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Maria Sharapova Leaves her fans with her legacy stories

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One of only seven women to win all four majors at least once in the Open era, Sharapova’s retirement due to injuries not only robs tennis of one of its the fiercest competitors but also of one of the world’s most recognizable female athletes who transcended her sport and opened tennis up to new markets.

One of the most ferocious baseliners in the women’s game, with a game built around aggressive ground strokes and mental strength, Sharapova won 36 career titles, including five majors, an Olympic silver medal, held the No. 1 ranking for 21 weeks and amassed $38 million in prize money.

But after 28 years of playing tennis, Sharapova’s body can no longer deal with competing at the highest level, she told the New York Times in an interview this week.

One of Sharapova’s biggest assets was her never-say-die attitude, laser-like focus and work ethic, both on and off the court, which has inspired generations of young tennis players.

“She’s great fighter. As dedicated as someone can really be in our sport,” top-ranked Novak Djokovic told reporters in Dubai after he heard the news.

“Maria, you inspired millions of people with your passion for the game and we thank you for that,” rising Russian star Karen Khachanov wrote on Twitter. “You have set an example for everybody in many ways. Humble, determined and a true champion.”

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Just 17, Sharapova had become a global star virtually overnight when she defeated then two-time champion Serena Williams of the U.S. in the finals of Wimbledon in 2004. A year later, Sharapova rose to the No. 1 ranking, the first woman from Russia to do so.

Her defeat of Serena Williams on Centre Court turned Sharapova into one of the world’s most famous sportswomen, who would end up rewriting the rules about sports marketing and female athletes. She amassed more than $325 million in earnings, both on and off the court, during her career, according to Forbes.

“From the day Maria Sharapova won her first Wimbledon at age 17, she has been a great champion,” WTA Tour co-founder Billie Jean King, who first met the Russian when she was 13, said on Twitter. “A 5x major champion and a former World No. 1, her business success is just as impressive as her tennis achievements.”

Guided by her long-time agent at management agency IMG, Max Eisenbud, Sharapova became a global fashion and style icon, whose business empire not only included a string of endorsements with blue-chip companies including Tag Heuer, Porsche, Evian and Avon but also a successful candy and chocolate line founded in 2012, Sugarpova. She was ranked as the world’s top-paid female athlete for 11 straight years by Forbes.

Mastering the slow red clay of Roland-Garros in 2012 and 2014, where she once famously compared herself to “a cow on ice” was perhaps her greatest achievement on a tennis court. Her first French Open victory came three years after a potentially career-ending shoulder injury which required surgery on a torn rotator cuff.

Sharapova’s rise to the top having escaped the aftermath of a nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union was nothing short of remarkable.

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Sharapova was born 19 April, 1987 in Nyagan, western Siberia, not long after her parents, Yuri and Yelena, moved to the remote oil town from their hometown of Gomel, Belarus to escape the fall-out from the nearby Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Two years later, the family moved to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where Sharapova started playing tennis at the age of four.

Eighteen-time major winner Martina Navratilova spotted the talented Maria a year later at an event in Moscow, and advised her father to move the family to the U.S.

Maria Sharapova wins Wimbledon 2004
Sharapova with the 2004 Wimbledon trophy, which would turn her into one of the world’s wealthiest …

This was easier said than done. Maria and Yuri moved to the U.S. in 1994, but had to leave Yelena behind for two years because of visa restriction issues and lack of money. But Maria was only seven years old, and deemed too young to start training at a tennis academy. For the next two years, her father worked low-paid jobs in construction to pay for her coaching. When Maria was nine, the family were finally reunited and she earned a $30,000 scholarship to train at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida.

Eight years later, she won the Wimbledon title.

Although Sharapova would also beat Williams at the 2004 WTA Finals, her rivalry with the now 23-time major singles winner was lopsided, with the former top-ranked American taking 20 matches in a row after that year.

The legacy Sharapova leaves behind is in some ways an unfinished one. Struggling with a shoulder injury and inflammation in both forearms, Sharapova told the New York Times she had been in pain for much of the past two years, as she made a comeback to tennis following a 15-month ban for taking the banned substance meldonium in 2016.

Her body left her unable to reach the same heights as before her shock admission in March 2016 that she had failed a doping test after failing to notice the drug in question had been banned at the start of that year by the World Anti-Doping Agency. An initial two-year ban was eventually reduced to 15 months, with the highest sports court, CAS, saying the former world No. 1 wasn’t an “intentional doper.”

2012 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter – Arrivals
Sharapova atending the 2012 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. (Photo: John Shearer/WireImage) WIREIMAGE
Ironically, the doping ban would in fact end up extending Sharapova’s career by a few more years.

“If (the suspension) didn’t happen, this probably would have been her last year,” IMG’s Eisenbud told CNN in a phone interview in 2017.

Before the doping suspension, Sharapova had been struggling with multiple injuries. “Her body was in bad shape,” Eisenbud said.

Although Eisenbud had been planning for Sharapova’s retirement for years, with the Sugarpova brand and other deals in place for when her career would eventually finish, and a stint at Harvard Business School and an internship at the NBA during her ban, no longer being a professional tennis player may take some getting used to.

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Exclusive 2022: Now that’s how you do it! Kate shows up for Queen as Duchess dazzles in new pictures

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Kate and Prince William headed to the Foundling Museum on Wednesday morning. There, they learned more about the care sector and met representatives from across the system.

The Duchess appeared in high spirits as she returned to public duties, and dazzled wearing an elegant outfit including dark trousers, a high-neck jumper and a vibrant blue coat.

Prince William also looked smart wearing a dark-coloured jumper and trousers on top of a baby blue buttoned-up shirt.

Kate headed to this museum in London as its patron, a role she has been covering since 2019.

Kate Middleton news pictures Duchess of Cambridge royal visit today latest Royal Family

Kate Middleton news pictures Duchess of Cambridge royal visit today latest Royal Family

It tells the history of the Foundling Hospital, established in 1739 as a home for children who could not be cared for by their mothers.

This visit confirms the Duchess’ commitment to deepening the understanding the British society has of the early years and how experiences completed during the first five years of life can impact adult development.

This area has been of interest to Kate since she joined the Royal Family in April 2011.

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The Duchess has spent years working behind the scenes to develop her knowledge on early childhood and enter into a collaboration with relevant organisations.

Kate Middleton news pictures Duchess of Cambridge royal visit today latest Royal Family

Prince Harry ‘running out of toys to throw out of pram’
Her work on the issue became apparent in 2018, when she launched a steering group including experts to look at how cross-sector collaboration could bring about lasting change.

In early 2020, she launched a nationwide survey interrogating Britons on their views and understanding of the importance of the early years.

Findings from this questionnaire and the following research were unveiled in November that year, during the Royal Foundation’s first virtual forum on early childhood.

Months later, in June 2021, the Duchess officially launched the Royal Foundation Cente for the Early Childhood, with the aim to drive awareness of and action on the extraordinary impact of the early years in order to transform society for generations to come.

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It wasn’t supposed to go down like that “Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis on their ‘cozy’ moment in ‘…………..'”

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It wasn’t supposed to go down in the kitchen.

That was the one room in the Chatsworth home doubling as the Williams family Florida residence in “King Richard” that was off-limits to the filmmakers because the appliances and cabinet hardware hadn’t been switched out to reflect the movie’s mid-’90s period.

So naturally, Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis, the actors playing Richard Williams and Oracene Price, parents of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, went straight to the kitchen when it came time to rehearse a crucial scene in the film. Where else would they go? Think about your own home and where people gravitate during parties, where family and friends hold late-night conversations and where loaded confrontations like the one in “King Richard” transpire.

“It is always the kitchen!” Smith says, punctuating the pronouncement, as he often does, with a booming clap of laughter.

“King Richard” takes its title from Williams, the demanding and loving father and tennis coach, the man who wrote a 78-page plan that detailed how his two daughters would become tennis champions. He came up with this blueprint before Venus and Serena were even born, meaning that he needed more than a little help from his wife to realize it.

As Ellis puts it: “He had to convince her to use her body for 18 months to create the vessels for this dream. And she was, ‘OK. Bet.’ They were both crazy. They were co-conspirators in crazy.”

Adds Smith: “There has to be a little bit of crazy, because you have to believe something that there’s no evidence for, and then you have to devote your life to something that is not only invisible, but highly unlikely and potentially impossible. But you believe it wholeheartedly because you can’t achieve it if you don’t believe it wholeheartedly. So, yeah, there’s a sliding scale of naiveté to full insanity, and somewhere in there is the sweet spot for dream manifestation.”

But there’s crazy, and then there’s a selfish lack of awareness as to how other people feel. And, in the movie, that led to a confrontation between the parents over Williams’ refusal to consider letting Venus turn pro at age 14. It’s a conversation that takes place 90 minutes into the movie, providing Price with the opportunity to finally call out her husband’s ego and stubbornness in the ways he controlled his family’s life, not to mention his penchant for walking away from failed businesses and children he had with other women.

The scene was shot after production had been halted in March 2020 by a pandemic lockdown, a break that offered Smith and Ellis time to, as Smith puts it, “marinate in their characters.”

“When it came to this Ali-Frazier moment,” Ellis says, comparing the encounter to the famous heavyweight boxing matches between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali in the 1970s, “we felt we had lived enough with these characters to say how we felt without really even needing a script.”

Smith, who played Ali in the 2001 Michael Mann movie, was asked if he felt like Ali or Frazier in the kitchen scene.

“Well, it depends which fight,” he replies, laughing. (Frazier won their initial bout; Ali prevailed in the two rematches.)

Our conversations — the first with the two actors together around the November AFI Fest and then subsequent talks individually in the new year — would often circle back to this defining scene, during which Price tells her husband in no uncertain terms about the sacrifices she made to help their daughters achieve their tennis dreams. (The couple married in 1980 and divorced in 2002.)

“I carried them inside me and on my back,” Ellis, as Price, says at the beginning of this five-minute confrontation. “And I carried you too, working two shifts so I could put food on your table. I’ve been here dreaming and believing. Just like you. You just don’t want to see me.”

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Since they weren’t supposed to shoot in the kitchen, director Reinaldo Marcus Green grabbed a loaf of bread and some peanut butter from the craft services table, along with a carton of orange juice the home’s owners had left in the fridge. Ellis now had some props to use. “The whole thing was one happy accident,” Green says by phone.

Among its many notable accomplishments, “King Richard” makes a convincing case for Price’s crucial role in the development of the Williams sisters’ careers, both as a parent and as a coach. Smith remembers an early meeting at Serena Williams’ home when everyone was still sizing each other up and deciding if they’d make the movie. Price sat quietly for most of the afternoon, then after some coaxing, offered her thoughts.

“She’s so quiet,” Smith says. “She doesn’t feel a necessity to prove or defend herself. So when she speaks, it’s a powerful thing.”

“The thing I thought about that day,” Ellis says of the kitchen scene, “was what would Miss Oracene Price want the world to know about her experience? People see her in the stands, but they don’t know her. Nobody knows that she was their coach … but she was. So I just wanted to speak as well as I could for her and feel OK about it when I was done.”

Like Price, Ellis is a soft-spoken woman, modest and deeply caring. She didn’t talk with Price before playing her but did meet her during a press day before “King Richard” was released.

“She said, ‘Great job,'” Ellis recalls, laughing. “Just two words. But that was enough for me.”

Smith has been receiving praise too since “King Richard” simultaneously opened in theaters and premiered on HBO Max on Nov. 19. Though the film’s theatrical box office total has been disappointing (the movie’s worldwide gross is under $30 million), Smith says he has never experienced a more enthusiastic reaction to a film.

“I had resigned myself in my life that, as an artist, I would never make a film better than ‘The Pursuit of Happyness,'” Smith says, referring to the 2006 drama that co-starred his son Jaden and earned him an Oscar nomination. “That was the high-water mark. I figured I had reached my artistic pinnacle.”

“And then we made ‘King Richard,’ and the amount of people — family, friends, foes, celebrities, politicians, athletes — who have been inspired to make it a point to get in touch with me to tell me that they enjoyed it has been overwhelming.”

What resonated with all these people? Smith, who has never encountered a subject he couldn’t bullet-point, says there are two things: The film’s story of a family triumph, specifically a Black family’s triumph, has been a needed source of uplift during a pandemic that has gone on nearly two years. And people have also commented on the “girl dad” relationships in the movie, what Smith calls a “delicious and uncommon thing to see depicted in cinema.”

“That was one of the things about Richard that I wanted to be able to capture,” Smith says, “that, as wild as he was and as much as he could rage, it was always in defense and protection of his daughters. And they knew it. They knew he would die for them and would kill for them. For all his faults, Richard Williams is one of the greatest girl dads that America has ever seen. To this day, those girls love that man. And that’s as much his legacy as all those tennis titles.”

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Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather: Joe Rogan commentary added to pathetic UFC star punch

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It’s been over four years since the greatest crossover in combat sport history, and fans are still enjoying the memes that came from it.

 

 

Back in August 2017, UFC star Conor McGregor and undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather shared the ring for 10 rounds at the T-Mobile Arena, with ‘Money’ Mayweather going on to secure a TKO victory.

In the lead up to the bout, fans were unsure of how McGregor would adapt to a boxing ring as opposed to an Octagon, and to this day the jokes are still pretty funny.

Mayweather won via a 10th-round TKO, however, many fans think the American was coasting for the first rounds and only began putting pressure on in the final stages where he secured the win.

McGregor did himself justice, landing decent shots on ‘Money’ and surviving until the latter stages, however, not without a couple clinches, back-of-the-head shots and just general boxing awkwardness.

The ‘Notorious’ McGregor swiftly got the meme treatment from social media, as fans speculated how the bout would’ve sounded had Joe Rogan been in the commentary booth.

Take a look at the clip below…

McGregor barely touches the nose of Mayweather but Rogan can be heard hyping up the Irishman and claiming ‘he hurt him bad.’

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Over the years, it is clear that Rogan has divided opinion. Some appreciate the enthusiasm he brings to the UFC, whilst others believe that Rogan has a tendency to over-exaggerate during his assessment of fights.

McGregor has also, through no fault of his own, garnered a reputation as a favourite amongst UFC boss Dana White and commentators Joe Rogan, Jon Anik and Daniel Cormier, leading to fans thinking he gets special treatment.

The Irishman was planned to participate in a wheelchair boxing match for charity at the start of the year, but the event was postponed due to ‘time constraints.’

Whether we see the Forbes highest-paid athlete of the year return to a boxing ring will remain unknown, but perhaps for his sake he should stick to the Octagon.

McGregor has been rumoured to face current UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira once he’s fully healed from his broken leg sustained in his defeat to Dustin Poirier last year.

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