LOS ANGELES, July 2, 2003 —
The Tennis Channel presents an exclusive, off-the-court look at 16-year-old Russian tennis sensation Maria Sharapova, in "Maria Sharapova: No Strings," Sunday, July 13, at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.
Groomed for success since moving from Russia to the U.S. seven years ago, Sharapova was the surprise of this year's Wimbledon championships, advancing to the women's singles fourth round in her first appearance in the main draw at the All England Club. Competing as an unseeded wildcard, Sharapova's efforts on the game's most famous grass courts included upset victories over 11th seeded Yugoslavian Jelena Dokic and fellow Russian Elena Bovina, the 21st seed.
"Maria Sharapova: No Strings" gives viewers an inside look at one of the tennis world's rising young stars, as seen through the eyes of friends, family and world-renowned coaches Nick Bollettieri, Ken Matsuda and Robert Lansdorp, the latter having coached a once up-and-coming Tracy Austin to stardom. Sharapova also takes viewers inside her world through a video autobiography, where the teen tennis star talks directly to viewers using her own camcorder - no camera crews, no parents and no handlers. It is in these personal moments where viewers get to see her go from ruthless competitor on the court to a teenage girl that is just like any one else her age.
Often compared to fellow Russian Anna Kournikova because of her rapid rise through the junior ranks and popularity with photographers, the attractive and charming Sharapova is characterized as an intimidator on the court, with high-decibel shrieks and grunts to go with her solid ground strokes, quickness and power.
"She is a money player and has world class ground strokes," says veteran Southern California-based coach Lansdorp, who, in addition to Sharapova and Austin, has previously helped refine the games of talents such as Pete Sampras and Lindsay Davenport. "She's very competitive and has all the ingredients you like to see in a student."
Adds advisor Bollettieri, who runs the tennis academy where Sharapova has lived since she was nine years old, "She's a young girl, but she's probably three, four or five years ahead of most people. In fact, her work ethic is now equal to the best professionals."
"Maria Sharapova: No Strings" is the third installment of the network's first original series, "No Strings." Each 30-minute episode features an intimate look at the lifestyles of professional tennis players off the court. The series premiered May 25 with "Pete Sampras: No Strings," taking a rare and behind-the-scenes glimpse into the life of the game's all-time Grand Slam champion. The second installment focused on women's tennis star Corina Morariu and her battle with leukemia.
"Maria Sharapova is on course to become one of the next great women's tennis players and we're thrilled that she would allow us such an up-close look at her life," says The Tennis Channel President and Founder Steve Bellamy. "It's incredible to see how hard she has worked to get this point while still maintaining that teenage innocence."
"When we first approached Maria about this project last year, we knew she was going to become a star within women's tennis in the near future," recalls Bruce Rider, The Tennis Channel executive vice president of programming and marketing and executive producer. "The 'No Strings' series is designed to give tennis fans unparalleled access to the game's top players as well as the stars of tomorrow, and we're thrilled to telecast this episode as she's riding that wave of success."
The Tennis Channel's "Maria Sharapova: No Strings" episode was produced by Krista Saponara.
Future episodes in the "No Strings" series will focus individually on tennis's top players, traveling with them on the road, hanging out at home, relaxing at play, and just doing activities they enjoy. The series offers unparalleled access to the players off the court, providing insight into the demands and rewards of the sport, the diverse aspects of each player's life and what makes each of them a unique individual as well as a world-class athlete. Subsequent episodes will focus on rising American talents Brian Vahaly and Taylor Dent, as well as three-time Grand Slam winner Lindsay Davenport and highly-touted U.S. star Andy Roddick, who many expect to succeed Sampras as America's best male player.
The Tennis Channel ( www.thetennischannel.com ) is a 24-hour cable television network devoted to tennis and other racquet sports that provides unparalleled coverage of the game, its elite championships and superstar athletes. The network features comprehensive coverage of major tournaments including ATP Tour, WTA Tour, Fed Cup, Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and Hyundai Hopman Cup competition and the European tournaments of the Tennis Masters Series. The network also showcases instruction from the finest teachers, legendary matches, in-depth profiles of the greatest players, analysis and news, the latest on equipment and tennis getaways.