This photo shows that at least these three Russian players are getting along just fine.
(In photo: Dinara Safina, Elena Vesnina and Maria Sharapova via sports.ru)
Russia was 1-1 with Israel when Maria Sharapova won her second rubber match beating Israel’s star Shahar Peer 6-1, 6-1. Then Anna Chakvetadze defeated Tsipi Obziler 6-4, 6-2 despite the hostile crowd. The win was sealed by Russia’s Elena Vesnina and Dinara Safina who overcame Israel’s Obziler and Peer 6-0, 1-6, 6-4 in doubles.
Israeli fans were out of control. During Anna Chakvetadze’s match they were booing her and even calling balls out during some points. Chakvetadze used the taunting to her advantage and later accused the Israeli fans of having a lack of respect towards the players. “I expected the crowd to be noisy, but not like that,” she told reporters. “Maybe they thought they came to a soccer match.”
Maria Sharapova also got some “love” from Israeli fans. In the second set of her first match the crowd began imitating the famous grunts she makes on each shot as she hits the ball. But not only did Sharapova ignore the mimicking, she even said afterwards that it inspired her and she loved “the craziness of the Israeli fans.” Check out the video of it. It is quite entertaining:-)
However, it looks like Russia’s captain Shamil Tarpischev doesn’t find it entertaining at all. He has filed a complaint against the umpires and the officials of the tie citing that they did very little to control the crowd. “It felt as if we were playing in the zoo,” Tarpischev told in an interview with Sport-Express. He was also unhappy about the fact that the organizers have oversold the tickets, and the guests of the Russian team were left without seats.
Tennis player interviews are entertaining. Whether they like communicating with the press or not, these Q&A sessions often give us some glimpse of into the character of each athlete. However, occasionally the players have to answer quite inappropriate questions.
Many people admire, but don’t necessarily like Maria Sharapova. In addition to her tennis talent, I must admit that she has humor, wit and intelligence (unlike Mr. Sharapov) and knows how to deal with sometimes very annoying questions. Masha is in Israel now getting ready for her first Fed Cup debut for Russia. During the press conference, most of the questions were directed to Sharapova. One Israeli reporter was particularly persistent. Read more »
In an interview with Russia Today, Russia’s Fed Cup team captain Shamil Tarpischev told that Maria Sharapova had agreed (finally!) to play for Russia in the opening tie with Israel. The list of the team players will be finalized during the Australian Open, ten days before the start of the tie. Russia begins the defense of its Fed Cup title against newly-promoted Israel in the first round of the 2008 Fed Cup on 2-3 February. It will be played in Canada Stadium in Ramat Hasharon.
This would be Sharapova’s first appearance for her native country. She has been strongly criticized by Russian tennis officials for her decision not to play for the team, every time citing various reasons for the rejection. Russia’s Fed Cup teammates have also questioned the motives of Sharapova who attended the final against Italy to show her support. Earlier in fall, Tarpischev told the Russian media if Maria wants to play in Beijing Olympics, she has to play for Russia.
It looks like if Maria manages to stay injury-free by February, the Russian fans finally will have their chance to cheer for Masha and Mother Russia!
(Photo by Leonid Zinkevich, from l. - Anna Chakvetadze, Elena Vesnina, Nadia Petrova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, d/k, Maria Sharapova, and Fed Cup team Captain Shamil Tarpischev)