Maria Sharapova faces a grudge match today against a precocious 15-year-old Bulgarian who once declared: "I can kick her ass off".
Sesil Karatantcheva was angry after apparently being stood up by Sharapova for a practice match in Florida last year. Two weeks later, she drew her rival in the main draw at Indian Wells and said: "I do think I can kick her ass off."
Karatantcheva explained at the time the root of her bad feeling and accused the Russian of cowardice. "Two hours before the match my agent comes and goes, 'She called it off'," Karatantcheva said. "I'm like, 'Why did she call it off?' 'Because you said you were going to kick her ass off.' If she's too scared to come on the court, that's her problem."
The opinions are sure to guarantee headlines. "They [my parents] don't know where my personality comes from," she said. "I have problems with my dad that way because I'm independent - I had a couple of fights with him about it. I want to be myself. I want to be independent, I just want to do everything. I think I'm old enough for everything. I'm never wrong, I'm always right. Whatever I say, that's it, point, no more."
She is unlikely to wrap herself in the Bulgarian flag if she wins. "Our culture is a very special one - people do not want you to succeed, they want to screw you over," she said. "They're not, 'She's from Bulgaria, come on, she can make it'. They're, 'I hope she breaks her knee so she doesn't make it.
"My federation never did anything for me. I like my country because I'm born in it. But I only go there because my family is there and it's still my country. The people are not nice."Reuse content