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Sharapova to be Russia's flag-bearer
06:49 AEST Wed Jun 13 2012

Newly-crowned French Open champion Maria Sharapova will be Russia's flag-bearer at the opening of next month's London Olympics, Russia's tennis federation chief Shamil Tarpishchev said Tuesday.

"We reached an agreement about it just after the French Open final," said Tarpishchev, who is also a member of Russia's National Olympic Committee.

"As far as I know Roger Federer will be Switzerland's flag-bearer and Rafael Nadal will be Spain's. It's very pleasant that the popularity of tennis is growing around the word."

Sharapova won the French Open title on Saturday with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Italy's Sara Errani to seal a rare career grand slam -- winning the four biggest tournaments in the sport.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev both sent congratulatory telegrams to the Florida-based tennis star while the country's tennis chiefs expressed hope that she would now go for gold at the London Games.

Russian tennis fans have always been unstinting in their support of Sharapova, known affectionately by her short name "Masha", even though she is resident in the United States and only rarely comes home.

Sharapova has also made clear her loyalty to her home nation, competing in the Fed Cup and almost always wearing a necklace with the cross of the Russian Orthodox Church when she plays.

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