Melbourne, Jan 25: Maria Sharapova on Sunday said she sympathised with her Australian Open quarter-final opponent Eugenie Bouchard over constant hype labelling her "the new Sharapova".
After all, argued the 27-year-old Russian, she is still fielding comparisons with Anna Kournikova despite winning five Grand Slams since her breakthrough at Wimbledon more than a decade ago.
Sharapova, the second seed at Melbourne Park this year as she chases a second Australian title, said all 20-year-old Bouchard could do was remain true to herself.
"When I was coming up, I was compared to Kournikova for many years in my career," said Sharapova, who routed Chinese 21st seed Peng Shuai 6-3, 6-0 to set up a final eight clash with Bouchard.
"Still occasionally the name always comes up in interviews and articles. That's just part of the game, part of the business. It's understandable.
"As I said when I was still a teenager 'I don't want to be the next anyone. I want to be the first Maria Sharapova".
"That's how I've been throughout my whole career. And we all want to create our own path and go through our own career."
Florida-based Sharapova is the world's wealthiest female athlete, with lucrative endorsements pushing her earnings in the tens of millions annually.
Canada's Bouchard, seeded seventh, is similarly photogenic and has been tipped as tennis' next big thing after reaching the Wimbledon final and the semi at the Australian and French Opens last year.
Sharapova said she was not well acquainted with Bouchard, who is already a superstar in her homeland, but could see similarities in their games.
"I personally don't know Genie very well (but) as a tennis player she's a big competitor," she said.
"She's an aggressive player as well that likes to take the ball early and dictate points. From that perspective, yeah, definitely." AFP