Perils ahead as Sharapova progresses

It was not hugely apparent yesterday, but great dangers lie ahead for the latest of tennis golden girls, Maria Sharapova.

A 6-4, 7-5 defeat of Amy Frazier leads her into a quarter-final with Ai Sugiyama and, further ahead, possibly a semi-final encounter with the 1999 champion Lindsay Davenport. Both hold more threat than Sharapova's opponent yesterday.

Yet it is not sportsfolk the Russian has to worry about. She should fear the apparent friends dressed in bow ties, braces and exotic spectacles, the advertising and marketing lions who have already circled the 17-year-old.

Sharapova signed with IMG Models last year and will increasingly find sharper practitioners than Frazier requesting her time and further testing a resolve to concentrate singly on tennis.

Sharapova is already box office and the cause is not wholly dependent on her swiftly improving tennis. Long-limbed, 6ft-tall presentable young women have an agenda set for them.

The girl also comes with a pretty story. Sent from Siberia, which is probably the right direction in which to be travelling, she arrived with her father, Yuri, in Florida as a seven-year-old with $700 and a desire to succeed. The young Sharapova took board and lodging at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy at Bradenton, and survived long periods of loneliness. She felt like crying, but resisted it. The teenager likes to think of herself as a strong character.

So it was on Court No 1 yesterday that the lenses from the photographers' pit all pointed in the same direction from the first point. Like twitchers in a hide, they were there for only one shot.

That is not to say there was nothing arresting about Frazier. There is a history of melanomas in her family, and a consequence is that the woman from St Louis slaps on a foundation layer of sun block factor 30 from the eyes downwards, half an hour before every match and then applies another just before she goes out. It is a necessity which has left her with a troglodyte complexion.

This was the American's 16th Wimbledon and 62nd Grand Slam, the most among regular active players. This Frazier is another long-running American serial.

You do not survive this long without acquiring a certain amount of savvy and the 31-year-old - the oldest remaining player in the draw against the second youngest - opened up a 4-2 first set lead with a flurry of clever angles. But then the double faults, and there were to be 12 of them, started kicking in. Frazier lost four games on the trot, culminating in a double on set point.

Sharapova was able to relax. She stopped slapping herself on the thigh and also dispensed with her noises on shot, which are more smoker's wheeze than grunt. The Russian likes to compose herself at the back of the court, lingering near the netting with an almost indecent absence of haste. She clenches her fist after winning big points, as if embarking on a game of one potato, two potato.

Sharapova acknowledges that she has yet to grow into her antelope frame, but the robustness is gradually coming. "I've been working on that in the off-season like crazy because it's the one thing I think can improve my game tremendously, getting stronger physically, being able to last two weeks at a Grand Slam, as now I'm in the second week," she said. "I'm feeling very good. Physically, I'm feeling a lot stronger."

Mentally she is no blancmange either. Sharapova stepped outside her cocoon only once yesterday, when sport was over and she could blow kisses to the four corners of No 1. It was another small payment on the emotional investment of her parents. She aims to clear the debt as soon as possible but professes no pressure to do so.

"I know that my parents made a lot of sacrifices in my life and they always try to do the best for me," Sharapova said. "At moments like these I can return them with favours. That's what they wanted me to do in life.

"There is no pressure. Who has an opportunity in life like I do right now at the age that I am? If I feel that I have too much pressure, I'll leave. I'm 17 years old. What do I have to lose in this world?"

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue