Russian teenager Maria Sharapova continued to bewitch seasoned tennis journalists in her march through the women's draw at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
The 6-foot tall blonde beauty showed enormous grit in her 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 victory over Japan's Ai Sugiyama, which propels her into a semifinal meeting Wednesday with American Lindsay Davenport, the tournament's 1999 champion. It was Sharapova's first real challenge after cruising through her first four matches without dropping a set, and she seemed stunned that she managed to turn around the match.
Sugiyama was indefatigable in the first two sets, running down balls that Sharapova felt were winners time and again. Trailing in the second set, Sharapova changed tactics and stepped in closer on Sugiyama's serve. She also came to the net more than she customarily does, and her aggression paid off.
While Sharapova's play drew well-earned kudos, her stunning looks and graceful carriage have drawn an ardent following and fawning commentary.
Photographers sent out to chronicle Sharapova's matches now refer to the assignment as "Babewatch," a British newspaper reported. One veteran Italian journalist, asked what he was writing about on Tuesday, replied: "The beautiful Sharapova! I must write an ode to her!"
Meantime, Davenport has rolled into the semifinals almost without notice, which is how the veteran prefers it.
In what is likely her final Wimbledon, Davenport has dominated her matches, failing to drop a set, and is enjoying a favorable draw. On Tuesday she easily handled the precocious Croat Karolina Sprem, 6-2, 6-2. Sprem had toppled No. 3 seed Venus Williams, No. 32 seed Meghann Shaughnessy and No. 21 seed Magdalena Maleeva.
Davenport, who's two inches taller and 11 years older than Sharapova, has never faced the Russian but they have one thing in common: Both were coached by Robert Lansdorp.
"He had a huge influence on my game, especially the years I was developing my shots and my strokes," Davenport said. "He's the one that really molded my game in that regard."
Serena Skirts the Issue
It's rare that Serena Williams takes a backseat to anyone in matters of fashion, particularly on the tennis court. But Wimbledon was abuzz Tuesday over the ensemble sported by Williams's opponent, 16-year-old Tatiana Golovin of France.
It consisted of a snug sleeveless top that stopped well shy of hip-hugging microshorts that were about as substantial as a rubber band.
Williams revealed afterward that her own fashion sense had been restrained by Wimbledon's strict dress code. "I had something really, really super sexy, but they wouldn't let me wear it," Williams said, declining requests to describe it. "Maybe they'll let me wear it next year."