‘Unique’ pa­tri­otic chore for team player Shara­pova

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

PRAGUE: Maria Shara­pova failed to lift the Fed Cup as Rus­sia lost to de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons the Czech Repub­lic in Prague on Sun­day, but she did her pa­tri­otic duty and said she en­joyed it. In only her fifth Fed Cup ap­pear­ance, world num­ber four Shara­pova won both sin­gles matches, beat­ing 11th-ranked Karolina Pliskova in straight sets on Satur­day and sixth-ranked Pe­tra Kvi­tova in a three-set thriller on Sun­day. “Per­son­ally it’s an in­cred­i­ble achieve­ment for me be­cause I’ve never been in a Fed Cup fi­nal and I won two of my matches,” Shara­pova said. Af­ter win­ning five Grand Slam ti­tles, Shara­pova is still seek­ing two other global tro­phies-the Fed Cup and Olympic gold. Next year, she will be in con­tention for the Olympic ti­tle, af­ter win­ning bronze in Lon­don 2012 — rep­re­sent­ing Rus­sia de­spite hav­ing lived in Florida since age seven. “There’s no bet­ter feel­ing than be­ing out on the court hav­ing so many peo­ple fly here from Rus­sia to sup­port you,” Shara­pova beamed on Sun­day as the Fed Cup fi­nal was un­der way.

“In an event like this you’re just not play­ing for your­self, you’re play­ing for your team­mates, for your coun­try. “It’s a very unique feel­ing and it’s so spe­cial.” Yet ques­tions over her team spirit con­tinue to fol­low her. She has played only five Fed Cup ties since earn­ing pro­fes­sional sta­tus in April 2001, two of which were this year.

A decade ago, she was in­volved in a rift with her team­mate and now Rus­sia cap­tain Anas­ta­sia Myskina, who threat­ened to boy­cott the Fed Cup if Shara­pova was se­lected for the Rus­sian team, com­plain­ing about her fa­ther’s be­hav­iour in the stands.

Myskina, the 2004 French Open cham­pion, also slammed Shara­pova for be­ing “more Amer­i­can than Rus­sian,” ac­cus­ing her of speak­ing Rus­sian “with a coarse ac­cent.”

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For­mer fel­low Rus­sian player Elena De­men­tieva once said that Shara­pova “grew up in Amer­ica and trains there, so we don’t have any­thing in com­mon.” This week, Myskina waved the spat aside, say­ing she was happy to have Shara­pova on the team. “Definitely it’s very im­por­tant to have Maria on the team and I want to say thank you,” Myskina said. But af­ter the Fed Cup fi­nal, she de­clined to com­ment on Shara­pova’s pres­ence on the team.

“We lost. That’s the end of the story,” she said. Adding fuel to the fire, Czech me­dia said Shara­pova had shunned the rest of the team and stayed in a dif­fer­ent Prague ho­tel to the oth­ers. “Is that a se­ri­ous ques­tion? Next ques­tion,” Shara­pova snarled at a lo­cal re­porter when asked to com­ment.

On court, she was all smiles, and not only be­cause she won twice. “The team sup­ported me so well to­day,” she said. “I really felt like I would look over to them and ev­ery time they are stand­ing up and that’s the mean­ing of this event.” On Sun­day, her pre­vi­ous prob­lems ap­peared to be be­hind her with the star join­ing her team­mates for a post-fi­nal din­ner.

“Love my team,” tweeted team­mate Anas­ta­sia Pav­lyuchenkova who posted a photo of all the squad, name-check­ing the rest of the Rus­sian squad for good mea­sure. “Gir­lzzzz,” tweeted Shara­pova in re­ply. — AFP

— AFP

PRAGUE: Czech Repub­lic’s Fed Cup team play­ers (l-r) Tereza Smitkova, Lu­cie Sa­farova, Pe­tra Kvi­tova, Denisa Aller­tova, cap­tain Petr Pala, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, Karolina Pliskova and Lu­cie Hradecka pose with the tro­phy af­ter the In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion Fed Cup af­ter the In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion Fed Cup fi­nal match be­tween Czech Repub­lic vs Rus­sia in Prague.

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