MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova has backed the super-coach trend that will see two of her rivals tapping into the knowledge of grand slam champions at the Australian Open.
Sixth seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska has taken on 18-times grand slam title winner Martina Navratilova, while up-and-coming American Madison Keys has former world number one and three-time major winner Lindsay Davenport as a mentor.
The appointments follow the development of a number of high-profile partnerships in the men’s game, with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all taking on multiple former grand slam winners.
Sharapova has swapped a few coaches in recent years but has been working with Dutchman Sven Groeneveld since late 2013, a career coach who has mentored a number of top players but had no notable success as a player.
“Well, I think from experience-wise, there’s no better person that can help you in certain situations as a coach, as a motivator, as someone that just has been there, done that,” Sharapova told reporters at Melbourne Park on Saturday.
“I think it’s great to see. I think it’s always nice when you’ve been through a career and you have the opportunity or you have the desire to share it with other players, to share your knowledge and experience.
“I think it’s great.”
In contrast to last year’s tournament, the re-energized Russian enters the year’s first grand slam in peak condition and great form after winning the warmup Brisbane International with a hard-fought victory over former world number one Ana Ivanovic in the final.
With a career grand slam of major titles and a sweet-making business, the 27-year-old was asked whether she might rather stay home and drink wine rather than grind hard on the tour.
She dismissed the idea.
“I’m starting from scratch. I’m hungry. I’m determined to do
better,” said 2008 champion Sharapova, who was dumped from the last 16 by eventual finalist Dominika Cibulkova last year after missing the back end of the previous season due to injury.
“I lost in the fourth round here. That’s not a result I want. I want to do much better. I’m here to try to win the title.
“I don’t know if I’d be drinking wine. Maybe a sangria actually.
“But when you’re holding the trophy, God, you can have as many sangrias as you want and you’re in it. So that sounds a lot better.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty