Sharapova unfazed by youthful French Open threat
Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates her victory over Canada's Eugenie Bouchard at the end of her French tennis Open semi-final match against at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on June 5, 2014 - by Kenzo Tribouillard
The Russian, a four-time Grand Slam winner and the biggest earner in women's sport, has beaten two 20-year-olds en route to her third straight Roland Garros final on Saturday.
She beat Spain's Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals before seeing off Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in the semis -- on both occasions losing the first set.
And in the championship match she will take on another fresh face in the form of 22-year-old Romanian Simona Halep, who has yet to drop a set.
Sharapova, French Open champion in 2012 and losing finalist last year to Serena Williams, said that she has been impressed by the new blood on show in Paris.
"I think this tournament has showed and displayed that throughout the whole two weeks," she said Friday.
"I got a chance to play against two of them in this tournament, and both played at a very high level. I think that shows many good things to come from the young generation."
The Russian should know what it takes to accumulate success at a young age, having staged a spectacular burst onto the world stage in 2004 when, as a raw 17-year-old, she demolished Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final.
Since then she has had her ups and downs with Grand Slam successes and world number one status, but also injuries and loss of form.
Currently though she is playing some of the best tennis of her career, having won back-to-back titles in Stuttgart and Madrid in the buildup to Paris.
She is primed for a fifth Grand Slam title and determined not to let anyone among the younger brigade get in her way.
"As I've said, I played two very young girls that have been playing extremely well and have had a great tournament," she said.
"Do I want to give them the chance to go further in the tournament? Absolutely not.
"But not because I want to prove something or show them that they're not the next generation. They're playing great tennis."
Sharapova will start a firm favourite against Halep, who is playing in her first Grand Slam final and has failed to beat the Russian in three previous meetings, the last being in the Madrid final in April.