Robert Philip, Telegraph (UK), July 5, 2004
Maria Sharapova is the little girl who went straight from Cinderella to Tsarina without stoping to become a princess along the way; from Siberia to Wimbledon, from relative rags to untold riches.
Ten years ago her father, Yuri, took his seven-year-old daughter to America with $700 borrowed from friends and relations in his pocket fired by the sole ambition of fashioning a tennis champion from her precocious talent. Never in his wildest imaginings could he have dreamed such an impossible dream.
Now 17, Sharapova, who combines elegance and artistry with power and painstakingly honed technique, not only denied Serena Williams the opportunity of becoming the fifth player to win a hat-trick of Wimbledon titles since the war — after Maureen Connolly, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf — but, following her countrywoman Anastasia Myskina’s success in last month’s French Open, heralded the dawn of a new Russian dynasty.
It was a victory for invention over convention; Williams, as is her wont, played with all the imagination of a Dalek; with her awesome weaponry she had but one thought — hunt and kill. When Williams lost a point, she simply zapped the next ball even harder. Exter-minate . . . exter-minate . . .
But just as Dr Who used his brain to conquer his seemingly unconquerable foe, so Gabriela Sabatini, who finally figured out a way to confound her great nemesis, Steffi Graf, to win the 1990 US Open title, could detect a fatal flaw in the Williams armoury even before the first ball was struck. “To beat Serena,” she opined, “you have to play with the mind, constantly altering the rhythm.”
Despite her tender years, no one plays `mind games’ better than Sharapova, who constantly confused the one-dimensional former champion with subtle changes of pace, assorted spins, geometrically improbable angles and exquisite lobs. She outplayed and, more importantly, out-thought Williams, whose post-match comment — “I’m at 20 per cent of where I want to be” — was gratuitously insulting to the teenage diva.
When required to rally, as opposed to stand at the baseline launching weapons of mass destruction, Williams looked as cumbersome as Sonny Liston trying to swat the floating butterfly that was Muhammad Ali, and on the frequent occasions she was lured to the net by Sharapova’s crafty drop-shots, appeared as confounded as a Dalek faced by a flight of stairs.
Spotted at the age of six by Navratilova while training at the Moscow Tennis Clinic, Sharapova’s fairytale began in the Siberian town of Nyagan — a particularly ugly blot on the Russian landscape surrounded by oil refineries — before her family made good their escape from the radiation caused by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to resettle in Sochi on the Black Sea. Heeding Navratilova’s advice to go west, father and daughter, by then aged seven, arrived in Miami at 11 o’clock on a Friday night, rich in ambition but with meagre funds. A mutual friend of a friend who had agreed to meet them at the airport failed to show up, so they spent the night in a cheap hotel before turning up unannounced and uninvited at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, the so-called `dream factory’ where Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Monica Seles were turned into champions.
Yuri recalled: “We travelled by bus and train. I don’t know how we did it because neither of us spoke a word of English. Luckily, there was a woman at the academy who spoke Russian and I begged her, `Please, you must get them to see my daughter’.”
One look at the elfin prodigy persuaded Bollettieri to accept her as a `boarder’, while Yuri rented a small apartment and worked on a construction site. “My wife Yelena could not get a visa to come with us. In the end, we were separated for two years while she stayed in Russia. I was broke, I could not afford a car. I walked an hour each way from where I was staying to the academy. Finally, I saved up enough to buy a motorbike, but one day the police sped me because Maria was on the back without a crash helmet. I didn’t have $10 to buy a helmet. Maybe that is why Maria is so tough.”
Tough — “She can bend steel,” says Bollettieri — but oh, so, sweet, to the point Sharapova had no idea the figure on her winner’s cheque was ?560,500. “Is it, is it really? But I’m a gift person so I am going to buy something for Mom and Dada. What? I think Dada would like a mountain covered in snow so he can go skiing. Mom always says she doesn’t need anything but I will get her something nice just to say thanks for having always been there when I needed her.”
Boris Becker, who also won Wimbledon at 17, said: “Maria’s life will never be the same. She probably doesn’t even realise that yet.”
Already a member of the IMG Models client list in the company of Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks, Sharapova seems blissfully unaware of the sensation she has caused. “I’m still going to be the same person. If a few kids want my autograph or some people want a picture, then I don’t have a problem with that.”
But as Kirill Anurov of the Russian news and information agency, Novosti, sees it: “Overnight, Maria has become as famous in Russia as our great ice hockey teams or Olympic champions. Just as Olga Korbut inspired a generation of gymnasts, so Maria will will ignite a million youngsters’ interest in tennis.”
Which may be why the first congratulatory text message she received came from Boris Yeltsin. “Several messages in 20 different ways actually . . . ” giggled Wimbledon’s first Russian champion.
And what of Mom, who cannot bring herself to watch Maria in action? “Yes, she’s been on the phone. She saw me win on TV on a flight from Florida to New York. Did she dance in the aisle? I’m sure she wanted to but Mom’s very shy. I bet she didn’t even nudge the person sitting beside her to say `That’s my daughter’.”
All hail the Tsarina Maria.
Comments from Readers
You’ve got to love dark British humor.
“and on the frequent occasions she was lured to the net by Sharapova’s crafty drop-shots, appeared as confounded as a Dalek faced by a flight of stairs.”
And of course Serena Williams loses with typical black sportsmanship:
“Williams, whose post-match comment?”I’m at 20 per cent of where I want to be”?was gratuitously insulting to the teenage diva.”
A stunningly beautiful woman to boot. There might be some hope for white athletics in the former USSR. One desires to be a patriot when watching international sporting events, but when our representatives are nearly 100% black ala the “Dream Team” it becomes a near impossibility. It’s natural and healthy to root for a Vitali Klitschko or Dirk Nowitzki, with their European sportsmanship and decorum, over whatever native Negroes are having success. The success of white athletes furthers the genetic interests of whites.
This backs up a long held theory of mine, that Russian and Eastern European athletes will soon outpace Black athletes because they don’t have the inferiority complex that White American and Western European athletes do. Also in boxing the Latino fighters have been destroying the blacks for the last 15 years.
By the way, I was pleased to see the hand-wringing and excuse making by all of the liberal sportswriters over Williams defeat, and over the recent troubles of Tiger Woods.
Ask the average American who the best female tennis player is and he will say Serena Williams. Ask him who the best golfer is and he will say Tiger Woods. Of course, neither is the best and have been consistently outplayed by white opponents recently. This is all part of the insane glorification of the black athlete.
I was happy to see that the all-white Greek soccer team won the Euro 2004 championship over a mostly black French team and mixed teams from Holland and Portugal. When a mixed French soccer team won the World Cup in 1998 the media crowed about the benefits of multiracialism. For some strange reason no journalist has pondered the benefits of having a racially unified team.
Tennis is not the only sport Russians are starting to dominate. Boxing is seeing a host of new champions from Russia and the old Communist nations of Eastern Europe. Vitali Klitschko, a Ukranian, is currently the heavyweight champ of the world.
I have to admit, I was elated to see the results of this match. The Williams sisters are black nationalists who generally enjoy demeaning this genteel white sport. Their father, aside from being completely nuts, is also a black nationalist. The Williams have no class and no appreciation of the history of tennis.
Also amusing is that Sharapova, like her countrywoman Kournikova, is being offered modeling and advertizing jobs. This ought to make the Williams sisters seethe because they know that modeling and advertizing are where the BIG money is. The Williams have a hard time in this area because they’re too masculine and, well, too ly (simian comes to mind).
From: In Occupied L.A.
The writer should have given Sharapova more credit for her athletic ability. Sure, she out thought Williams. But she also has more all around athletic ability than Williams, who seems to rely soley on her unnatural testosterone level.
No black has ever made the US Olympic swim team. The negative buoyancy common to Africans from extra bone density and lower body fat are disadvantages in the water. Conversely, an extra thick, dense, and rigid skull, along with a similarly dense skeleton and fast-twitch muscle fibers are advantages in boxing, among other sports.
Worth noting is the fact that west African muscles give explosive burst of strength, but tire easily. Alternately, east African muscle fibers (Kenya) give weak bursts, but work more efficiently over longer periods. This explains the pattern of WEST African champs at sprints, EAST African champs at marathons, and white champs in water sports and mid-distance track events.
The differences are what they are; the scientific truth will come out soon. The lying PC Kommisars will lose their struggle to suppress these truths like flat-earth believers of old.
From: Humpty Dumpty
Of course the success of african descent atheletes has NOTHING to do with racial reasons such has high testosterone, wide nostrils, etc. Just because they are so wonderful in overcoming whitey.
And when white and east asian people make up almost all engineers in the world, that is racism because of missed opportunities, nothing to do with genetics or cranial capacity.
In the past I never thought of rooting for a person from another country when they were competing against the USA. Now I root for the white people. With the summer olympics coming up, I wonder how many USA athletes are juiced, especially the black athletes.
I’m looking forward to the summer games this year. Michael Phelps should be fun to watch (I just hope the media doesn’t sap his confidence before he gets there). It’s also going to be interesting to see how those white 400m sprinters from Minnesota do.
Has the black athlete peaked?
I too root for non-American white athletes over American non-whites.
Its racial pride, pure and simple, and its a beautiful thing.
From: Nostradamus Smith
I’m still waiting for the uproar over this article to hit. After all, the writer stated that a white outsmarted a black. In fact, several times he fired off salvos – in that wonderfully British, scathing manner – that hammered the fact that Sharapova obviously possessed more grey matter than Williams.
If you watched the match, you could see that Sharapova actually had more than a cerebral advantage. She was simply a better all around athlete. Williams’ stock in trade has always been the fact that she’s built like a, well, built like a man, using her greater muscle mass/power to win, or sometimes to simply psyche out opponents. Not to appear crude, but after seeing the power of some of the Slavic and Nordic women in track and field and strength events (the ones built for power), the Williams sisters would look weak and ineffectual against them.
From: Wesley in Philly
I LOVE it! The actual tennis triumph, the smart alecey, edgey, British wit (not so quietly hinting at William’s bone headed stupidity), and all your delightful, bright and knowing comments. Marvelous! This is why this site is so important.