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Russia’s grunting darling: inspiration incarnate

Tennis star Maria Sharapova may not have won the Wimbledon cup this year despite a great fight, but she is nevertheless an inspiration for an entire generation of young Russian players.

­Tennis is the 24-year-old player's greatest passion, though she attracts worldwide attention for her striking looks as much as her sporting prowess. And though she failed to beat her opponent Petra Kvitova – still, she made it to the Wimbledon final, the biggest tennis tournament of them all, once more.

"It is a great feeling. It has been many years but it is a really great feeling. Today wasn't my best match of the Championships. I was really happy to get through in two sets. But yeah, it is pretty amazing to be back on that stage," Maria confessed after her semi-final victory.

Since her win at Wimbledon in 2004, “Maria Mania” has turned Sharapova into a star off the court as well. On beaches and catwalks, she has joined the hall of fame of jaw-dropping Russian tennis women.

But she only wants to talk about the tennis.

“I just told myself to take it one point at a time and really focus and I felt like I got in my zone,” she stated.

RT went down to one of Moscow’s toughest young tennis tournaments to find out how locals rate the superstar. The club here claims to be the home of tomorrow’s star players.

So what do these young Russians think of their compatriot’s example.

“I think she’s very positive. And not everyone could have such patience. Patience is vital in tennis,” thinks a young tennis player Sofia Esterman.

“I’ve always liked her, even when I was very young. I started playing because I wanted to be like her. And now people are telling me I’m playing like her,” another young tennis star Maria Klein is proud of her resemblance to her renowned namesake.   

“I find very strong inspiration from her. I really like the way she plays. She has very good technique. She always fights until the end and never gives up,” states a third young tennis professional, Yan Ermak.

One thing nobody can ignore about Sharapova is that grunt, or scream. Whatever you call it, RT team decided to sample some of Russia’s future grunting talent. Can they compete?

One of stars this club has turned out is Katerina Popova. She was ranked 80th in world under 18 rankings. But she forged her career in Russia. Sharapova has been in America since she was seven. Does that not lessen her inspirational value?

“Well, she speaks Russian, she is a Russian, what else do you need to be Russian?” questions Katerina Popova.

It seems the locals in the know are still cheering for their hero on the grass courts of Wimbledon. No matter what language she grunts in.