Sharapova: Attitude, not money matters
Maria Sharapova says young players need to show plenty of endeavour
Maria Sharapova is convinced that even the wealthy Lawn Tennis Association will struggle to produce champions if young players possess the wrong attitude or lack sound guidance.
The 26-year-old, who won Wimbledon at the age of 17, claims only the most headstrong of prospects can turn natural talent into achievement at a professional level and warned that "it's really easy to not make it". Sharapova is certain that federations pouring money into elite-level coaching need to have reservoirs of patience as well as deep pockets.
The LTA last year spent a fraction under Â£30million encouraging participation in tennis. Sharapova said: "I think we talk about it every single year here. You get a lot of questions about, 'Why is our generation...' or 'Why are girls and boys from our country not doing extremely well right now?'. Well, it's because it doesn't all happen in one night."
The Russian went on: "Just because you have money and you have the best people and the best training in the world, doesn't create or make talent in one or two days or a month or a year. It takes a really long time. I think there are a lot of federations that have a lot of money. I'm sure the LTA is one of them."
If fledgling players are not prepared to scrap for the prospect of a well-rewarded career at the beginning of their tennis lives, Sharapova is certain their destiny is failure. She said: "If you're talented and you don't have work ethic or you're not placed in the right hands, it's really easy to not make it. That's the bottom line."
There have been signs of progress in Britain, with Laura Robson and Heather Watson making sound progress up the women's rankings and Andy Murray maintaining his place in the elite bracket on the men's side. But Sport England is monitoring the LTA's performance after withholding funding due to falling numbers of active players.
For many years Britain has had at least its fair share of talented youngsters fail to translate junior results into senior-level, with 18-year-old Kyle Edmund among the latest raft of youngsters to be handed a Wimbledon wild card, effectively an audition on the biggest stage in front of a public baying for more home-based players to break through.
The Beverley teenager faces a searching test against Polish seed Jerzy Janowicz in the first round. Murray, Robson and Watson are presently Britain's only top 100 players in singles. The Czech Republic, with a population of just 10.5million, has six women and four men with top-100 rankings.
Assessing the stage of transition for any player from junior to senior ranks, Sharapova said: "There's so many different directions that you can go in. The best is to figure out what's really the best for you and not think about anyone else.
"Sometimes you have a lot of opinions around you, especially from a very young age. But if you have a plan, you have to stick to the plan. You have to believe in it. You have to grind.