Sharapova reaches world summit but loses Russian respect on way

The WTA Tour record states categorically that Sharapova, born in Siberia and raised as a player in Florida since she was nine years of age, yesterday became the first Russian woman to rise to No 1 since the rankings began in 1975. Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, supplanted the injured American Lindsay Davenport 30 years after Chris Evert, from Florida, had become the women's first No 1.

According to some of Sharapova's compatriots, however, the only part of her that remains Siberian is a cold shoulder.

When Svetlana Kuznetsova, of St Petersburg, the reigning US Open champion, was asked who was the most popular Russian player worldwide, she grinned and said: "Sharapova of course - but I don't know if you would call her Russian, though. She is more American than Russian. She speaks Russian with a coarse accent."

Sharapova, who once said she learned English by listening to the Spice Girls, was last year involved in a row with Anastasia Myskina, of Moscow. During the Fed Cup finals in Moscow, Myskina, who in June had won the French Open to become Russia's first Grand Slam woman's singles champion, said: "If she [Sharapova] joins our team next season, you won't see me there for sure."

Myskina was particularly upset with Sharapova's father, Yuri Sharapov, accusing him of being disrespectful at the season-ending WTA Championships. "Her father's behaviour is totally incorrect, simply rude," Myskina said. "I don't want to be around people like him."

Sharapova has repeatedly spurned offers to play for Russia in the Fed Cup, saying that her goal this year was to become world No 1. Kuznetsova and the rest of Russia's Fed Cup team have supported Myskina's stance. "I think this year's team has great spirit," Kuznetsova said. "All the girls are very supportive of each other. I don't know if we're going to have the same camaraderie in the future."

Shamil Tarpishev, Russia's Fed Cup captain, has tried to heal the breach, but a Russian Tennis Federation source told Reuters last year: "They [the players] are just jealous of Sharapova. They resent her sudden fame and fortune."

Sharapova has also not competed at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow for the last few years, though last month the organisers announced that she would play in the event in October.

An identity crisis was not on Sharapova's mind yesterday as she celebrated the fulfilment of a long-held ambition. One of the major sacrifices in her career was to leave her mother, Yelena, behind in Russia as she left for Florida with Yuri to be trained at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.

"It's a dream come true to become No 1 in the world," Sharapova said. "The computer doesn't lie, You have to achieve something to get there and it's been an amazing two years. It's been all about hard work and dedication and the achievement has been amazing."

Although she lost her Wimbledon title this year, losing to Venus Williams, the eventual champion, in the semi-finals, Sharapova has won three WTA Tour titles and has threatened to overtake Davenport for months. Injuries to other leading players, notably Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, of Belgium, helped clear a path to the summit for Sharapova, though it was only a matter of time before a Russian rose to the top.

Russians dominated the women's Grand Slam championships last year, with Myskina winning the French Open, Sharapova triumphant at Wimbledon, and Kuznetsova taking the US Open. Currently there are eight Russians in the world's top 20.

Two Russian men, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin, have reached No 1 on the ATP Tour rankings, and the game in the former Soviet Union has gained ground since tennis returned to the Olympic Games as a medal sport in 1988.

Until recently, Olga Morozova's 1974 defeats in consecutive finals, both against Evert, at the French Open and Wimbledon, were Russia's best results in women's singles at Grand Slam tournaments. It was thought that Anna Kournikova, a media dream, would be the first Russian female to make the breakthrough, particularly after she reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 1997, when she lost to the 16-year-old Martina Hingis, the youngest-ever world No 1. But Kournikova was unable to follow through, and injuries contributed to her problems.

A regular in the top 10, Kournikova reached a high of No 8 in 2000, the year she rose to No 1 in doubles. Her career faded in 2003, when she finished the year with a singles ranking of 305.

Kournikova, 24, won £2m in prize-money and millions more from sponsorship and endorsements. Sharapova has already won £2.2m in prize-money, millions more from marketing - and has barely started.

Sharapova told Tennis Life magazine recently that buying shoes was one of her biggest weaknesses, saying she currently had 30 pairs of designer footwear. "I figure that my feet are not going to grow any more," she said, "so if I go bankrupt, I'll still have my shoes."

Reflecting more seriously on her progress, she said: "Sometimes, when I'm sitting at home, I look back at what I was doing two years ago. It just feels amazing, it really does."

Rise of the Russians

Grand Slam Winners

French Open: 2004 Anastasia Myskina beat compatriot Elena Dementieva

Wimbledon 2004: Maria Sharapova beat America's Serena Williams

US Open 2004: Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Elena Dementieva

There are nine Russians in this week's WTA Tour top 25

1 Maria Sharapova

5 Svetlana Kuznetsova

6 Elena Dementieva

9 Nadia Petrova

13 Anastasia Myskina

16 Elena Bovina

19 Vera Zvonereva

20 Elena Likhovtsova

22 Dinara Safina

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
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.

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star