Russia's next generation will take time says Sharapova
MELBOURNE: Russia's search for its next generation of grand slam champions will take time and the country should not expect the success it enjoyed in the first decade of the 2000s overnight, according to Maria Sharapova.
Playing her first match of 2016 after a sore forearm forced her out of the Brisbane International this month, the Russian hammered Japan's Nao Hibino 6-1 6-3 to make the second round of the Australian Open.
Sharapova, who won her first grand slam title at Wimbledon in 2004 aged 17, was in the vanguard of a successful run of the country's women from the mid-2000s that has dried up in recent years.
Now 28, Sharapova has been the only Russian woman to win a grand slam singles since Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2009.
"Just because you're successful for a certain period of time from a country, doesn't mean there's a younger generation coming up right behind them that's expected and mandatory to do well," she told reporters.
Russian women swept the three Olympic singles medals in Beijing in 2008 and Russia also won four Fed Cup titles in five years from 2004-08 but Sharapova said past success did not point to a conveyor belt of future champions although "ultimately somebody will take your place".
"That's just not the way things work. It takes time, takes experience, takes financial help," she said.
"It takes a lot of the right directions, coaches, infrastructure, everything."