Sharapova – Russian top seed, ready for new success

She reigns on billboards, she reigns in the rankings, and now Maria Sharapova gets one more chance in 2005 to reign on a Grand Slam court.

Sharapova, whose dazzling looks and steely determination have made her a star who transcends her sport, heads into the US Open this week as the top seed thanks to her ascent to the world number one ranking last Monday - Lindsay Davenport subsequently regained the number ranking after making it into the semi-finals at the WTA event in Conneticut.

The 18-year-old became the fifth-youngest woman to claim the world number one ranking and the first Russian woman to achieve the feat, reports IOL.

The Russian top seed, who has been promoting her personalized perfume brand, dress and watch in New York, faces a tricky first round match with Greece's Eleni Daniilidou in the night session in the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium.

World number 62 Daniilidou upset French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne in the Wimbledon first round in June and the match sets the stage for one of the most open women's singles at a grand slam for many years.

"Most of the top players are playing, aren't they?" said Sharapova who has never been beyond round three at Flushing Meadows.

"That's makes it even tougher but that's what it's all about. That's why we're here, for the competition. I love it when it gets tough."

Sharapova lost her number one ranking after only one week at the top when Lindsay Davenport reclaimed top spot with her title in New Haven on Saturday.

"If I can have it for an hour, for a week, just the fact that you're number one is an amazing feeling," said the 18-year-old Florida-based Siberian.

"It's something that I've worked my butt off over the last years and something that I've wanted to achieve ever since I started playing tennis."

Like several of the leading women, Sharapova suffered an injury - to her pectoral muscle - in the lead-up to the hard court grand slam.

She shrugs it off, saying: "I was playing with a terrible back at the Australian Open and I got to the semi-finals thinking that I couldn't even walk. Thinking about that, this is a piece of cake," informs Reuters.

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