• Billie Jean melts the ice queen Sharapova


    Russia’s Maria Sharapova uses an ice towel during a break in her women’s singles second round match against Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova on day four of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Thursday. AFP PHOTO

    MELBOURNE: Maria Sharapova says she has been inspired by Billie Jean King’s story to change her ice queen act and be a positive influence for younger players.

    She admits her demeanor may have been selfish in the past, but says that could be about to change after being invited by King to the premier of the “Battle of the Sexes” movie.

    “Billie Jean invited me to the opening in LA. I went to see it. I enjoyed it,” Sharapova said at the Australian Open on Thursday.

    “She taught me that my example ultimately is an example for the generation to come.”

    Former Australian player Jelena Dokic claimed in a newspaper column Thursday that Sharapova had no friends on tour, swapped few encouraging words with younger players and her doping ban would not have increased her popularity in the locker room.

    “I think I realized that,” said Sharapova. “It didn’t come to me so fast. Tennis is a very selfish sport. You have a team around you that do everything just for you in order for you to win.

    “And although that’s what it takes to be a champion, there’s also a lot more to it, a lot of things that we have to think about that are not just about ourselves.”

    And Sharapova said that like Dokic, she would like to share her own opinions on the game as a columnist one day.

    “I like to write, so I think I’d do that before I’d commentate. That’s for sure,” she said, looking beyond her playing days.

    Sharapova, who has worked her way back into the top 50 after her 15-month ban for taking performance-enhancing meldonium, said she has studied King’s legacy.

    “Actually, I know quite a bit about Billie Jean’s story, just because she was really influential in my career since I was a junior,” she said.

    “I really appreciate all she’s done for me and that she continues to do for so many people.”



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