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When Karan Rastogi beat Sharapova
Deepti Patwardhan |
June 17, 2005 12:01 IST
Last Updated: June 18, 2005 17:41 IST
Karan Rastogi may still be a long way from entering the Grand Slams, but the 18-year-old Mumbai resident can already claim to have beaten a Wimbledon champion.
Karan is talented and proud. He just won't lose to a girl, even if she is the reigning women's Wimbledon champion, and tennis' latest glamour queen.
Normally guys would line-up to catch a glimpse of the Russian beauty, but the time she returned to the Nick Bolliteiri Academy of Tennis in Florida after being crowned Wimbledon champ, even male players kept away from her. Maria Sharapova across the net, with a tennis racquet in her hand, was no fun.
But Karan played the champion. And beat her 6-2, 6-2.
"I also played a match with Sharapova before the US Open last year," he said. "She had actually beaten one of the guys, so everyone was really nervous playing her."
"Her dad Yuri and she ended up having a fight after that match (with Karan)," he recalls. "She had just come back from Wimbledon so her dad was really upset."
It was not the first time he had got the better of Sharapova, who was always hailed as a prodigy at the Academy. The Indian teenager admits he owes some of his success in Florida to the Russian teenager, even though they were not close. "I hardly ever talked to her. It was always 'hi, hello.' That's it. She always had that 'I'm a star' air about her," he adds.
Says Karan's father Rahul: "When we went to the Bolliteiri Academy on an IMG (International Management Group) contract four years ago, obviously, everything was new and strange. IMG had a scout to watch Karan there, but he didn't know about it because they didn't want to make him nervous and wanted to see how he progresses."
"They put him on the basic training programme first," says Rahul Rastogi. "But the first day itself he impressed everyone."
Karan was put to the test in the second week itself. He was asked to play a practice match with Sharapova, who, at 14, was already something of a star.
"Karan casually told me he had to play some girl. I didn't know who Sharapova was either. But people around were talking about her and, instantly, I understood that she was someone (special)," remembers Rahul.
"The first game, he didn't know what was happening. She was banging the ball so hard. He lost the game, but then the male ego came in: 'How can I lose to a girl?'"
"Then he started playing well. They also had an argument over a point. Maria's father and I had to intervene and end the fight."
Karan won the set 6-2.
"But at 6-2, 1-0 in the second set, her dad dragged her off the court."
After the game, the players have to report results to their respective group coaches. The coach was impressed when Karan told her he won the set 6-2 against Sharapova. Till then she hadn't lost to any boy in her age group. The coaches rewarded Karan by switching him to an advanced course immediately.
A semi-finalist in the boys' singles at last year's Australian Open, Karan turned pro in late 2004 and climbed to 591 in the ATP rankings. He is looking to make a Grand Slam entry in two years.
A couple of higher-ranked men's scalps will sure do a world of good for his confidence.
Photo: Jewella C Miranda