Youngster Snigur eager to emulate idol Maria Sharapova


Dubai: She’s only 17 and Daria Snigur wants to emulate her childhood hero Maria Sharapova as she made a strong debut at this week’s 22nd Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge being played at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa.

The Kiev-born Snigur — who has travelled to this $100,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event for the first time — grew up adoring the Russian tennis star Sharapova. Snigur is one of the top juniors already with a career-high ranking of No. 2 on the ITF Juniors at the end of October.

In July, she turned heads at Wimbledon when defeating American Alexa Noel 6-4, 6-4 for her first Grand Slam win, while becoming only the second junior champion from Ukraine at the event after Kateryna Bondarenko. Earlier in the season, she made it to the semi-finals of the junior Australian Open and quarter-finals at Roland Garros.

“I simply feel I can get better and better every time I play against anyone who is senior to me,” Snigur told Gulf News after reaching the quarter-finals on Wednesday. “I won my first junior Grand Slam and I am now No. 2. Nothing is impossible for me.”

Born on March 27, 2002, Snigur started playing tennis on her dad Sergey’s advice when she was just seven. By then, her hero Sharapova had already won three of her five singles Grand Slam crowns — Wimbledon (2004), US Open (2006) and the Australian Open (2008). “Since very early on in life I have been taught that tennis is my full-time profession and I have taken this seriously from the start. I know only tennis and I want to be the best I can, just like Sharapova,” Snigur said. “One day I would love to meet her [Sharapova] and chat with her. I wouldn’t like to ask her anything about tennis, but what I would like to know from her is how she lives her life. I love her game. I love the way she plays it, and I love her character. That is of genuine interest to me. Everyone can play tennis, but Sharapova plays the game differently and one day I hope to do better than her.

However, there is only tiny detail that Snigur wants to be wary of as she goes on in her career of choice. “I want to be healthy. I want to be injury free. If I can stay without injuries I know I can achieve a lot,” she said.

“My goal is to enjoy my moments on court, be it during practice or when I am playing. If I can just stick to my game while taking one match at a time, then I know I will automatically go up the rankings. Time alone will tell how I will fare here this week or how I will do on the Tour. It’s not going to be easy, but I am ready for the battles ahead.”

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