Tag Archives: Maria Sharapova

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


WIMBLEDON: Desperate for a Leader, Women’s Tennis Getting Old, New Champion in Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova is about to win Wimbledon again, and take over women’s tennis. I wish I felt comfortable with how confidently I just put that.

But every sport needs someone on the mountaintop, someone you would say is the best, someone everyone wants to beat. Women’s tennis has no leader, and that’s not just about whether Caroline Wozniacki, ranked No. 1, is a real and deserving champ (She’s not).

No, this about the game not having someone that everyone either loves or hates, pulls for or against. Someone with star power, who is noticed when she walks into a room. Women’s tennis is a mish-mash. But in four days, Sharapova will change that, becoming the game’s new leader. Or maybe its old leader, renewed.

That’s what the game needs, and is going to get. I’m sure of it. Mostly.

It has been a good Wimbledon for women’s tennis, but not a great one. The game is thirsting for greatness, craving it. Missing it.

Continue reading


WIMBLEDON WEEK: Quick Last-Second Hits. Can Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams Both Repeat?

Serena Williams in last year's Wimbledon final

A bunch of quick-hit thoughts on certain players going into Wimbledon:

Serena Williams: This might not even be that hard. Better beat her early, before she gets momentum. Only concern: When she has trouble catching her breath, will she be able to keep her mind off the blood clots? Prediction: Winner.

Rafael Nadal: This “clay court specialist’’ hasn’t lost a match at Wimbledon since 2007. Won’t this year, either.

Andy Roddick: Conflicting thoughts. Done winning majors; that’s an awfully nice draw. Last chance? (I’ve probably said that about him before).

Venus Williams: Didn’t look that great at Eastbourne. Kind of off-balance. Still good enough to make a deep run, though.

Roger Federer: The big-bashers who were pushing him backward aren’t doing well. He might have figured out Novak Djokovic. If Nadal loses before the final, this tournament could be his. If not, it’s not.

Caroline Wozniacki: Prove it already. Quarterfinals against Sharapova, good place to start. Prediction: Sharapova.

John Isner-Nicolas Mahut: Straight sets for Isner. But stop picking him as a darkhorse. If you can’t return serve, you can’t win Wimbledon.

Andy Murray: Tabloid fodder. Continue reading


FRENCH OPEN: Maria Sharapova Double-Faults away her Chance Again, Loses to Li Na. Will She and her Serve ever Come Back?

Maria Sharapova loses in the French semis

It was match point against Maria Sharapova, and everyone knew what was going to happen. The service box is 21 feet deep, 13½ feet across, and there was no way she was going to get her serve over the net and into that big box. It must look like a postage stamp to her. After the first serve was out, Li Na could have walked off the court, shaken the chair umpire’s hand and sat down.

There was no way Sharapova would get that second serve in.

“She had a huge, big serve,’’ Li said. “So I was like, `Please double fault.’  ’’

It happened, of course. Sharapova tried to put a little spin on the serve to control the ball, but she can’t do that. Instead, her arm slowed. . .way. . .down. . .mid-swing, and the ball went into the net. Li won 6-4, 7-5 Thursday to become the first Chinese woman to reach the French Open final. She’ll play defending champ Francesca Schiavone Saturday.

Sharapova hasn’t reached the final in her past 11 majors, since winning the 2008 Australian Open. She beat Ana Ivanovic that day, and women’s tennis had to be in heaven with a future looking bright and highly marketable. Since then, Sharapova and Ivanovic have totaled zero major finals, but countless swimsuit fashion shoots.

But this isn’t to rip into Sharapova.

In fact, it’s the opposite. Continue reading


Tennis’ No. 1 Pet Peeve: Grunting

Grunting has become the No. 1 pet peeve in tennis. The ringing in my ears has finally stopped from Victoria Azarenka’s win over Maria Sharapova last week, but that match still has fans riled up.

Their grunting was sort of a tag-team thing, with one starting up at the exact moment the other stopped. And they were both outrageously loud.

What can be done? What should be done? Continue reading


Maria Sharapova, Chernobyl Survivor, Feels Personal Connection to Japan Crisis

Sharapova visits kids in Russia (photo from Daily Telegraph)

At some point, Maria Sharapova just wanted to know more. She had heard the horror stories from her parents, about the escape they made from the radiation that had leaked during the world’s worst nuclear disaster. When they fled, Sharapova was in her mother’s womb.

Maria Sharapova is a Chernobyl survivor.

And as she grew up, she started to study it, read about it, take it into her soul. Since then, she has donated time, made visits and given hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the children and grandchildren of the nightmare that reportedly released 100 times more radiation than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

So, with a personal sense, she has been following Japan’s nuclear crisis, which resulted from a massive earthquake and tsunami. Radiation has leaked into the air again.

“Crazy, right?’’ she said at a post-match press conference this week at the tournament in Indian Wells, Calif. She was wearing a t-shirt commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident.

“Can you believe one disaster 25 years ago, and now another? I heard there’s a big cloud coming towards the West Coast.’’

Someone told her it is expected to dissipate.

“So the tournament goes on. . .’’ She said, and laughed. “In terms of what’s going on over there, it’s crazy and something that you can’t even prepare for.

“It happens, and you see the coverage on it and the videos, and it’s really incredible that something like that can even happen in the world.’’

Oftentimes, Sharapova comes across as aloof, terse. (Also, as a supermodel/Barbie Doll who wins Wimbledon.) But maybe that’s because of her serious nature, her determination. Even when she’s talking about tragedy, it can be nice to see her come off so human and connected.

In Japan, multiple nuclear reactors are overheating, leading to dangerous spikes in radiation levels. According to the New York Times, Japan’s health ministry has raised the legal limit, by more than double, that rescue workers at a nuclear plant are allowed to be exposed to. The ministry said the move is unavoidable due to circumstances.

The new limit is five times the level American workers are allowed to be exposed to.

The Times also quoted Douglas Almond, a Columbia University professor who has studied the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, saying he doesn’t think the Japanese government is doing enough to warn pregnant women of the dangers. He believes the danger goes much farther from the nuclear plants than people have been led to believe.

“The fetus may be particularly sensitive to low doses of ionizing radiation, a susceptibility that current public health responses in Japan seem to have overlooked,’’ he said. “Evidence comes from a recent study of Chernobyl fallout in Sweden, which experience comparatively low doses from the accident; indeed radiation levels in Sweden were believed safe at the time. . .

“Swedish students who were in utero during the accident experienced significantly lower cognitive function. . .’’

Ghosts of Chernobyl

At Chernobyl, a reactor exploded in April of 1986 after a safety test. Sharapova’s parents lived roughly 80 miles away. They stayed for four months while others left. But then Sharapova’s mother, Yelena, became pregnant. In fear of what might happen to the baby, they left to be near relatives in Siberia.

“I remember my mom and my dad telling me that it was really chaos,’’ Sharapova told ESPN last year, when the network went with her on a trip back to Russia to visit children in the area. “Everyone just wanted to leave, and they were leaving everything in their house, their valuables and their photographs and memorabilia. And the only thing they would take was their passport.’’

Two years after moving to Siberia, her family moved again. Maria ended up in a tennis camp that Martina Navratilova happened to visit. That’s how Sharapova was discovered. Next thing you knew, she was in the U.S., learning tennis at the Bollettieri Academy.

She seems to be an All-American girl, but has taken her Russian heritage, which involved hardship for her parents, to heart. She has become a goodwill ambassador for a United Nations program.

“In the beginning, my job was raising awareness to the world, really, and basically getting the message across that even though something like that happened such a long time ago, it still causes many people on a daily basis (health risks),’’ she said. “Especially kids that were born (then), and now are having kids. You also find that they have something in their body that’s not allowing them to live a normal life from the pollution.’’ Continue reading