I’m a late adapter: I didn’t listen to Nirvana until the Unplugged album, didn’t watch The Wire until after the final season and I’m still learning to love Maria Sharapova.
But if I was non-committal before, Maria’s gutsy comeback is making me a full-fledged fan. Which is why this reporter’s doomsday take on her loss to Li Na in the semis of Birmingham on Saturday makes me want to jam up The Times’ comments section:
“Six years ago, Maria Sharapova arrived in Birmingham as a 16-year-old with an extraordinary life story and a dream of fame and fortune. Yesterday, at 22, she gave every indication that her career, already in decline, may soon be terminated.”
Did he miss that Maria was playing a semi-final match against a quality opponent – a player that she beat a week ago in the Round of 16 at Roland Garros? Is he not impressed that she’s been to the quarterfinals or better in each of the 3 tournaments she’s played since returning to the tour – after a 10 month layoff with a serious rotator cuff injury? The guy’s byline reads Nick Pitt, but you’ll find him in the phonebook under “Nellie, A. Negative”.
On a lighter note, here’s Masha on buildings, burgers and bling (as in sponsorship money):
Speaking of burgers, Maria’s used her off-time to perfect her cooking skills. She mentioned on her website that she’s gaga for Spanish super-chef Jose Andreas, but she tells The Times, U.K. that her own culinary efforts focus on the comforts of (grand)mother Russia:
Stuck indoors week after week and away from the daily grind of the professional athlete’s life, she decided to learn the art of cooking dumplings from her Russian grandmother. Having left her native Siberia at the age of 7 to move to the United States with her father, she still yearns for varenikes, a type of dumpling, and a specialty she loves. “They are dumplings with different fillings and sour cream, which is Russia’s ketchup,” she explained. “I put them on top of all sorts of things.”
Maria may be drowning her sorrows in varenikes and sour cream soon, if the Russian rumors are true regarding her deteriorating relationship with Charlie Ebersol, her boyfriend of about a year. A Russian site (click here) “reported” on June 1 that “Sharapova has arrived in Paris in not the best mood. She quarreled with her American boyfriend. . .”
To satisfy all my fellow gossip-hounds (and to spare you the annoyance of Google translate), here’s the gist: Sharapova and Ebersol haven’t been seen together much for the past 3 weeks, Ebersol’s flaked on her because of “business meetings” and “bad traffic,” and Maria’s return to the jet-set WTA lifestyle has made dating even more difficult. The strongest evidence that Maria’s love life is on the skids: she and Papa Yuri are getting along again. Do with this information what you will, tennis fans.
In Shriekapova news, The Times reports that the ITF is now considering adding a “noise hindrance” clause to its code of conduct in response to vociferous complaints about on-court grunting. The paper provided a handy “decibel” guide ranking all of our favorite WTA players:
How the grunters compare, in decibels
Lion’s roar 110
Maria Sharapova 101
Monica Seles 93.2
Serena Williams 88.9
Lindsay Davenport 88
Venus Williams 85
Victoria Azarenka 83.5
Elena Bovina 81
Anna Kournikova 78.5
Kim Clijsters 75
Elena Dementieva 73
Screeching phenom, Michelle Larcher de Brito, is sure to make the updated list – she’s been given a wildcard into Wimbledon. Poor Maria, the competition just gets younger and younger. . .