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Maria Sharapova came back stronger: Rags to Riches to Doping Shame

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Maria Sharapova was on Wednesday banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after testing positive for meldonium during January’s Australian Open

Sharapova was a brand ambassador for Porsche, Cole Haan and in 2010 signed a contract extension with Nike worth a reported USD 70 million.

Maria Sharapova’s story begins from the shadow of Chernobyl’s nuclear wasteland to international super-stardom and from penniless arrival in the United States, without a word of English, to a fortune nudging the USD 200 million mark.

It may sound like the stuff of Hollywood dreams, but Sharapova’sstory, the world’s richest sportswoman, was a testament to the power of one individual to make it, whatever the odds.

However, on Wednesday, the 29-year-old Russian’s rags-to-riches story was seemingly at an end when she was banned for two years for failing a drugs test at January’s Australian Open.

Sharapova shot to international fame as a giggly 17-year-old Wimbledon winner in 2004 — the third youngest player to conquer the All England Club’s famous grass courts.

She would go on to win once in Australia and once at the US Open while claiming two titles at the French Open, despite famously likening her movement on Roland Garros’s crushed red brick as a “cow on ice.”

Siberia-born Sharapova first picked up a racquet at the age of four when she was living in Sochi, where her Belarus-born parents had settled after escaping the deadly clutches of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Spotted by Martina Navratilova, she was encouraged to move to Nick Bollettieri’s Florida academy, the proving ground of Andre Agassi and Monica Seles.

Father Yuri and the seven-year-old Maria left for the US in 1994 with just a borrowed USD 700 to their names.

“I was living a normal, average, everyday life back in Russia and we had a dream,” she recalled.

Yuri took odd jobs like dishwashing to finance his daughter’s dreams although visa restrictions meant mother Yelena was back in Russia, separated from her daughter for two years.

When Sharapova was nine, the mighty IMG group spotted her talent, funded the USD 35,000 fees required for the Bollettieri school and the young Maria was on her way.

Wimbledon celebrity

She made her professional debut at 14 in 2001 and by 2003 she reached the world top 50. She won her first tour titles in Japan and Quebec.

Then in 2004, the tennis world was turned upside down when her Wimbledon final triumph over Serena Williams made her an overnight international celebrity.

One year later, she became the first Russian woman to be ranked at number one in the world while, in 2006, she won her second major at the US Open.

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But in 2007 and 2008, she began her long, on-off battle with shoulder trouble.

She still had time to win the Australian Open before a second shoulder injury kept her off tour for the second half of the season, including missing the US Open and Beijing Olympics.

A 10-month absence from the sport, as she recuperated from surgery, saw her ranking slip to 126, but she was back in 2012, capturing the French Open to become the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam and adding Olympic silver to her resume that year.

Her 2014 French Open title was another high after a dispiriting injury low.

More injury troubles followed before the bombshell announcement of her positive test for the banned heart drug meldonium at the Australian Open — where she fell in the quarter-finals to Williams.

Serena rivalry

With Williams, she endured her most testing rivalry — on and off the court.

The two famously exchanged personal barbs over their private lives when Sharapova began a two-year romance with Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov, a rumoured previous boyfriend of the American.

Sharapova had previously been engaged to former Los Angeles Laker basketball star Sasha Vujacic.

She may have been unlucky in love, but Sharapova hit the jackpot in her commercial affairs. She made almost USD 30 million in 2015, according to Forbes, with USD 23 million of that coming from endorsements.

Sharapova was a brand ambassador for Porsche, Cole Haan and in 2010 signed a contract extension with Nike worth a reported USD 70 million.

“Beauty sells. I have to realize that’s a part of why people want me. I understand it. It’s fine. I’m not going to make myself ugly,” she said.

She has two luxury homes — one in Florida, one in California — and is making a lucrative career as an entrepreneur. In 2012, she launched her own line of candy, Sugarpova, selling 30,000 bags in the first six months.

She acknowledged in Melbourne that she never expected still to be playing tennis at the age of 28, but when she revealed her positive drugs test at a news conference in Los Angeles on March 7, she said she wasn’t ready to leave the game.

“I don’t want to end my career this way,” Sharapova said. “And I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game.”

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Tennis Phenom Leylah Fernandez Shares Her Love For Soccer

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Leylah Fernandez had a stellar 2021 and bagged her first-ever trip to a Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open. In addition to her superb play at Flushing Meadows last September, Fernandez started the 2021 season off right.

 

 

In March 2021, she sailed through her first four matches at the Monterrey Open to reach the final there. In the final at the Monterrey Open, Fernandez dominated Swiss player Viktorija Golubic, 6–1, 6–4, which gave Fernandez her first-ever WTA career title at age 18. In defeating seven total competitors, Fernandez was also the youngest player in the main draw, and she marked the extraordinary feat of reaching the final without dropping a set.

Currently, the Canadian-born Fernandez is ranked No. 24 in the world. Just before the New Year, she was named the 2021 Canadian Press Athlete of the Year.

Yet, while Fernandez is squarely focused on continuing her ascent in the tennis world, she will tell you that picking up the tennis racket wasn’t her first foray into sports as a youngster.

“I started sports by playing soccer. It was my first sport and in some ways my first love,” Fernandez said, in a recent Zoom interview. “I remember watching (Canadian soccer legend) Christine Sinclair at a young age, and taking in her commitment and dedication, watching her as a player throughout the years.”

Fernandez adds that it was Sinclair’s devotion and work ethic—and perhaps Sinclair’s remarkable 188 in 30 games as a Canadian international– that helps inform Fernandez’s own approach to tennis now.

And of course, Fernandez says she was ecstatic when her home country took the Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer last summer in Tokyo.

“Seeing the Canadian women win the gold was heartwarming. When they finally won, I was jumping for joy, just like every other Canadian soccer fan.”

Leylah Fernandez had a stellar 2021 and bagged her first-ever trip to a Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open. In addition to her superb play at Flushing Meadows last September, Fernandez started the 2021 season off right.

In March 2021, she sailed through her first four matches at the Monterrey Open to reach the final there. In the final at the Monterrey Open, Fernandez dominated Swiss player Viktorija Golubic, 6–1, 6–4, which gave Fernandez her first-ever WTA career title at age 18. In defeating seven total competitors, Fernandez was also the youngest player in the main draw, and she marked the extraordinary feat of reaching the final without dropping a set.

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Currently, the Canadian-born Fernandez is ranked No. 24 in the world. Just before the New Year, she was named the 2021 Canadian Press Athlete of the Year.

Yet, while Fernandez is squarely focused on continuing her ascent in the tennis world, she will tell you that picking up the tennis racket wasn’t her first foray into sports as a youngster.

“I started sports by playing soccer. It was my first sport and in some ways my first love,” Fernandez said, in a recent Zoom interview. “I remember watching (Canadian soccer legend) Christine Sinclair at a young age, and taking in her commitment and dedication, watching her as a player throughout the years.”

Fernandez adds that it was Sinclair’s devotion and work ethic—and perhaps Sinclair’s remarkable 188 in 30 games as a Canadian international– that helps inform Fernandez’s own approach to tennis now.

And of course, Fernandez says she was ecstatic when her home country took the Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer last summer in Tokyo.

“Seeing the Canadian women win the gold was heartwarming. When they finally won, I was jumping for joy, just like every other Canadian soccer fan.”

At the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo last July, the Canada women’s national soccer team went 1-2-0 in the group stage and then eeked out a win over Brazil on penalties in the first knockout round. Then, after beating the United States USM -2.9% 1-0 in the semifinals, Canada went on to win the gold medal over Sweden, beating them 4-3 on penalties, August 6, 2021.

Now on top of being perhaps Canada’s biggest soccer fan, Fernandez has also gotten involved in promoting what Pelé himself once called “the beautiful game.”

Youth Athletes United, a multi-brand youth sports franchisor behind such ventures as Soccer Stars, Amazing Athletes, TGA Premier Sports, and JumpBunch, announced a new partnership with Fernandez, just this week. Youth Athletes United promotes youth sports not only for the fun of it but also considers soccer and other sports such as tennis and basketball as a means to which kids all across North America can use sports to develop character and learn life lessons.

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THE SOCIAL SLICE: LEYLAH FERNANDEZ MAKES IT BIG WITH GOOGLE PARTNERSHIP

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Every week, dozens of tennis players from around the world post on their social media. From funny videos to training updates, there are simply too many accounts to keep track of. That’s why we do the work for you by selecting the best posts from across the world of tennis.

Welcome to the Social Slice:

Leylah Fernandez
You may have heard of Leylah Fernandez. The 19-year-old reached the final of the US Open last year alongside Emma Raducanu, making her a teenage sensation overnight. Now, the Canadian is making it big with sponsorships, sharing her latest commercial with Google. She showed off her table tennis skills in the company’s latest commercial for the Google Pixel 6.

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‘Classic Complaint’: Serena Williams’ Coach Patrick Mouratoglou Takes Daniil Medvedev to Task Over On-Court Remarks Against…

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Round 4 of the Australian Open saw top seed Daniil Medvedev take on American Maxime Cressy. Even though on paper, the match should have been a breeze for the Russian, that wasn’t the case.

 

 

In fact, Medvedev seemed to lose his demeanor today completely, yelling frustratedly throughout. He even admitted to trying to get into Cressy’s head by calling him lucky on his serves.

Now, Patrick Mouratoglou, known for coaching Serena Williams and Stefanos Tsitsipas, has some words for Medvedev about his behavior.

The Coach does not approve of Daniil Medvedev’s objections
At one point in the match, Daniil Medvedev had yelled “this is so boring!” owing to his opponent’s playing style. Cressy, at 6’6″, seems to be heavily reliant on the serve-and-volley style. So much so that the American played no other way throughout the four-setter today.

Then, Medvedev resorted to mental tactics, trying to offset Cressy by yelling about his serve, and how he was simply getting lucky by staying inside the line on his explosive serves. Moreover, he also complained to the umpire about the time Maxime was taking in between serves.

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Thus, when he called his Amerian opponent’s playing style “boring”, famous French coach Patrick Mouratoglou had some words for the Russian. He called Medvedev’s objections a “classic complain(t) of the baseliners.”

Medvedev himself is a player who prefers staying near the baseline, seldom coming close to the net, during rallies or returns. Mouratoglou called it a complaint of all such players “when they play vs Serve and Volley players.”

In his interview after his victory, Medvedev called his tussle with Cressy “a great match”. However, he admitted that “during the match, (he) got a little bit crazy.” Then, he addressed his vocal frustrations on court.

“I tried, you know, to say something in the air, but getting to his (Cressy’s) mind a little bit,” the World No. 2 admitted. Thus, he hoped that this way, “maybe he (Cressy) is gonna miss some shots.”

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