Category Archives: Maria Sharapova

OLYMPICS: Serena Williams Brings Crip Walk to Centre Court? What Did She Mean?

REPORTING FROM THE LONDON OLYMPICS

LONDON, ENGLAND – The Queen of England was coming to Wimbledon for the first time in 33 years, and it was a special moment that Serena Williams opened up for. She was a little giddy and a lot respectful about the chance to curtsy for the Queen on Centre Court.

“I’m definitely going to work on it a little more,’’ Williams said. “I’m trying to tone down my wrist action. But my curtsy is really fun. It’s something that she’ll definitely never forget, if I ever get a chance to meet her.’’

That was two years ago, and when the big day came, Wimbledon officials placed Williams out on Court 2, where the Queen wouldn’t see her. Instead, Serena was on a court of the people, not a high-dollar show court. Williams never complained, but instead stayed after the match and signed autographs for kids who couldn’t normally see her.

So let’s be a little careful about how far we go with Williams’ little victory dance Saturday on Centre Court, in front of royalty, after winning the Olympic gold medal. She beat Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 in maybe the greatest match of her career, and surely the most dominant week. The Great American Tennis Story, from Compton to Centre Court, had her own crowning moment.

And instead of a curtsy, she did a Crip Walk on Centre Court. It’s a hip-hop street dance move, done by gang members over dead bodies. It was started in Compton by gang members. But it has, to some extent, begun to break into pop culture, though MTV once declined to show any videos that included the walk.

So was that a cocky endzone dance from Williams? Payback for stiffing her in front of the Queen? Or maybe rubbing it in to Sharapova, the stereotypical white tennis ideal – tall, blonde, thin and beautiful – who gets more endorsement money than Williams despite lesser accomplishments? Or maybe it was a raised middle finger at the tennis world for all Serena has been through over the years? Continue reading

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WIMBLEDON: So Much for the Reborn It Girl. Sharapova Loses Instead of Sticking it to Gilles Simon

REPORTING FROM WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — So much for Maria Sharapova as tennis’ reborn “it girl.”

While men’s tennis thrives on Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal making history every few months, the women’s game plays on without a leader.

When Sharapova won her first French Open a few weeks ago and became No. 1 again, bringing her star power along, the question was whether women’s tennis finally had a leader it could count on and build from, or whether Sharapova was only “It” in lieu of anyone else.

On Monday, she lost to 15th seed Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round at Wimbledon and will lose her No. 1 ranking when Wimbledon is over.

And just like that, women’s tennis is a mess again.

Please read the rest of my column, at FoxSports.com

WIMBLEDON: While Men’s Tennis Thrives on Great Rivalries, Women Can’t Get The Rivalry on Court

Don’t let a friendly moment between rivals fool you

(published June 24, 2012) Tennis cannot get The Match on the court. It never plays out. It’s funny, too, because tennis has been thriving on rivalries. Fans know that history will be made at Wimbledon, which starts tomorrow, because it happens every major. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were the best individual rivalry in sports, and when that one slipped a little, poof, Nadal and Novak Djokovic became the best.

It was seamless. They are always playing for some record, reaching some new height. It’s in such contrast to the women’s game, which has the best rivalry in sports that never happens.

Can we finally get Serena Williams to play Maria Sharapova in a Wimbledon final? They are still the marquee women’s rivalry, complete with tension between players and fan bases, different looks, different styles.

“Tennis is more interesting when you do have rivalries, and you do have contrasting players and you do have different sets of fans for different players,’’ Chris Evert said this week on an ESPN media conference call. Evert has a little experience with game-defining rivalries: Evert-Martina Navratilova.

Williams-Sharapova looked like the start of a big thing back in 2004, when Sharapova, the teenager, crushed Williams in the Wimbledon final. Eight years later, they have played each other just. . .

Eight more times. And women’s tennis has been more like men’s golf than men’s tennis, with a different winner in every major.

Some guy named Webb won the U.S. Open in golf. Do you remember who won the Masters? Bubba. Nine majors, nine different winners.

Please read the rest of my column at The Daily


WIMBLEDON: Women’s Preview Video

It has been a long time since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon. Is she ready to do it again?

(June 23, 2102) Here is a video on FoxSports.com previewing the women’s draw at Wimbledon. I pull for a Serena Williams-Maria Sharapova final.

Click here to watch at Fox Sports.com


FRENCH OPEN: Maria Sharapova Not Just for Show. Killer Barbie Back to No. 1

 

Maria Sharapova could be Danica Patrick now. She surely could have been a Go Daddy girl while dabbling in sports on the side. It would have been so easy.

Instead, with her win Thursday in the semifinals at the French Open, Sharapova will move to No. 1 in the world. She came back from career-threatening shoulder surgery. She still fights the yips on her serve at times. And a win in the final Saturday against Sara Errani will give her a career Grand Slam — at least one title in every major.

Sharapova would be just the 10th female tennis player in history to have done that. Even Venus Williams hasn’t done it.

“It’s a pretty nice feeling,’’ she told reporters as she left the court after her 6-3, 6-3 victory over Petra Kvitova. “I did not know that that (No. 1 ranking) would happen again a few years ago. So I’m just happy to be in this position.’’

When you think of Sharapova, do you think of one of the most focused, determined athletes in the world?

She is. She is Killer Barbie.

And this is just to give people a better feel for what they’re looking at. Or, as Nike is already putting it in an ad: “THOSE WHO BELONG AT THE TOP NEVER FORGET THEIR WAY BACK.’’

The balance of sex appeal and athleticism is always a factor in women’s sports. To be honest, plenty of men are watching women’s tennis for the sex-appeal side of the equation. And there’s always a debate about whether selling sex appeal cheapens the women’s sport or just celebrates athletic bodies. So when someone like Patrick, or Anna Kournikova a few years back, makes huge sponsor dollars without winning anything, it just doesn’t look good. You can’t really expect them to pass up golden opportunities, but it’s hard to say they send the right message to your daughters.

Sharapova does.

Please read the rest of this column at FoxSports.com


WIMBLEDON: Breakthrough of a Generation, Petra Kvitova Wins While Maria Sharapova Folds

 

Petra Kvitova beats Maria Sharapova to win Wimbledon

 

This was the breakthrough of a new generation and the breakdown of a champion. Those things worked together, as Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon Saturday, beating Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4. Every major in women’s tennis lately seems to produce a heart-warming story of some emerging 29-year old, or the dominance of someone coming back from retirement/maternity leave. Kvitova becomes the first player born in the 1990s to win a major.

So this is a big welcome to women’s tennis’ Generation Next. It’s about time you’ve arrived. Finally, women’s tennis has something to look forward to instead of something to try to hang onto.

“I like the big, big challenges like this one,’’ Kvitova said in an interview with NBC as she left the court. “I like the final and the big crowd and big matches. It’s, uh, I don’t’ know, I just played my best tennis and I won.’’

Nervous?

“I was nervous before the match. When I came on the court, it was OK.’’

And that described the match perfectly. Kvitova was impressively calm. Sharapova, the experienced one, was a mess. Continue reading


WIMBLEDON: Maria Sharapova Double-Faulting Her Way to the Top

Maria Sharapova

 

It’s a nice story, that Maria Sharapova is back in the final at Wimbledon. It’s about courage and patience and stick-to-itiveness. It’s great for women’s tennis, which gets the star power it needs in its biggest moment.

But I’ve already talked about that stuff. And after watching her semifinal match, I would like to talk about what stood out most: Sharapova’s serve. What does it say about women’s tennis that someone who can’t serve might win Wimbledon? And what does it say about Sharapova that she can compartmentalize so well that she’s a nervous wreck on the most important shot in tennis, yet a killer everywhere else?

At some point, quality of play has to sell the sport beyond Sharapova’s looks. Her 6-4, 6-3 win Thursday against Sabine Lisicki was awful. It’s nice to think of Lisicki as a rising star, just 21. Good for her. But in the big moment, she lost her serve, too.

Continue reading