Connect with us





Maria Sharapova on clay

Maria Sharapova, who retired without fanfare in late February at age 32 after struggling with injuries and eroding form for most of the past two years, was renowned for her droll wit—a talent that stood in stark contrast to her unambiguous, aggressive game.



Four years ago, in a press conference to announce that she faced a doping suspension, Sharapova assured reporters that she wasn’t about to declare her retirement in a downtown Los Angeles hotel “with this ugly carpet.” On another occasion, when a reporter attempted to bond with her by revealing that his own daughter also liked the book Pippi Longstocking, Sharapova quipped, “Great, maybe we can start a book club.”

Maria sharapova

But the remark that proved to have the longest shelf life, as well as the most relevance to her career, was one she made almost 14 years ago at the French Open following a tidy, second-round win over American veteran Jill Craybas. Of playing on the red clay, Sharapova said that the slippery nature of the surface made her feel “like a cow on ice.”

The image vividly sums up the challenge that players like Sharapova, who prefer the sure footing and predictable bounce of hard courts, and the relative quickness of grass, face on slow, slippery clay. But in the late stages of Sharapova’s career, the bon mot came to symbolize something entirely different. It became less of a joke Sharapova told on herself than a tribute to her diligence, zeal for competition, and fearlessness.

Maria Sharapova

That’s because that proverbial cow morphed into a tigress, and the ice was transformed into the tall grass of the veld.

Sharapova’s father Yuri brought her to the United States from their native Russia in 1994. She has permanent resident status in the U.S., but has identified as Russian throughout her entire career. (She carried the Russian flag in the 2012 Olympic games.) The family faced financial straits in the early years, which many pundits believe helped implant Sharapova’s precocious drive and discipline.

Whatever the motivational fuel, Sharapova belted her way to overnight stardom 16 years ago at the age of 17 with a sensational upset of Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final. That triumph, just the fourth title of Sharapova’s budding career, made her just the second woman in the Open era—Martina Hingis was the first—to secure the most coveted title in tennis at such a young age.

Maria Sharapova and Sofia kenin

Preternaturally poised, statuesque and, we would learn, extremely marketable, Sharapova rapidly compiled honors. She became the first Russian to reach the No. 1 ranking, she would win 34 singles titles, and she held the top spot in the WTA rankings on five different occasions.

Yet for all the achievements she logged over the course of her 19-year career, Sharapova never finished as the year-end No. 1, and her Grand Slam haul pales in comparison with her quartet of career-Slam peers. Her output, five major singles titles, is 13 fewer than the next lowest tally, held by Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. One of the chief reasons: Sharapova’s game had a brittle quality. Her swing-for-the fences style scored big at times, but it also produced abundant unforced errors and double faults, tennis’ version of strikeouts.

Maria Sharapova

The greatest curb on Sharapova’s success proved to be the same woman who had inadvertently helped catapult her to fame. Serena took that 2004 Wimbledon defeat to heart. It sowed the seeds of what would become a fierce rivalry, if that word can be applied to such a one-sided battle, colored by an animus the women tried to conceal but which periodically leaked through the veneer of their professionalism.

Williams won 20 of their 22 meetings, seven of them in Grand Slam tournaments, year-end championships or the Olympic Games. Her only loss to Sharapova after that Wimbledon final was later that same year, at the season-ending championships.

Maria Sharapova

Three major singles titles, Sharapova’s tally after winning the 2008 Australian Open at age 20, was nothing to scoff at. But over the next 15 Grand Slam tournaments, she would reach just one final. When Victoria Azarenka kicked off the 2012 season with a bold TKO of Sharapova in the Australian Open final, some felt that the game was leaving Maria behind.

At that juncture, Sharapova was a player in sore need of a game-changing statement. The one she produced at the French Open would resonate in tennis history and establish her legacy. And having won a title at each of the other three majors, it all but enshrined Sharapova in Newport.

Maria Sharapova

Sharapova’s shortcomings on clay once were conspicuous. Her game was rooted in power and shotmaking; clay is kinder to players who value consistency over a desire to end points quickly. Her serve, while a great weapon, wasn’t always reliable, a handicap due in part to her damaged right rotator cuff.

Her movement was tailored for hard-court success, she was rangy and fast but not quick, and she had trouble mastering the signature move of an accomplished clay-courter: the ability to slide into shots and then seamlessly execute a swift change of direction.

maria Sharapova laughing

But Sharapova worked diligently on the mechanics and, just as important, continued to believe in her game.

“I’ve definitely progressed and improved [on clay], that’s no secret,” Sharapova said in Rome in 2015. “[But] It was not an overnight success.”

After final-round losses at Indian Wells and Miami, Sharapova found a winning formula on clay. She won Stuttgart and Rome, two top-tier tune-ups, and dropped just one set en route to the final at Roland Garros. There, Sharapova mercilessly lashed at 5’5” Sara Errani’s weak serves, and easily secured her career Slam with a 6–3, 6–2 blowout.

Maria Sharapova

“It’s the most unique moment I’ve experienced in my career,” Sharapova said afterward. “I never thought I would have that.”

The whole in this case was more than a sum of the parts. The win vaulted Sharapova into the company of just the four other women in the Open era who had completed a career Grand Slam—a feat that Hingis, among many other esteemed Grand Slam champions, never accomplished.

maria Sharapova laughing

Nor could Sharapova, or anyone else, predict that she would also go on to play the next two finals at Roland Garros. She lost the 2013 decider to—who else?—Serena, but rebounded to bag her second title with a win over Simona Halep in a high-quality final in 2014.

Sharapova wouldn’t win another major after 2014, despite her mightiest of efforts. But that was alright. Her French Open run revived a flagging career and landed her in the Hall of Fame, a place more fitting for a tigress than a cow.

Drew McIntyre
News2 mins ago

Drew McIntyre Reveals How Randy Orton Got Away With “Murder Case” in WWE

Serena Williams queen of racket
News1 hour ago

“Wasn’t a Positive Body Image”- Serena Williams Reveals Her Insecurities

roman reigns and Uso
News11 hours ago

“He’s just a tag team player”- Roman Reigns explains why Jey Uso will never be WWE Universal Champ

Ronda Rousey smiles
Boxing & UFC11 hours ago

BREAKING NEWS: Ronda Rousey Trains with IMPACT Legend Ahead of Potential WWE Return

Serena Williams queen of racket
News13 hours ago

Serena Williams announces daughter, Olympia to have a sibling — Serena Williams opens up about her pregnancy

Andy Murray interviews on early life as a boxer
News21 hours ago

Andy Murray withdraws from Cologne event with lingering pelvic problem

Andy Murray and Kim Sear
News21 hours ago

WATCH: Andy Murray Reveals What Depresses Him the Most — Andy Murray Issues Statement

Serena Williams sneaks into wedding
News22 hours ago

VIDEO and PICS: Serena Williams shows off muscular body on the beach at the Maldives.

Serena Williams at Miami beach
News22 hours ago

WATCH: Serena Williams releases video of herself having fun on the beach

Serena Williams queen of racket
News22 hours ago

Video: NOT AGAIN The Day Serena Williams Goes Topless At the Beach

Serena Williams Bikini
News23 hours ago

PHOTOS: Serena Williams Flaunts Her Curvy Buttocks & Impressive Physique In New Snaps

serena williams back
News23 hours ago

Megan Thee Stallion Name-Checks Serena Williams In New York Magazine

Andy Murray announces new retirement plan
News24 hours ago

Andy Murray Finally Opens Up About His Inevitable Retirement — Andy Murray Issues Retirement Statement

Serena Williams bikini bathtub
News1 day ago

WATCH: Serena Williams Taking Her Bath In Bath Tub While Wearing Smoothing Underwire Bra

Serena Williams Victory Shout
News1 day ago


Serena Williams and husband walk
News1 week ago

Serena Williams: ‘I never thought I would have married a white guy’

Serena Williams confirms
News2 days ago

Serena Williams opens up about her pregnancy

Tennis Star Serena Williams
News4 days ago

Serena Williams inspires women to embrace their body curves — Serena Williams baths outside with her friend

serena williams in white gown
News6 days ago

WATCH: Serena Williams Looks Smoking Hot In Formfitting White Ensemble

Serena Williams tennis legendary star
News2 days ago

Serena Williams officially confirms pregnancy — Serena Williams opens up about her pregnancy

Serena Williams beauty
News2 days ago

Serena Williams’ Friends’ Booty Are No Competition — Serena Williams baths outside with her friends

Serena Williams legend
Tennis6 days ago

Serena Williams Spotted in Cheetah Bikini on Miami Beach — Serena Williams accentuates her bounteous booty

Iga Swiatek and Serena Williams
News1 week ago

Iga Swiatek Surpasses an Impressive Serena Williams Record After Winning French Open 2020

Serena Williams queen of racket
News22 hours ago

Video: NOT AGAIN The Day Serena Williams Goes Topless At the Beach

Cute Olympia Ohanian
News1 day ago

WATCH: Serena Williams’ Daughter Olympia Steals Hearts with Her Beautiful Big Eyes in a Floral Outfit

Serena Williams interview
News4 days ago

Serena Williams & Her Ex-Boyfriend reunite for a Great Reason — SEE photos Serena Williams Ex-Boyfriend

Serena Williams with Olympia Ohania
Entertainment1 week ago

The Lavish Life of Alexis Ohanian and Serena Williams’ Daughter Who Is the Youngest Team Owner

Serena Williams legend
News3 days ago

WATCH: Serena Williams Taking Her bath After Prolonged Training — See Serena’s PICTURES while bathing

Again, Andy Murray Talks Health Battle: "I Was In Pain For Six, Seven Years... I Was Told That..
News2 days ago

Andy Murray Finally Issues Official Statement On His Retirement

Serena Williams bikini
News6 days ago

Serena Williams issues romantic statement while showing off BOOTY in bikini underwear