Others have fallen but this script can have a Hollywood ending

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The Independent Online

Imagine the movie script. A poor, young Russian girl moves to America to pursue her dream. Her family risk everything to ensure she has the best chance it happens. They endure dislocation, sorrow, pain. They cope with physical and mental hardships. The girl thinks of nothing but becoming the No 1 tennis player in the world. Aged 17, in her second visit to Wimbledon, her favourite tournament and the most prestigious in the world, she wins it. If you'd showed that story to a Hollywood producer, he'd still be laughing while security escorted you from the premises.

Imagine the movie script. A poor, young Russian girl moves to America to pursue her dream. Her family risk everything to ensure she has the best chance it happens. They endure dislocation, sorrow, pain. They cope with physical and mental hardships. The girl thinks of nothing but becoming the No 1 tennis player in the world. Aged 17, in her second visit to Wimbledon, her favourite tournament and the most prestigious in the world, she wins it. If you'd showed that story to a Hollywood producer, he'd still be laughing while security escorted you from the premises.

Yet that's the way it happened for Maria Sharapova. That was where the story ended on Saturday. Except it didn't end, of course, because it's just beginning, more of which in a moment. First let's deal with how she won the match itself.

Serena Williams' forehand broke down badly. Maria made a solid, solid start, as opposed to a slow start, as she often does. That combination of factors meant that any tiny trace of nerves that Maria might have had were gone. The little butterflies in her stomach flew away. It was icy cold in there, anyway.

Maria, stroke for stroke, was the sounder player. Serena made countless errors. And then, on top of the battling we take for granted in Maria, we had two little pieces of magic.

For six previous matches at Wimbledon you could have watched Maria play and believe that she didn't know what a lob was. Then, at important moments on that amazing stage, she produced two lobs that won her the match. It wasn't just about the points. It was about being in control, in the zone, at that time.

Maria's emotional response to her victory was not fake. Her climb to embrace her father, Yuri, was a special moment. Yuri has done everything he can to help his little girl and Maria wanted him and the world to know where her appreciation lies. Personally, I was delighted and overwhelmed when, in front of that Centre Court crowd, Maria thanked me by name for being so important in her career. Some people quickly forget those who have helped them achieve their goals. Not Maria.

The big question now is: "What happens next?" How will she cope with her success, which has arrived so early? I'll tell you about two other girls whose careers I have been closely involved with. In fact, I was coaching each of them when they won their first Grand Slam.

One was Mary Pierce, who won the Australian Open in 1995. The other was Iva Majoli, who won the French Open in 1997. After their wins I sent them both a personal letter, saying the same thing. It went along the lines: "You're in a boat. It can now go in one of two directions. You can work very, very hard, keep moving upstream to get to world No 1. It's tough but it's achievable. But you've now got to work harder than ever. Alternatively you can let your achievement float away down the river."

Unfortunately, both Mary and Iva went in the wrong direction. Their boats got in a spin, a circle of fun and fancy and frills and parties. Mary took years to get back on track and it has been a rollercoaster. Iva didn't get properly back on track at all.

Maria Sharapova has a true desire to be world No 1. She has already proved she is mentally tough enough to become a champion. Her family and IMG Academies will now do everything to protect her.

My view is that there is not an ice cube's chance in raging Hell that Maria will let go of her opportunity. That's not in the make-up of the Maria I know. I won't be telling her that in a letter. I'll tell her when we meet at the academy on Thursday. There's work to do, and I believe she's going to get on and do it.

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