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Rediff.com  » Sports » Mental edge sets Sharapova apart: Dementieva

Mental edge sets Sharapova apart: Dementieva

By Larry Fine
September 04, 2005 02:45 IST
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Elena Dementieva, last year's U.S. Open runner-up, says top seed Maria Sharapova stands out among the large contingent of Russian players by the way she handles pressure.

"That's the huge difference between her (Sharapova) and other Russian players, she can handle all the pressure around her," Dementieva told reporters after beating countrywoman Anna Chakvetadze 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 in the third round on Saturday.

"She (Sharapova) is not afraid to play. I mean, she really enjoys it."

The 18-year-old Sharapova last month became the first Russian woman to go to number one in the world rankings but has now slipped to number two behind American Lindsay Davenport.

Sharapova burst to prominence last year by winning Wimbledon and followed up by reaching the semi-finals at the Australian Open, the last eight at the French Open and the semis at Wimbledon 2005.

Anastasia Myskina, who became the first Russian woman to win a grand slam at the 2004 French Open, and Svetlana Kuznetsova, last year's U.S. Open champion, failed to defend their respective titles.

Myskina and Kuznetsova became the first defending champions at those grand slam events to lose in the opening round the following year.

VERY DIFFICULT

"It's very difficult to defend and play with all this pressure," said sixth seed Dementieva.

Sharapova has the temperament to deal with pressure and is helped by living and practising in the United States, she added.

"I think practising here really helps her to become a very strong mental player," said Dementieva.

"We (in Russia) talk a lot about techniques, some different aspects of the game. But we don't have good mental trainers or some mental programmes that can really help us to play under the pressure.

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"I think she has a different mentality. She's much tougher."

Dementieva came back from 3-0 down in the third set to level the decider before winning the tiebreak 7-5 against the 18-year-old Chakvetadze.

Eleventh seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, a 6-1, 6-3 winner over Shinobu Asagoe of Japan, will play Dementieva in round four.

Myskina, seeded 13, lost her third-round match here against fellow Russian Elena Likhovtseva 0-6, 6-3, 7-6.
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Larry Fine
Source: REUTERS
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