Anna Kes­sel

A note from our Women’s Sports Edi­tor

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Women's Sport Monthly -

I will never for­get watch­ing Maria Shara­pova win Wim­ble­don aged 17. It was 2004 and I had only just started my ca­reer in sports jour­nal­ism, a rookie. It was a dif­fer­ent era, one in which sports jour­nal­ists brazenly asked fe­male ath­letes about mar­riage, and other out­landish non-starters.

All these years later and times have changed. The fact that a women’s sport de­part­ment ex­ists, for a start. And if you asked an ath­lete now whether get­ting mar­ried might af­fect their ca­reer you would be given more than an eye­roll.

The legacy of that dated ap­proach to women’s sport, how­ever, lives on to­day. As we searched for pho­to­graphs of Shara­pova’s maiden Grand Slam vic­tory over Ser­ena Wil­liams for this is­sue we strug­gled to find much va­ri­ety. An iconic mo­ment, barely cap­tured. Try­ing to il­lus­trate this month’s his­tor­i­cal trib­ute to the trail­blaz­ing African Amer­i­can ten­nis star of the 1930s, Ora Wash­ing­ton, was near-on im­pos­si­ble.

Shara­pova has since be­come one of the most pho­tographed sportswome­n of all time, both on and off the court. In this, her first Bri­tish news­pa­per in­ter­view since re­tir­ing ear­lier this year, she tells Molly McEl­wee about the drive be­hind her suc­cess as a busi­ness­woman, how she sees her fu­ture be­yond sport, and re­flects on the legacy of 28 years in ten­nis. As Bil­lie Jean King told the 13-year-old Shara­pova: “What­ever you do does not just shape your path, but it shapes the path of the gen­er­a­tion to come.” For 11 years the rich­est sportswoma­n on earth, Shara­pova helped to forge a path that would show mar­ke­teers sportswome­n are worth in­vest­ing in.

That com­mer­cial change is fi­nally fil­ter­ing down across women’s sport, and Katie Why­att ex­plores how foot­ball is the lat­est to ben­e­fit from the move to pro­fes­sion­al­i­sa­tion. Else­where, it is fas­ci­nat­ing to note how suc­cess­ful many sportswome­n have been in mak­ing the tran­si­tion to a dif­fer­ent ca­reer – de­spite so many hav­ing been pre­ma­turely forced out of sport through in­jury, or as in the case of Par­a­lympian Danielle Brown, through a re­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of her dis­abil­ity.

While in men’s sport we are well ac­cus­tomed to the nar­ra­tives around re­tire­ment – de­pres­sion, di­vorce, debt – in women’s sport we have yet to fully un­der­stand how end­ing a sport­ing ca­reer af­fects fe­male ath­letes. What are the com­mon ex­pe­ri­ences? Where is the data? There are so many gaps in our col­lec­tive knowl­edge. We hope this is­sue goes some way to­wards ad­dress­ing the chasm.

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