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Russian squadron threaten Williams' Wimbledon monopoly
June 29, 2003

The Williams' sisters recent monopoly on the singles title at Wimbledon is set to come under siege this week from the new wave of Russian stars pushing their way in to the women's game.

Five of the 16 players left in the women's draw hail from Russia and two of them will attempt to prevent Serena and Venus, who between them have won the last three singles' titles here, from moving into the quarter-finals.

Of the two, Venus looks the more vulnerable as she attempts to take revenge over Vera Zvonareva, the 18-year-old she lost to at the same stage in the French Open earlier this month. That loss, and her recent eclipse by Serena, had led some to question whether Venus's appetite for tennis was on the wane. But that is a suggestion she has dismissed here, both with her performances and the attitude she has displayed in the press room.

"I work a lot harder when I haven't had the results," she warned after ending the hopes of another young Russian, Nadia Petrova, in the third round.

Younger sister Serena will be confident of seeing off the challenge of Elena Dementieva, a player she has yet to encounter on the women's tour.

"I've never played her but I have seen her a lot. She has a great return and I'm going to have to make sure I'm serving well."

Although Dementieva is the 15th seed here and, as a former top 10 player, the most experienced of the Russian contingent, there is no doubt about which of them is generating the most excitement.

Maria Sharapova was already the darling of the Wimbledon photographers, but she displayed a ruthless streak to match her killer looks as she swept aside Jelena Dokic, the 11th seed, 6-4, 6-4, in the third round on Saturday.

After setting up a fourth round clash against fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sharapova gave the world's media a glimpse of the competitive drive that has carried her so far, so young.

"When I come into a tournament I am expecting to win, that is my philosophy," said the 16-year-old.

"I cannot go to a tournament thinking I am going to get my ass kicked today, so I might as well leave.

"Yes I am surprised to be here but I always knew one day it would come and all the hard work would pay off. This is reality.

"When I stepped out on Court One today, I was just like 'I'm not going to give her a chance.' I want to be a winner, today on this court, right now."

Sharapova was joined in the fourth round by top seed and defending champion Serena Williams, who eased past compatriot and 28th seed Laura Granville 6-3, 6-1 with what she said was her best performance so far.

"Definitely, if I'd played like I did in the first two rounds it would have been a lot closer today," the world number one said.

The Russian contingent is made up of by Anastasia Myskina, who will face eighth seed Jennifer Capriati.

Sharapova, who left Russia at the age of nine to hone her skills in the United States, has no doubt about the reason why so many Russian girls have emerged in recent years.

"They work that extra hour at the end of the day. If someone has a talent they know that they can achieve it by working hard," she said.

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