A rivalry that’s all in her mind
Maria Sharapova is obsessed with Serena Williams and it’s unhealthy, writes Buhle Mbonambi
GOOGLE defines obsession as: “an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind”, and boy, is Maria Sharapova obsessed with Serena Williams.
Sharapova, the Russian tennis player who has won five Grand Slam titles, including a career slam, has been harbouring thoughts of “coming to get” Williams – arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, with 23 Grand Slam titles and the longest reign on top of the women’s rankings – since she was 12.
In her new book, ironically titled Unstoppable: My Life So Far, Sharapova shows her clear dislike for her fellow WTA player.
In 1999, when Sharapova was 12, the Williams sisters were at an open practice session at an academy in Florida, where the Russian star trained. While the other players watched the sisters, she refused to watch them train. “I’d never put myself in the position of worshipping them, looking up, being a fan,” Sharapova writes.
Instead, she watched them through a shed.
“I could watch through a kind of knothole – just me alone, in the dark, seeing the next 20 years of my life.”
Three years later at the 2002 Wimbledon winners ball, Sharapova would not stand up when Serena, the women’s champion that year, walked in.
“I wanted to get up, but my body just would not let me,” she writes. “It was as if I were stuck in that chair, staring at Serena through the crowd of people, with a single thought in my head: ‘I am going to get you’.”
And get her she did, two years later at the 2004 Wimbledon finals, where she won her first Grand Slam at 17. It obviously gave her satisfaction – she had finally accomplished her greatest dream, defeating Serena Williams. It was that victory that would start the rivalry between them.
“I think Serena hated me for being the kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon,” she writes about the aftermath of the 2004 final. “I think she hated me for taking something that she believed belonged to her. I think she hated me for seeing her at her lowest moment. But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. She’s never forgiven me for it.”
It’s pretty disturbing how she has basically planned her life on how she can defeat Williams on the court. It didn’t help that tennis fans were lapping it up.
Suddenly Sharapova was the saviour of tennis, the bright, tall, pretty, blonde star the game needed to break the reign of the Williams sisters.
I remember watching that 2004 final. I was at a tournament and was one of three black players in a sea of white players. We all crowded into the TV room to watch. The three of us rooted for Serena and when she lost, it felt like we were at Loftus Versfeld and the Bulls had won the Currie Cup.
Such was the glee of our peers, that I couldn’t help but walk out the room, take my tennis bag and go knock a few balls around. I won my last three matches for Serena.
These excerpts from the book have alarmed me. I’m starting to think it’s in Sharapova’s head. She simply cannot handle that in the 21 matches she has played against Williams, she has only won two.
She simply cannot reconcile how mediocre she is compared to Williams. Sharapova was given a 15-month ban from playing tennis for using meldonium,a banned substance. It was supposed to give her a boost. Despite using it, she just couldn’t win. She was simply not good enough.
I will never understand why Sharapova targeted Williams from a young age. And the delusion to think that the only reason Williams has beaten her time and again, is because Sharapova heard her cry.
Someone needs to tell Sharapova that the reason she keeps losing against Williams is simply because Serena is the best to have ever played the game.
The only claim to greatness Sharapova has, is winning a career slam (mostly during the time when the Williams sisters were injured).
Now that she can play tennis again (she did quite well at the US Open), maybe it is time she lets go of her obsession.
It’s time she forgives herself for not being good enough
She is five years younger than Williams and we all know how much of a factor age plays in sport, which is why the Williams sisters are sports legends for playing and winning long after others have retired.
If only Sharapova had spent these past 15 months improving, and focusing her sights on competitors like Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki, who she can easily beat.
Instead she has spent so much time writing about a rivalry that doesn’t exist.
But because she simply isn’t good enough, she has decided to do the one thing she knows she can do very well: bash Serena Williams.
Unstoppable: My Life So Far by Maria Sharapova, is available for R389 on Loot.co.za
Maria Sharapova, left, and Serena Williams.