New York: At just 23 years old, Maria Sharapova considers herself still to be in the bloom of youth, but things are moving fast.
Her third-round match at the US Open tomorrow will see her take on 18-year-old American wildcard Beatrice Capra, who idolised the Russian glamour girl as she was growing up.
It all comes as a bit of a shock to Sharapova, who won Wimbledon in 2004 as a precocious 17-year-old and who was ranked number one in the world a year later.
"It`s pretty crazy because I still somewhat consider myself pretty young, as well - I`d like to think so, at least," she said.
"You know, to see someone coming up that`s 18, that`s a lot younger than I am, in the third round of the Open is great.”
"I think it shows a lot about the younger generation that`s coming up. To see someone especially that`s an American and doing well at the Open is really great."
Sharapova, who is bidding to win her second US Open crown, four years after winning her first when she was barely older than Capra is now, does have words of warning, however, for wide-eyed rivals like Capra.
"It`s really strange because I`ve always had a difficult time accepting when little kids, whether I`m doing a clinic, talking to them, when they tell me they want to be just like me," she said.
"Not only is a bit overwhelming and a bit of a shock, it`s kind of strange.
"I mean, I`m certainly far from perfect. I have many things I`m not good at. I always say to them, `You should want to be better than me or anyone else.”
Sharapova is best known for her movie-star looks and prime-time star appeal, but her work ethic and mental toughness is widely recognised in the tennis world with her rise to the top of the rankings, from Siberia to Florida a classic rags to riches story.