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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Russian Invasion

They are here in force, but can the Russian women keep winning?

Ten years ago you could have counted the Russian women in the world’s top 100 on one hand. These days you would need all your fingers and toes to even come close. Thirteen of them litter the top 100, 19 in the top 200, and let’s not even mention the four in the top 10. Three of the women’s Grand Slam titles this year have been won by Russian women, two in all-Russian finals—and the list goes on from there. The Russians aren’t just coming, they’re here.

Maria Sharapova

Nick Bollettieri, whose Bradenton, Florida, academy has enjoyed a mutually profitable relationship with a number of Russian players, notably Anna Kourn-ikova and Maria Sharapova, says that there seems to be more and more talent emerging from the ruins of the former Soviet states all the time. “They keep coming at you,” he said, “like the Russian army.”“I think [Russians] are really strong inside,” explained Sharapova. “In Russia, I don’t think they have many opportunities when they decide to play a sport. They think [tennis] is their only chance to make it. They work really, really hard at it and achieve many good things because they know that’s maybe the only thing they can do.”

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