It's Sharapover: A Complicated Affair

The Body Serve


Thought we had the weekend off. I thought we had bought ourselves a little bit of time doing that. Mailbox episode but Maria Sharapova decided to upend our brief break and announced her retirement from tennis. Let's not do a whole lung. Preamble about this. We're here because Maria Sharapova has retired and we're here to talk about that to situate her career talk about the the ups and downs of her career and put her career and her into some context. She announced this week via an essay that she wrote for Vanity Fair and Vogue which were released at the same time both conde nast publications. It's the sort of flex that only a player of her magnitude can do. It's been interesting to me to watch her over. I would say probably the past year or a little more and an observed how little attention and how little fanfare has followed her around considering that she was once the highest paid female athlete in the world. She was tennis's biggest superstar for for many years and this latter stage of her career has been quiet. When you say only a player like her obviously Serena can do that too. I Know Naomi can do that too. I think those are the three players in women's tennis who have that kind of stature status to be able to call up an A. Winter. And be like. Hey can I can let y'all know in your publication regardless of who can do it. The point is that Maria is bigger than tennis. In the same way that Serena or Roger or Rafa are Novak are bigger than tennis. They don't have to go through the traditional tennis media to do these things they can call on their sponsors their friends mainstream press. They have that freedom does afford them because they are successful and they make a lot of money. Of course I knew what you meant but I think dealing with a complicated figure like Maria Sharapova comment on us to be as precise as we can with our words so as to not open up ourselves controlled. But we're not doing this. The whole episode. Every every statement about Maria is not an equal statement about serene. We're just not. I agree I'm just saying we can easily cost nothing to be more precise okay. You see what you did there. You put me in a position to be the bad person. Well maybe you shouldn't shouldn't do it anyway. Maria wrote this essay. I think there were probably a few journalists and people within the sport who was coming and we can't release it as a massive surprise considering that her body has been betraying her over the past few years. It's been extremely difficult for her. To stay healthy at this point for even a match or two in a row. Her events have been sparse. It seemed that the writing had been on the wall for a little while. What's interesting to me is that there is no retirement tour. There's no final triumphant moment at a Grand Slam. That meant a lot to her. There's no on-court Farewell. It almost seems I know. Use The word quiet before but it. It just seems a little anti-climactic for somebody who has meant so much to the game for the past fifteen years. Sure but to me. It makes sense because to embark on some kind of farewell tour. You'd have to be able to count on your body to a low to show up for right and I think that's what the bottom line is here for Maria. She told this story in her Vanity Fair Vogue Essay. That just getting on court for her match at the. Us Open last year. Felt like a victory getting the shot in her shoulder Infos cortisone or whatever but just being able to play to numb the shoulder and play in the first round was a big achievement and so she was past the point of being able to plan anything tennis related because their body just wouldn't let her right and I don't think she's the type to be like well. Let me just show up for this first. Rhone have a cute little moment and lose six two six two like. That's not the kind of scripting that she would one. No and she's had an interesting career injury wise because after that big shoulder surgery that she went through with that had really compromised her play. She had to rewrite the way that she served. Her game. Looked quite a bit different than when she was seventeen. Eighteen nineteen years old but she learns how to move on Clay. She wins two French Open. She becomes a dominant player. Again will maybe not a dominant player. But she reaches number one again. She's part of this triumvirate for a little while with Serena and as Aranka all the while dealing with this shoulder issue. That is still very much a problem. It's not just that she won the French Open. She was winning tournaments on clay. Yeah her up until two thousand ten. I believe she had one or made. Just one final unclean. It was green clad. Amelia Island But from two thousand ten words you see Maria making a ton of clay finals in fact the majority of her finals that she makes I believe in the second half of her career come on clay winnings took three times and winning Rome three times. So that's like you said a complete change of course from what we conceive of her to start her. So where do you WANNA start here? Do you WanNa talk about her career on the court and just kind of give a little background where she started where we are now and then I mean the extracurricular things are huge story with Maria as always I wanNA talk about first about her influence one of the things that I've seen since the the announcement that she's retired is some folks. Scoffing at just how much her actual influence was and how much she inspired people and I don't think you can underestimate. Just how much influence Maria Sharapova had in bringing people into tenants. They might not be the reasons that you would want people to come to tennis. But Maria Sharapova is Bar. None globally the most well-known women's tennis player. And we know this. Because Jamaicans don't know what Serena Williams looks like. We know this from schools John's quits. I can't tell you how many times I've interacted with people and they're like what would you like? Well I have a tennis podcast and like Oh Maria sharp over. I'm like do you follow tennis. No but they know who? Marie sharp over yes. Her Persona has cut through so many different facets of life to the point where random people know who she is on top of that. There are a lot of people who the very first match they saw was Maria Sharapova match. And that's the kind of thing that can't control. I was a Cheetah van because the very first match I watched was a continue to match the very first men's match. I watch was an Agassi match. Those are the things that that people hang onto. Because it's their first introduction right so there is that there is the fact that she occupied this place of prominence being the top paid female athletes in the world. For so long we can have a totally different discussion about whether that was warranted or deserved that separate and apart. If you're able to separate those two things then I think you can see clearly that Sharipova mental out to a lot of people and had great influence within the tennis world the sporting world and in society at large globally as well within tennis. She is a polarizing figure. We are not going to pretend like we have always been kind to her on the show. We've had our fun roasting Maria over the years. You've had your fun today with the title for this episode and You know. I'm going to be totally straightforward. Maria is not not a player that I loved to watch play tennis. I can appreciate her place. I respect a lot of things about her. She's not somebody who's matches I- flocked to watch and we've been critical about the way that she wrote about Serena and her bulk about how she handled the IT F. and then water ban and there's a lot going on but she is not an a boring character by any stretch. If you were to look back now and Marie his career what is the one word or the one thing that comes to mind what well? Unfortunately right now. It's Mel Donen. That's the first thing that comes to my e. Yeah like if we're doing plane Word Association. I'm not saying that's fair. Okay but I think when we have some distance when I've been thinking about her career. I'm thinking about winning Wimbledon at seventeen thinking about having a career slam on Sugar Povoa. Her tennis achievements are huge. Because very few women have won a career. Grand Slam. Her off-court achievements are also big and they're also painted by the fact that her blindness and her whiteness made her the perfect foil and the perfect heroin. As opposed to this dominant black champion Serena Williams you know she was the great white hope right again. Another consideration of the great white hope for me. The word is complicated when we covered the muldoon thing. We came down right in the middle of the fence. We come down on either side of the. I think I'm still there actually. It was kind of interesting to go back and look through some of the research done for that episode. What like what three years ago? At this point I'm early. Two Thousand Sixteen when it when it came out so almost four years ago we would have covered this on the show and to now be going through it again are thinking about it again and and feeling the same way like not much has changed for

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