MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian tennis officials have again accused Maria Sharapova of putting her own interests ahead of her country after she pulled out of the team for this weekend's Fed Cup semi-final against the United States.
The world number two was included after initially agreeing to make her Fed Cup debut for Russia in the July 14-15 tie in Vermont before saying she was not match-fit.
"She said she is injured, so she will not play," Russia captain Shamil Tarpishchev told Reuters.
Sharapova, who was soundly beaten by eventual champion Venus Williams in the fourth round at Wimbledon last week, has been suffering with a persistent shoulder injury since April.
"I'm telling you, just forget about all these promises," Russia's chief tennis coach Vladimir Kamelzon was quoted as saying by the influential daily Izvestia on Tuesday.
Kamelzon accused Sharapova's entourage of discouraging the Florida-based Russian from playing for her native country.
"Her closest advisers are Americans and they would never allow her to play for Russia," he said.
Local media also questioned Sharapova's Fed Cup commitment even before her pullout.
"Well, she never intended to play in the first place," said former national champion Anna Dmitrieva, who now works as a senior commentator for NTV television.
"All she wanted was to be included in the Fed Cup team so she would be eligible to play at the 2008 Beijing Olympics."
Sharapova had been scheduled to make her long-awaited Fed Cup debut against Spain in Moscow in April but pulled out on the eve of the first-round tie with a similar injury.
She gave additional ammunition to her critics by choosing to attend an awards presentation in Hollywood this week, her personal Web site Maria Sharapova.com said.
"It just shows where her real interests are," a source in the Russian tennis federation told Reuters. "So for many of us, her decision not to play Fed Cup didn't come as a big surprise.
"Once again she said she'd play, only to turn her back on the team at the last minute," said the source, who compared Sharapova to a former glamour girl of Russian tennis.
Anna Kournikova, who like Sharapova spends most of her time in the United States, turned down invitations to play for Russia on numerous occasions. The 26-year-old has not played on the tour since cutting short her 2003 season due to a back injury.
"It just sounds all too familiar, doesn't it?" the source added. "When it was time to play Fed Cup Kournikova would always come up with some injury, so after a while we just forgot about her. But we have many good, talented young players besides Sharapova who are able and willing to play for Russia."
Updated on Tuesday, Jul 10, 2007 8:01 am EDT
Sharapova criticized for pulling out of Fed Cup semi
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