Sharapova serves up for Sochi 2014

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova has taken time out from her Wimbledon preparations to promote Sochi's bid for the 2014 Olympics. She's held a masterclass for youngsters near London's famous Tower Bridge.

The court was decorated with winter symbols and the symbol of Sochi, Russia's blach sea resort. The show was followed by a photo session and a press conference.

Wimbledon starts on Monday and Sharapova, who grew up in Sochi, is one of the favourites.

“Sochi has a big place in my heart, it's where I spent probably five or six years of my life and I still have all my family back there. It's an amazing place and something I feel very close to. It's a beautiful place to have a Winter Olympics in 2014 and to be the face and ambassador of it is a dream come true,” Maria said.

Her young tennis playmates were clearly impressed by meeting their idol.

“I thought: wow! I am actually going to play with Maria Sharapova,” said Christabelle Allen, young tennis player

The organisers say Sharapova's high profile support is invaluable.

“Of course she is a great promoter of our bid. The fact that she has come here, just so very close to Wimbledon tournament, it illustrates her personal passion,” said Dmitry Chernyshenko, CEO of Sochi 2014.

The federal government has approved an $US 11.7 BLN plan to develop the Sochi region as a year round vacation destination.

With just 12 days to go until the International Olympic Committee makes its decision, the Governor of the Krasnodar region, where Sochi is located, says excitement is in the air.

“Of course we are very excited. But there is a lot of work ahead: construction of infrastructure, building of bridges, telecom it’s all very important and necessary -  to make our resort convenient not only for summer but also for winter sports. It’s got all the potential and that’s what we want to do,” shared Aleksandr Tkachyov, the Governor of Krasnodar region of Russia.