Sharapova turns the tables

Rare is the athlete who can relate not only to those on the court during game time, but also to the friends and family watching from the stands.

Maria Sharapova is one such player who knows what it's like to be in the heat of battle and to be in the cheering section. That's because she's engaged to basketball star Sasha Vujacic, who was traded this season from the Los Angeles Lakers to the New Jersey Nets.

"There's no doubt that I've watched more basketball in the last couple of years than I have in all of my life," said Sharapova, smiling, after beating Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-3. "[I was] a lot more nervous in my life in those games that I've watched than I have been in my life.

"I think it's a lot easier to play."

With the Nets finished for the season, Vujacic has been able to take his turn on the sideline in support of Sharapova.

"It's been really nice because when he moved to Jersey, we didn't get to see each other that much," Sharapova said. "This trip kind of made up for it. You get to know a lot about the person by being with them every single day, which we hadn't really had in our whole relationship."

The Generation Debate

In Roger Federer's mind, trying to compare players from different generations is like trying to compare apples and oranges.

"Today we're more overall [players] because, I guess, we have to, because the conditions have slowed down," said Federer, who easily beat David Nalbandian of Argentina 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in the third round. "That allows us to maybe win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back. [It's] a bit more easier today than back in the day when you had grass court specialists, clay court specialists, indoor specialists, clay court specialists.

"Today everybody can play everywhere. That's the way the game has evolved, and we've adjusted to it."

Federer also pointed out that people haven't always been so complimentary to this generation's Big Four of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Federer.

"It's not fair to say that our generation is stronger," Federer said. "For many years many people said it's weaker just because there was only me, and then there was only Rafa and me. And now all of a sudden there's people talking about four. Now it's the best ever. This is where I disagree. It doesn't happen so quickly."

Looking For A Lefty

Djokovic is in the market for a southpaw as a practice buddy in advance of Monday's fourth-round match against Michael Llodra of France.

He's not at a loss as to who he'd like to tag for the job: John McEnroe. That will require enticing McEnroe to change out of his smart TV commentator suit.

"I did play with him," Djokovic said. "He didn't bring me much luck in Paris before that semifinal match [which Federer won]. I've played with him many times. He's a great champion. I admire him a lot. You know, anytime I can use the opportunity to hit with him, to have a chat with him, his advice is very useful."

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