MOSCOW -- Russian newspapers on Monday hailed the 2004 Wimbledon
champion as "Maria, Queen of England" and crowned Sharapova the savior of
Russia's sports reputation after the soccer team's dismal showing
at the European Championships.
Her Saturday defeat of Serena Williams was the prime front-page
news in the newspaper Sovietsky Sport, with the Euro 2004 final
between Greece and Portugal played small at the bottom despite
Russia's intense interest in soccer.
"Ave Maria, Ole Russia," the headline intoned, invoking the
soccer cheer that Russians had little chance to use this year.
"Beautiful Masha. She became the first Russian to win the
world's most prestigious tennis tournament," echoed the
respected Kommersant, according to Reuters. "Russian tennis achieved its biggest success on Saturday,"
wrote the business daily in its front-page editorial.
Sport-Ekspress gave the soccer story more text, but only below a
four-inch blare of boldface reading "Sharapova."
"The tennis player who has lived half of her 17 years in
America, won Russia its first Wimbledon," the newspaper noted.
Sharapova moved to Florida from her Siberian birthplace, but
that apparently hasn't discouraged Russians from regarding her as
one of their own -- a new entry in Russia's long list of sports
The newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets hinted at a revival of the
political superpower status that vanished with the Soviet Union's
collapse. A front-page headline punning on the similarity of the
Russian words for "missile" and "racket," referred to Sharapova
as one of the "Intercontinental rackets protecting the honor of
Russia from its soccer players."
This was Russia's second major tennis triumph in a month:
Anastasia Myskina won the French Open in June, defeating
countrywoman Elena Dementieva.
Komsomolskaya Pravda also played up the power angle, showing a
photo of Sharapova shouting victoriously with an inset of Williams
lying with a grimace on the grass court after lunging for one of
the Russian's shots.
"Maria suggested Serena Williams take a rest for the next
year," the photo caption read.
"Nobody bet on Maria but she won the super tournament as
well as a million dollars," said popular tabloid, according to a Reuters report on Monday.
Even the sober-sided government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta
gave Sharapova front-page attention, calling her victory "a
Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.