Olympics: Sharapova a candidate for Russia's flag-bearer, says minister
AFP, Tuesday 12 Jun 2012
Russia's tennis federation chief Shamil Tarpishchev earlier said that Sharapova had already been pencilled in as the flag-bearer

Newly-crowned French Open champion Maria Sharapova is a candidate to be Russia's flag-bearer at the opening of next month's London Olympics, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Tuesday.

Russia's tennis federation chief Shamil Tarpishchev, who is also a member of Russia's National Olympic Committee, earlier said that Sharapova had already been pencilled in as the flag-bearer.

But Mutko said: "Maria is an outstanding athlete but currently she's just a candidate for the role of the country's flag-bearer."

The minister added that the flag-bearer would be officially named after the NOC executive committee meeting on July 10-11.

Tarpishchev had said: "We reached an agreement about it just after the French Open final.

"As far as I know Roger Federer will be Switzerland's flag-bearer and Rafael Nadal will be Spain's. It's very pleasant that the popularity of tennis is growing around the word."

Sharapova won the French Open title on Saturday with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Italy's Sara Errani to seal a rare career Grand Slam -- winning the four biggest tournaments in the sport.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev both sent congratulatory telegrams to the Florida-based tennis star while the country's tennis chiefs expressed hope that she would now go for gold at the London Games.

Russian tennis fans have always been unstinting in their support of Sharapova, known affectionately by her short name "Masha", even though she is resident in the United States and only rarely comes home.

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.

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