If you didn’t like Maria Sharapova before, her new autobiography, Unstoppable, isn’t likely to change that. I wasn’t a fan of Sharapova pre-meldonium, but I did respect how she handled the news when she tested positive for the drug. And then I got annoyed with how the US Open blatantly pandered to her upon returning from the drug ban, for her first Grand Slam. Most of the American commentators, of course, treated her absence from tennis for the previous 18 months as if she was on pregnancy leave, like Serena’s, or holiday. It was off-putting, to say the least.
And when Sharapova does step onto tennis’ biggest stage, is it with any humility at all? Nope. She comes out in a pseudo black lace cocktail dress adorned with Swarovski sparkles. And then she beats world #2 Simona Halep. After the match, she claimed she was still just a girl with “grit” but her attempt at humanity seemed unbelievable. Not on the tennis court, and certainly not in her book. Her drugs ban may not have been the equivalent of Lance Armstrong’s, but none the less her response to it on her return is troubling.
Unstoppable is about a mean girl
When I picked up Unstoppable I was back on the anti-Maria train, but being the fair-minded person that I aim to be I was hoping an intimate look into her rags-to-riches story would make me like her. To be clear, the reason I do not like her is simple. She is not a nice person, in my opinion.
It is no secret that Sharapova doesn’t have many friends in the locker room because of her actions. She makes it clear in her book that her competitiveness doesn’t allow her to be friends with other players. Sharapova is like the villainess on The Bachelor (there’s one every season) who is mean, a loner, and keeps repeating to the camera, in the confessional, that she is “not here to make friends”. She has almost become the Cruella De Vil of the tennis world. So the villainess doesn’t make friends, and at the crucial moment, she is stopped by the hero. But Sharapova doesn’t seem to make the connection that not having friends on the Tour isn’t going to help you win matches. Whereas, it could have helped her gain support during her ban.
Unstoppable is just as much about Serena as it is about Maria
Look at Serena. Sharapova does this over and over again. In fact, Serena Williams is mentioned approximately 100 times in the book. Sharapova writes that being friends with other girls on the Tour would make her “easier to beat.” Really? Let’s ask Serena, who has repeatedly beaten her friends Caroline Wozniacki, Viktoria Azarenka, and her own sister Venus! Sorry, Maria, your excuse for being mean, and cold, and self-absorbed is a flimsy one. A similar story exists on the men’s Tour. Djokovic and Federer may not be the best of friends, but each respects the other man’s talent. And Nadal and Murray have warm relationships with both. Sharapova seems the odd person out in the tennis world.
Criticism of friendships is far from all Sharapova has to complain to Serena Williams about. Indeed, there is far more! Sharapova claims that Serena has had a longstanding grudge against her because Sharapova heard Serena crying in the bathroom after her loss to Sharapova in the 2004 Wimbledon final. First off, is there no honouring one’s privacy? Was that necessary to include in the book? Or is it really that Maria Sharapova has a 2-19 record against Serena Williams. Maria doesn’t seem so unstoppable looking at that stat.
I do not believe Serena has held that against Maria for all these years. Just like I don’t buy when Maria writes about Serena, “we have driven each other.” Maria Sharapova has nothing to drive Serena with! Their record against each other is way too lopsided for it to be a real rivalry. If you know anything about Serena Williams it’s that Serena drives Serena. Period. Full stop.
Sharapova, seemingly, has some odd obsession with Serena, and there is clearly no love lost between the two. At the 2002 Wimbledon Ball, Serena made her champion’s grand entrance to the entire room’s standing ovation, minus a certain Maria Sharapova. Sitting glued to her chair at the junior’s table Maria had only one thought, “I am going to get you.” Does that not sound frightening?
Oh but Maria turns the tables on that one making Serena seem like the scary one; “her physical presence is much stronger and bigger than you realize watching TV. She has thick arms and thick legs and is so intimidating and strong. And tall, really tall.” Yet Maria Sharapova is 6’2 and Serena is shorter at 5’9. It’s a statement that rings as both false and prejudiced. Also untrue is that Serena is bigger in person. Serena is simply not bigger in real life, and how horrible is it for one woman, arguably a colleague, to say that about another woman??? Have you no common decency Maria?
Unstoppable ends with Serena having the last word.
A final note about Serena is actually a note about Maria. At the end of the book in the “Note About the Author” it says “born in Nyagan, Russia, Maria Sharapova moved to the United States when she was six years old. At 17 Sharapova beat Serena Williams to win Wimbledon. She reached the #1 world ranking at 18 and has held that ranking a number of times since. To date, she has won five Grand Slams. She lives in Manhattan Beach, California.” The inclusion of Serena William’s in the blurb of Sharapova’s book is hardly a ringing endorsement of the Russian’s talent.
Unstoppable is a title that is no match for Sharapova.
Unbreakable, maybe. Unapologetic, definitely. But the title Unstoppable just doesn’t fit an autobiography about Maria Sharapova when she, along with countless other tennis players, has been very stoppable. Especially by the racket of Serena Williams.
My wish when starting the book was for Maria to expose some tiny bit of warmth or likeability – and she does try. She writes about her struggles when first coming to America, but it comes across as formulaic, as opposed to triumphant. She tries to be self-deprecating about her figure, and how she was unaware of how stunning she is, but it comes across as fake. Instead of providing much needed humility it only seems to fuel a narcissistic persona. Nowhere in the book does she speak about a passion for tennis that is genuine. It never seemed in Unstoppable that a true love tennis was motivating her. Instead, it seemed that tennis was merely a vehicle to a better life. And it was.
Prior to testing positive for a banned substance, Maria Sharapova had been the highest paid female athlete for a very long time. And the book reveals that also prior to the test, Maria was planning to retire in 2017. The drug test that stopped her retirement, in fact, restarted her tennis career. So perhaps she is finally on her way to living up to the book’s title. Maybe this is the path for Maria Sharapova to actually someday be – Unstoppable.
What do you think Sharapova’s holds? Can she return to the top of the game and become ‘unstoppable?’ Let us know in the comments below!
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