Maria Sharapova has responded to criticism regarding the words she used to describe Serena Williams in her book ‘Unstoppable: My life so far’ during an interview on the American talk show ‘The View‘ on Tuesday.
The Russian five-time Grand Slam champion officially released her memoir on Tuesday and made numerous television appearances to promote it.
In her book, Sharapova talks about the first time she faced Williams in a match — in Miami in 2004 — saying: “First of all, her physical presence is much stronger and bigger than you realise watching TV. She has thick arms and thick legs and is so intimidating and strong. And tall, really tall.”
Sharapova’s words were deemed racist by some and she was asked about the controversy by one of the The View‘s hosts, Sunny Hostin.
“You’re receiving a lot of flak from the African-American community the way you described her in the book. You say she had thick legs and thick arms. What do you say to people that are saying ‘why would you use those terms in describing your opponent’?” asked Hostin.
Sharapova replied: “I think you have to understand that I’m speaking from an image of being a 17-year-old girl and seeing Serena Williams in front of me for the first time. I wasn’t physically developed at all, I did not belong at a Wimbledon final, so everything about her presence was intimidating to me.”
Sharapova, who reached the US Open fourth round earlier this month, playing her first Grand Slam tournament back from her doping suspension, said she had to discuss her rivalry with Williams in her book because her win over the 23-time major champion in the Wimbledon final in 2004 played a huge part in her career.
“The whole experience of playing Serena as a 17-year-old girl was incredible, because I grew up practicing in an academy in Florida for so many years and I watched Serena and Venus practice at the academy, hundreds of spectators were watching – literally I was watching the next 25 years of my life right in front of me, unknowingly.
“And then you find yourself at 17 across the net from her. It was like someone just put me inside a TV screen and said ‘here you are, you’ve got a chance to play Serena’,” the ex-world No. 1 added.
“It was our second meeting and the first one, we had just played a few months beforehand, I lost easily, I thought it would take me years to get to her level. She was way above and beyond my level at the time. So playing against her, she was the two-time defending champion, and I speak about that rivalry in the book because that match was a huge part of my life and my career, it’s where it all started for me.”
Sharapova, who returned from her doping ban last April, fielded multiple questions regarding her failed drugs test throughout the day, which started with an appearance on Good Morning America, before stopping by The View and The Daily Show.
Hostin did not make it easy for Sharapova, asking her about the drug meldonium, that led to her failing the test.
“What do you say to the people that are now saying ‘well, the only reason you were No. 1 in the world, the only reason you that you were so dominant is because you were taking a supplement?” said Hostin.
Sharapova replied: “I think it’s such an interesting thing, because when something is legal for so many years, and you take it once during the time that it wasn’t and then people are able to say that, then that’s not facts. So, it was what it was, I went through it, I got through it and I found myself playing at the US Open so…”
Michael Strahan of Good Morning America tried to get Sharapova to talk about how she and her team did not know meldonium was added to the prohibited substances list at the start of 2016.
“We’re going to dive right into it as you do in the book,” said Strahan. “We’re going to talk about the suspension. In the beginning of the book you talk about it, you call it a sloppy mistake. You say you didn’t realise that meldonium was illegal at that time, or on the suspended list, how does that happen?”
She deflected by saying: “It’s a question I was asking for quite some time but once you get past that, it’s time to move on.
“The US Open was an incredible moment for me, I knew what I went through, I knew all the ups and downs I had faced over the last couple of years. Being away from the sport was really difficult, I’ve done this since I was a young girl, so to get that back – that was my dream, that was my wish and I made that happen.”
Maria Sharapova muses on her long, lopsided rivalry with Serena Williams in a new autobiography released on Tuesday and how she believes a locker room moment fueled the American’s drive to dominate her.
The Russian-born Sharapova was 17 when she defeated Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final. Rather than proving the start of a long, close-run rivalry, it was one of just two victories Sharapova can claim against the US great, who has beaten her 19 times.
In her new book, “Unstoppable: My Life So Far,” Sharapova says it was not only her victory, but the fact that she overheard Williams weeping afterwards in the locker room that ensured the American would always find a way to elevate her game in their future contests.
“Guttural sobs, the sort that make you heave for air, the sort that scares you,” Sharapova writes of the moment, according to excerpts released by The New York Times.
“It went on and on. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there. People often wonder why I have had so much trouble beating Serena; she’s owned me in the past ten years.
“I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon,” she said.
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) September 12, 2017
In the memoir published by Sarah Crichton Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sharapova details her tennis career from the time of her move to Florida at the age of six — and Williams caught her attention early on.
Sharapova recalls surreptitiously watching Serena and her sister Venus play during a visit to the Florida academy where she trained — unwilling even then to “put myself in the position of worshiping them, looking up, being a fan.”
Tensions between Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion who returned to competition in April after a 15-month doping ban, and 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams — who gave birth to a daughter this month — have sometimes spilled over into public spats.
Sharapova ponders the reasons, wondering if the antagonism between them has perhaps driven each to excellence.
“Maybe that’s better than being friends,” she writes, adding: “Someday, when all this is in our past, maybe we’ll become friends. Or not. You never can tell.”
* Provided by AFP
Spanish ace Garbine Muguruza officially took over the world No. 1 ranking for the first time on Monday, replacing Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova.
The 23-year-old, who lost in straight sets to Petra Kvitova in the US Open fourth round, had picked up her second Grand Slam title earlier this summer at Wimbledon, and followed it up by winning Cincinnati.
“Becoming the WTA No. 1 in the world is a dream come true,” said Muguruza. “Every birthday wish was always the same as I blew out the candles – to become the best.
“There is a lot of work behind this achievement and a lot of love and passion for this sport. There’s also a lot of hard moments along with the great moments. Not to mention the extreme amount of love from my family and the appreciation for my fans and all the people that have helped me in this journey.
“And I am very proud to share such a special moment for our country with Rafael Nadal, the best role model I could ever have. I look forward to continue working hard to keep this position.”
This is the first time since 2003 that both world No. 1 players on the ATP and WTA hail from the same country.
Here’s a look at the numbers behind Muguruza’s rise.
1 — Muguruza was one of eight women who started the US Open with a chance to rise to No. 1.
2 — Muguruza is the second Spanish woman to occupy the world No. 1 spot since the computer rankings were introduced in 1975.
2 — Grand Slam titles for Muguruza – the 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon.
2 — titles for Muguruza in 2017 – Wimbledon and Cincinnati.
7 — match wins and 3 losses for Muguruza against top-10 opposition in 2017.
9 — tournaments where Muguruza has made the quarter-finals or better in 2017, out of 17 contested this season
15 — Muguruza was ranked No. 15 entering Wimbledon in July. It was her lowest ranking in two years.
15-5 — Muguruza’s win-loss record in three-setters in 2017.
20 — Grand Slam main draws Muguruza has contested so far in her career.
22 — years since a Spanish woman was ranked world No. 1 (Sanchez-Vicario in 1995).
24 — Muguruza is the 24th player in WTA history to be world No. 1.
42 — match wins and 16 losses for Muguruza in 2017.
50-44 — Muguruza’s career win-loss record against top-20 opponents (12-7 in 2017).