was even booed at times. "Quite the opposite of me, I think she was much more aggressive than I was in the beginning." Sharapova followed her Wimbledon championship with the U.S. Open title in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008.

But shoulder surgery in August 2008 kept her off the tour for nearly a year and knocked her down the rankings before she moved back up to No. 6 this year.

Still only 24, Sharapova said it was her experience that helped her get through Friday's match.

"I have to say I'm very fortunate that I got to get experience on the tour from a very young age by winning many matches," said Sharapova, who will next face Klara Zakopalova in the third round. "I had never expected to have success at such a young age." But she did, and she also offered some advice to Robson.

"She's got to keep learning and keep playing and keep working hard," Sharapova said. "That's really what it comes down to, is just grinding it out. Like I said, grinding out the matches where you don't necessarily have thousands of people behind you."

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