Maria Sharapova's meteoric rise to world No,1 is inspiring a new generation of Russian teen girls to head for the courts. "The phone has been ringing around the clock for registrations since mid-August," said Igor Volkov, a coach at Moscow's famous Spartak tennis academy.
The academy now has 190 places compared to around 30 in 1994 but, since Sharapova became the first Russian woman to top the WTA world rankings last month, they've had to turn eager teenagers away. "I would like to become as good as her and earn as much money as her," said 15-year-old Yuliya Livotova.
Sharapova, the blonde star with the top model looks, won Wimbledon last year aged just 17. Since then her advertising contracts have netted more than $US18 million , and by many accounts she has become the biggest earner in women's sport. Sharapova was born in Siberia but has been living in Florida since she was eight, is not the first Russian to popularise the sport.