Maria Sharapova was a brash, unknown seventeen year old kid when she took on the veteran Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final of 2004 and won the title. While Serena didn’t play her best that day, this takes nothing away from Sharapova. She obviously had the game to make it in the draw as far as she did and was not going to be denied winning her first grand slam title in her first try. I remember being annoyed that this cheeky teenager was actually going to pull off this upset, but then I was reminded of another seventeen year old who made a big splash at the All England Club – Boris Becker in 1985.
So I reigned in my annoyance and decided to take the occasion in spirit – perhaps a new star was being born right before my eyes.
Then Sharapova pulled an Andre Agassi on me – she was showered with endorsements and labeled the new IT girl of tennis and I began to wonder about her game. She showed no signs of repeating her success at the All England Club (well, a player by the name of Venus Williams has won Wimbledon 3 times since then) and she was rapidly approaching the label, “one slam wonder”.
Then in a move I could only admire, Maria worked on her game. It was so palpable you could see it – she wanted to be more than Anna Kornikova’s clone with endorsements. Then she entered what I call the “slam every two years” club. She showed up in New York at the US Open in 2006 in Audrey Hepburn inspired Nike garb, made everyone forget what the Williams’ sisters were wearing that year and snagged her first US Open trophy. She was so excited by her victory the top of the trophy came tumbling off and Dick Enberg had to gallantly grab it for her.
She repeated her success at the Australian Open in 2008, taking no prisoners in claiming her third Grand Slam trophy and her first Australian Open title. OK, so maybe I was wrong. Marie stoked up her game enough to launch two successful grand slam campaigns. In between these titles, she had largely forgettable tries on the clay at the French Open while admitting she felt like a “cow sliding on ice” on clay courts.
Maybe I was wrong about Maria. She’s more than just a tennis player with endorsements and has worked on her game enough to win three of the game’s major titles. She has been out for almost a year unfortunately rehabbing her shoulder which required surgery and there has been some speculation on when she will return to the game. She has surfaced recently at Indian Wells playing doubles but unfortunately lost in the first round. Otherwise, she is still out recuperating.
But I can honestly say I have not missed Maria Sharapova. The women’s game has been so quiet since she’s been gone! My ears have been getting a much needed rest since she’s not been a part of the mix. I can’t label her as the only culprit in the noise department, however.
Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva have all been known to let out a squeak, squeal or decibel splitting groan on occasion so Maria is in good company. Let’s not forget the original noise maker on the tour Monica Seles who was once forced to muzzle it during her matches at the All England Club at the request of the All England Club.
There’s just something about the noise levels Maria approaches when she’s playing the game. If you play close attention, you can even guess when she’s about to hit a drop shot because she doesn’t make a sound when she’s about to strike the ball. Her noisy approach to the game is very off putting for this tennis fan and I’m not really sure what can be done about it. I would just hope that when she does make her return to the game, it will be a much quieter Maria Sharapova.