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Ruthless Sharapova reveals gold ambition

January 19, 2012 12:50 IST

Russia's golden girl Maria Sharapova spent only 64 minutes disposing of an American qualifier to reach the third round of the Australian before setting her mind on a life-long goal to win a medal for Russia at the Olympics.

With three Grand Slams, 24 WTA titles and $16 million in prize-money, Florida resident Sharapova has ticked most boxes on a player's dream CV but was crushed to miss out on the 2008 Beijing Games because of a shoulder injury.

Back in the top five after suffering a succession of debilitating injuries in recent years, Sharapova is confident her fitness woes are behind her and will be at the vanguard of Russia's campaign to rise to the top of the medal standings.

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"This year is a big year for me because I'll be playing in the Olympics, which has been a dream of mine since I was a young girl," the 24-year-old told reporters after thrashing Jamie Hampton 6-0, 6-1.

"Growing up in Russia, tennis wasn't a big sport back then. It was all about being an Olympian, especially the winter sports.

Maria Sharapova"Fortunately we've been able to change that a little bit and tennis has become extremely popular back in Russia.

"Overall, I was extremely disappointed I missed Beijing. This year, to have a long grass court season, will be fun."

On the grass-courts of Wimbledon, host venue for the Olympic tennis tournament, the tall Russian will be out to emulate compatriot Elena Dementieva, who defeated fellow Russian Dinara Safina in the final at Beijing.

Sharapova is likely to compete against the cream of women's tennis at the Games, where the lure of the sport's spiritual home and the chance to accrue WTA ranking points have given the tournament added weight.

The Russian may fancy her medal chances at the All England Club, where she stunned Serena Williams to win Wimbledon as a 17-year-old, provided her injury-prone body stays trouble-free.

At Melbourne Park on Thursday, Sharapova hardly needed have worried about testing her physical limits against Hampton, notching up an identical scoreline to the one she enjoyed in her first round thrashing of Argentine Gisela Dulko.

The blonde world number four will next face 30th seeded German Angelique Kerber, who won 7-5, 6-1 over Canada's Stephanie Dubois.

Having described Dulko as her "toughest" opponent after that one-sided romp, Sharapova put in another bid for a gold medal in diplomacy after her match against Hampton.

"A few of those games she was up 40-15 and I came back," Sharapova said. "Those are tough games because you put yourself in a position where you have to pull through."


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