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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 January, 2004, 15:52 GMT
28 Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova
Born: 19/4/87
Nationality: Russian
Seeded: 28
World ranking: 31
Australian Open best:
1st round (2003)
Recent record:
2003: 1st round
2002: N/A
2001: N/A

The ebullient Russian has been dubbed the "new Kournikova" since exploding onto the scene last year.

Now she has won two WTA Tour titles - in Japan and Quebec - the comparisons might end.

The tall right-hander made her Grand Slam debut at Melbourne Park 12 months ago, making her way through the qualifiers before losing to Klara Koukalova in the first round proper.

But it was during the grasscourt season that Sharapova really started to make a name for herself.

She won through to the semi-finals at Birmingham before reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon.

Then she became the youngest singles winner of the year - and 17th youngest of the open era - by winning the Japan Open, before claiming the title in Quebec.

Sharapova's powerful serve, thumping groundstrokes and speed around the court mean the top seeds will be wary of her in Melbourne.

But it is her good looks - she has already been signed up by IMG Models - that are likely to gain more publicity.

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