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Maria Sharapova left the sport: why she did not become the best tennis player in the world, but she will remain a star


Source: Medusa

February 26, Maria Sharapova announced her retirement from big sport. Sharapova - one of ten tennis players who won all four Grand Slam tournaments (the most prestigious tennis competitions), the former first racket of the world, is in the top 5 in terms of titles won and victories. Especially for "Jellyfish" website editor Pavel Nitkin talks about what the Russian athlete had to overcome in order to become one of the greatest tennis players of our time - and what she could not cope with.

Sharapova’s life began with overcoming lack of money - tennis training was supposed to cost 35 thousand dollars a year, but in the end Maria was taken for free

Sharapova's parents, Elena and Yuri, left for Gomel to Siberia when, four months after the Chernobyl disaster, her mother found out about pregnancy. Sharapova was born in Nyagan, which her father called the “shitty town”, but after a few years the family moved to Sochi. There Maria began to play tennis, and the first racket was presented to her by the father of Evgeny Kafelnikov, the greatest tennis player in Russian history before Sharapova.

In 1993, when Sharapova was six, she and her father traveled to Moscow for a workshop by Martina Navratilova, one of the most titled tennis players in history. According to legend, Navratilova admired Maria’s talent and advised her father to send her to study tennis in the USA (Martina herself recently admitted that she does not remember this).

The next year, they reached Florida - without money and English, but with an unshakable desire to get into the most famous academy in the world, Nick Bolletieri, which graduated from Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Anna Kournikova. Education cost 35 thousand dollars a year, but the family did not have that kind of money: the Sharapovs then lived in an apartment “like from films from the 80s about dysfunctional families, single mothers and people on the run” (quote from Maria’s autobiography). This did not stop them: they got a viewing on which Maria impressed Bolletieri so much that he agreed to teach her for free.

But it didn't get any easier. In the United States, Mary lived without a mother for two years. After some time, she was expelled from the academy - as her father thought, at the initiative of her mother Anna Kournikova. Then Sharapova returned to the academy. In the same period when Maria was 11 years old, she had an agent, Max Eisenbad, with whom she still works. At 13, she gave an interview to HBO and to the question “What will you choose: victory at Wimbledon or $ 20 million in sponsorship contracts?” answered: “I would like to win Wimbledon, because after that millions will come.”

Sharapova was right. Wimbledon 2004, which she won at 17, was a turning point in her career. The point after which she turned into a superstar. After a month and a half, she signed a contract with Motorola for one and a half million dollars a year, and after a while she became the highest paid athlete in the world and held this title for 11 years in a row.

In 2008, Sharapova received a severe shoulder injury - and overcame its consequences

In 2008, Sharapova was at the peak of form. In January at the Australian Open, she won the third Grand Slam tournament without giving a rival a set, and became the most titled tennis player in Russian history. But soon after that she experienced the most difficult moment in her career.

“At first it was nonsense - a slight shoulder pain on the pitch. But she became stronger and stronger. It got to the point that I didn’t want to play - it was so painful to serve. I cried from pain after the matches, ”Maria said in her autobiography.

In August, it turned out that since April Sharapova had a torn tendon in her right shoulder. As a result, she underwent surgery on him, after which she recovered for seven months to return to tennis.

The athlete had to change the delivery technique, which before the operation was considered one of the most powerful and stable on the tour. Due to attempts to adjust the movement so as to avoid a recurrence of injury, its presentation has become less manageable, and a series of double errors have become a hallmark of Mary’s game. But she overcame this, and by the end of 2009 she had already won titles and was in the top 20 of the rating.

Sharapova played poorly on the ground - but she overcame this. And even became one of the best

On the court, Sharapova always tried to attack. Her tennis was built on a difficult to achieve combination of power and speed. She hit as hard as few managed, but for this it was necessary to have time to perfectly approach the ball. When everything worked out, the game acquired such intensity that the rivals could not cope with it. When it didn’t work out, the spectacle was rather sad (which the audience saw the last two years). At the same time, Sharapova’s game is not very diverse - therefore, in the first years of the tour she was very hard on the ground.

Tennis is played on three different surfaces, which are very different from each other and require a different approach. And Maria rejected the ground. Sharapova has very flat strokes - and the ground loves those who create a strong rotation. Sharapova crushes linear power - and the soil loves those who use the entire geometry of the court. He even requires another movement - it is necessary not only to run on it, but also to slide, which Sharapova previously could not. She herself once admitted that on the ground she feels "like a cow on ice."

On the subject: 'My home is the USA': Maria Sharapova compared life in Russia and America

But by 2011, Maria, without changing the game drastically, was able to find shades in it that made her a practically soil specialist. Roland Garros, which is held on clay, was the only Grand Slam tournament where she won twice. And soil titles in the end amounted to almost a third of the total - 11 out of 36, and of the last 15 on clay, she took 10.

This transformation shows the essence of the greatness of Sharapova. On the court, she knew how to distance herself from everything and focus on a specific task. That is why the fans knew so well how she tunes in for the rally, turning away from the court, or how she starts up before the reception, shaking her fist. Thanks to this focus, Maria won as much as no one had won in Russia before her.

Sharapova always had a rival who played better - Serena Williams. She could not overcome it

It would seem that a person who is able to master the most unloved and uncomfortable cover, who can crush anyone with power, should not be one of the most titled, but the most titled. But no matter how good Sharapova was, a stronger rival was almost always nearby.

In the Wimbledon 2004 final, Maria Sharapova beat Serena Williams. In her autobiography, she later said that the American woman after the match cried in the locker room, and in a conversation with a common acquaintance, she promised: "I will never lose this fucking thing again." And she almost kept her promise.

Due to an injury, Williams lost Sharapova another match in 2004, but has since won her 19 times in a row - almost always at the decisive stages of major tournaments (including three times in the Grand Slam finals). And it was Serena who stood between Maria and the dream of winning the Olympics, and even did it humiliatingly, giving only one game in the London 2012 finals.

No matter how Sharapova changes, no matter how she fights and tries, Serena always turns out to be stronger, more diverse and simply better. And the Russian woman never figured out what can be done about this.

Sharapova fell for meldonia, returned after disqualification - but the story of overcoming did not happen again

In the quarter-finals of the Australian Open-2016, Sharapova suffered another defeat from Williams, and then another event happened, from which Maria did not fully recover. In her doping test, meldonium was discovered, which became a prohibited drug that year. According to her, she continued to receive it through the carelessness of the agent, who did not notice the warning letter about the ban. As a result, the athlete was disqualified for 15 months.

Having returned, Sharapova was no longer the same. For example, before being removed, she pulled out three quarters of three-set matches at the most tense moment, and then less than half. Her critics even gloated that without meldonium, she lost her stamina.

On the subject: Maria Sharapova is congratulated on their engagement: her fiancé is a friend of princes William and Harry

More importantly, after returning, she was constantly worried about injuries, and she withdrew from tournaments more often than she finished. She had pains in her left thigh, left arm, left forearm, and at the end of 2018, problems with her right shoulder returned, due to which she ended her career.

One of the last matches Maria held against Serena. So that at least she could go to court, she had to anesthetize her shoulder. But in the end, Sharapova took only two games.

Even after leaving tennis, Sharapova will remain a star - because she has overcome the boundaries of sports

Sharapova’s departure from the sport certainly saddened her fans, but for her it’s just the end of an incredibly successful chapter. In tennis, she won almost all the main titles, was the best and earned almost 300 million dollars. She turned the personal brand created on the court into the confectionery company Sugarpova, which now earns 10-12 million dollars a year.

Now Maria can do almost anything, because she has long gone far beyond sports. She is mentioned in Dan Brown’s book, starred in a cameo on TV shows, and takes part in a business reality show. Even those who do not distinguish Wimbledon from Roland Garros still know the name of Sharapova.

She even announced her retirement not like most tennis players - through social networks or at a press conference - but in an essay published by Vanity Fair and Vogue.

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