When 17-year-old Maria Sharapova advanced to the finals at Wimbledon, the most prestigious grass court tournament in the world, it was evidence of the growing force of Russian tennis and one of its most significant successes. None of the experts expected that such a young athlete who was only ranked 15th in the world could defeat the highly experienced Lindsay Davenport, an American who was ranked 5th in the world, in the semifinals. Similarly, Davenport, who has won Wimbledon and many other large tournaments, was sure that she would win. However, Sharapova was not distracted by her opponent's victories. Davenport won the first set 6-2. In the second and hardest fought set which was interrupted by rain, Sharapova broke the American and won, 7-6. Sharapova then dominated the third and deciding set, 6-1.
The Russian will face another American, Serena Williams, the queen of the grass court. But no matter what the outcome of the final is, Sharapova has already entered her name in more than a century of Wimbledon history as one of the brightest players. Incidentally, the young Russian already played in the finals at Wimbledon, though in a girls' tournament. In 2002, Sharapova lost to Vera Dushevina, another Russian. Nevertheless, experts were already paying attention to Sharapova and the uncommon fact that there were two Russians in the finals.
Now, it has become increasingly common for two Russians to face each other in the finals of big tennis tournaments. Less than a month ago, Anastasia Myskina and Elena Dementieva played in the finals of the French Open, the premier clay court tournament. On the way to the finals, the two Russians defeated such recognized tennis stars as Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Amelie Mauresmo. The 22-year-old Myskina won the French Open, which, as Wimbledon, is part of all four Grand Slam tournaments this year.
Russian tennis is currently on the rise. All of the successes in Russian men's tennis over the last few years were basically connected with Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov (already retired) who won Grand Slam tournaments and the Davis Cup. Russian women's tennis has a large group of young and talented players whose successes grow with each tournament. Currently there are three Russian players in top 10 of the Women's Tennis Association's rankings: Anastasia Myskina is ranked 3rd, Elena Dementieva is ranked 6th, and Svetlana Kuznetsova is ranked 10th. Vera Zvonareva, Nadezhda Petrova and the heroine of Wimbledon Maria Sharapova are all ranked in the top 20. Sharapova's ranking will undoubtedly increase because of her performance at Wimbledon. She will probably be ranked in the top 10. Regardless of if that happens or not, it is impressive that six of the 15 best players in the world are Russian. No other country is represented in the rankings like Russia. Now, tennis experts agree that the Russian female tennis team is one of the strongest in the world and that it is capable of winning the Federation Cup, an award given to the best tennis team in the world.
Russian tennis players are very skilled. At last year's Wimbledon, five Russian players were knocked out in the 3rd round. Young players like Elena Bovina, Dinara Safina (Marat's younger sister), Lina Krasnoroutskaya and Vera Dushevina are well-known in the tennis world. These talented players have already been victorious over many tennis stars. These girls' skill combined with diligence gives the hope that soon they will have similar successes to Myskina, Dementieva and Sharapova.