Maria mania grips Flushing Meadows

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The last grand slam of the year, the US Open, begins today.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:09 IST
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The last grand slam of the year, the US Open, begins today. In the women's draw, world number one Justin Henin-Hardenne has been given the top seeding. Maria mania But when it comes to grabbing the headlines, the Belgian may have to give way to a lady ranked six places below - Maria Sharapova – who comes to Flushing Meadows amid what many are calling "Maria mania". Just 17-years-of-age, Maria has replaced fellow-Russian, Anna Kournikova as the new darling of tennis. A Siberian by birth, but a long-term resident of Florida, she's got more than enough talent with the Wimbledon crown in her bag. So there'll be no shortage of support for her at Flushing Meadows. "I am very excited. I'm looking forward to it. There are a lot of expectations after winning Wimbledon and now going into the other grand slam," she says. Sponsors galore But that carefree attitude may soon evaporate. After her victory at Wimbledon, Sharapova's attracted vast amounts of sponsorship. Those backers will count on her making it to at least the final stages here. The seventh seed starts her campaign with a meeting against American Laura Granville. But there's also No. 1 Justine Henin Hardenne to watch out for after her crushing gold win at the Olympics.

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