If to judge from this cheesecake photograph, there was a time early in Maria Sharapova’s career when she felt she needed something to fall back on in the event her tennis career didn’t work out, and that thing, she decided, should be streetwalking. Say what you like about her tennis skills, she’s a great little piece of ass, isn’t she?
Sharapova may have shown considerable prescience. Last week she dropped out of the top 10 in the tennis rankings, falling 8 places from #9 to a lowly #17 as 10-time grand slam champion American Serena Williams took over the #1 spot for the third time in her career. Williams now holds more grand slam titles all by herself than all Russian citizens who have ever played the game in its entire history, male and female, combined.
We continue to see Shamapova (as we like to call her) as a perfect microcosm of Russia itself, elevating form over substance and confusing luck with skill to create a ridiculous amount of hype totally inconsistent with reality. Sharapova hasn’t won a tennis tournament since she lucked out to face an unseeded Slovakian player not ranked in the world’s top 30 in the finals of the Tier II event at Amelia Island in April 2008, nearly one year ago. Throughout that tournament, Sharapova never had to face a player ranked in the world’s top 20. In the past year she’s recorded exactly one match victory over a top-ten opponent.
With all that said, Sharapova holds more grand slam titles, three, than have been won by all other Russian female tennis players combined in the history of the sport, and is the only Russian female player ever to win a grand slam title by beating a non-Russian in the finals. In the defense of those other Russian players, Sharapova’s freakish luck in winning those three titles is not something one could rationally compare to or expect of a normal player. One can also point out that Sharapova is Russian in name only, having lived most of her life in the U.S.A. where she learned her game and owns vast tracts of real estate.
Her first title, at Wimbledon five years ago, came after she was saved from a brutal drubbing in the semi-finals at the hands of Lindsey Davenport by a rain storm. Before that she had just managed to squeak past Japanese journeywoman Ai Sugiyama in the quarters. She then met Williams in the finals, and walked into one of the worst matches Williams has ever played in her career.
Then came the U.S. Open two years later, where Sharapova reached the semi-finals without having to face a player ranked in the world’s top 20. She then drew Amelie Mauresmo, one of the most infamous head cases in the history of the sport, and followed that up by walking into yet another freakishly bad performance from one of the sport’s greatest champions, this time Justine Henin.
And finally there was last year’s Australian Open. There, four of Sharapova’s final five matches in the tournament came against fellow Slavs. In her third- and fourth-round matches she played feeble fellow Russians who were only able to win a total of five of 29 contested games combined. The only non-Slav she faced, Henin, promptly retired from the sport.
It’s virtually impossible, in fact, to recall a single truly compelling performance Sharapova has ever given on a tennis court. She’s been booed off courts for poor sportsmanship, and any number of cheesecake photographs glimpsing various parts of her anatomy circulate widely on the Internet, but when she’s actually playing her game is utterly one-dimensional, boring in extreme, and eminently forgettable.
But again, who cares. After all, she’s a great little piece of ass.