Maria Sharapova knows the pitfalls of being a prodigy and after easing into the fourth round at Roland Garros on Friday the seasoned grand slam champion offered some sage advice to the new generation in women's tennis.
The French Open defending champion, seeded second, showed all her maturity when she beat Australian 26th seed Samantha Stosur 6-3, 6-4 to stay on course for a possible third Roland Garros title, 11 years after winning Wimbledon as a teenager.
Since then, several players have been dubbed 'the new Sharapova', including Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, whose rapid rise up the rankings last year drew obvious comparisons with the glamorous Russian. Bouchard, however, has been struggling to back it up this year. She lost her opening match at Roland Garros, has now lost eight of her last nine matches, and Sharapova understands what she is going through.
"To be in a position where you have done extremely well, and you've gotten really good results, you've proved you belong to the top, sometimes that takes a little while," said Sharapova. "I had a very tough experience winning. I mean, of course, I won (Wimbledon) when I was 17 years old and, all of a sudden, I thought I should be able to win every single match. It took me a while to realise that that's just not the reality of things."
Sharapova, who has won at least one WTA title every year since 2003, has survived some tough times. Shoulder problems sent her plummeting down the rankings and she failed to win a major between 2008 and 2012, the year of her first Roland Garros title. In that time, she learned to be patient and took care in choosing the people she wanted around her. "For me, the most important thing was nothing to do with tennis because I knew that I was still developing my game."
"It was rather to do with the people I surrounded myself with, who were able to make smart decisions for me. At that age it's tough. You have so many opportunities and they are so much fun, especially at a young age."
"To be part of great events and meet stars and to be part of a Vogue photo shoot, those are really cool things for a young girl and I did enjoy them. But, I think, at the end of it all, the thing that got me to that position was winning tennis matches."
On Friday, Sharapova showed she can still get her hands dirty on a tennis court. She fought for each point against Stosur, a runner-up in 2010 and twice a semi-finalist, wearing down the Aussie with her sheer tenacity and aggression.
The five-time Grand Slam champion will take on Czech 13th seed Lucie Safarova for a quarter-final spot.