Maria Sharapova -- the name has oomph and glamour attached to it. When the four-time grand slam champion showed up in New Delhi on Sunday there was that unmistaken mystique in the tennis majesty.
New Delhi: Maria Sharapova -- the name has oomph and glamour attached to it. When the four-time grand slam champion showed up in New Delhi on Sunday there was that unmistaken mystique in the tennis majesty.
The six-foot-two World No.2 Russian expectedly turned heads when she walked in with an air of elegance. It's her first visit to the one-billion-plus nation where, she herself admitted, she has countless fans. She didn't forget to talk of the dosa (pancake made from the batter of rice and black lentils) she had and how nice it tasted.
"It feels amazing to be here. It has taken me so long to get to India. I have tremendous amount of fans in this country and it feels great to get such a warm welcome. It has been a remarkable year for me and now I have a nice little break which has allowed me to come here," said Sharapova, who looked stunning wearing a blazer and a black skirt.
The 25-year-old, here to announce her partnership with UK-based real estate company Homestead, sported an infectious smile throughout the interaction even though the lensmen could not get to focus enough of capturing the blonde beauty.
"Well, it is just the hair and make-up you know. I don't wake up looking like this," quipped Sharapova when a scribe called her pretty.
Here only for a day, Sharapova said food and culture was something she would take back from India.
"I arrived last night and asked the chef what should I try of the Indian food. I had a dosa which tasted really nice. I wanted to have this great Indian experience. There is so much energy in the city, I have been in some quiet areas recently, resting. I really like the culture and people. You all have been really welcoming."
Asked she is looking at films and modelling as career options after tennis, the highest-paid women athlete said: "I really have no time for anything other than tennis now."
Sharapova promised to return to India soon and visit the Taj Mahal.
"This time it won't be possible (Agra visit). But as Christmas is round the corner, I would love to go to the market and get some souvenirs. I am sure my friends are going to expect something," she signed off.
Women's tennis icon Maria Sharapova Sunday said Sania Mirza was a great singles talent but it was right for the Indian to focus on doubles due to the demanding nature of the game.
"It takes so much both mentally and physically to play in two formats. It becomes difficult to give equal attention to singles and doubles," said Sharapova on her first visit to India.
The World No.2 recalled her on-court meetings with Sania, who has stopped playing singles owing to recurring knee problems.
"It has been long since we played but she was a great talent. I am really happy that she is doing well in doubles. It is hard to continue with both formats. Sometimes you got to choose one," said Sharapova, who played against Sania twice including the fourth round at 2005 US Open.
Sania is ranked 12th in doubles and 280th in singles.
She has an unenvious head-to-head record against Serena Williams but tennis' glam girl Maria Sharapova says rivalries not only light up the sport but also extract the best out of an athlete.
Of the 11 clashes she had with the American great, Maria lost a staggering nine matches, including twice at the Australian open and once at Wimbledon and most recently at the London Olympics finals.
"She is an incredible player and has achieved so much of success in her career. It is great to have rivalries in the sport. You are always working hard to do better than your competitor," said Sharapova.
The Russian is among one of the few athletes, who have repeated their success story after going into injury-forced hibernation.
The 25-year old made a great comeback this season as she went on to win the French Open to complete her career Slam and for the world No. 2, the win at the Roland Garros is one of most cherished ones.
"It is tough to differentiate. All my victories have come at a different time of my career," she said when asked which of the four Grand Slam victories she enjoyed the most.
"But the French Open this year will always remain close to my heart. I came into the tournament after a long injury lay-off. For the first time I realised how hard it was to get to the winning position and winning it," Sharapova added.
About her close encounters with Victoria Azarenka this season, the 25-year-old reiterated that it was important to have some tough competitions.
"As I told earlier, it is important to have rivalries in the sport. She is a tough opponent and I would look to do my best against her in the future," she said on the sidelines of a Steadfast promotional event.
(With PTI and IANS inputs)
Story first published on: Sunday, 11 November 2012 17:17