Career Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova was born in 1987, one year before tennis was re-introduced into the Olympics at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Tennis was part of the first 7 modern day Olympics, but had been absent as a medal sport for 64 years. In Russia, the Olympics are VERY important. Fast forward to 2012, and Masha became the first woman in Russian Olympic history to serve as flag bearer at the opening ceremony. That’s pretty impressive and speaks to how much of a global icon she is. Russia is not some country with only a few Olympians. They have a vast number of athletes from which to choose.
Masha wasn’t alone in carrying the flag for her country, as 5-time Major winner and 2011 ATP Player of the Year Novak Djokovic also carried the flag for Serbia. They were among 8 tennis players who carried their countries flag into the stadium. That’s a pretty good number for tennis players to be chosen by the Olympic Federations of those countries. And it would have been 9, as Rafael Nadal was scheduled to carry the flag for Spain but is currently injured.