Wimbledon Throwback: Fairytale Triumph For Maria Sharapova
Before Wimbledon 2004, Maria Sharapova was virtually unknown. Over the next two weeks, her life changed, and so did women’s tennis.
One day in June 2004, I came home from school, switched on the Wimbledon coverage and was transfixed by Maria Sharapova – a 17-year-old Russian who played tennis with an intensity I had never seen before.
Unfortunately I don’t remember which of her matches I saw first – her second-round win over Anne Keothavong or her third-round victory over Daniela Hantuchova – but I do remember that she blew away her opponent (and me) with her sublime ball-striking ability.
Sharapova’s serene progress continued until the quarter-final, when she faced her first real test against Ai Sugiyama. At the time, the Japanese player was a top-20 player. And she had plenty of experience to draw on after over a decade on tour.
Initially, Sugiyama’s maturity shone through as she won a tight opening set 7-5. However, her young Russian opponent gave many people their first glimpse of one of her defining qualities – fighting spirit. She clawed her way back into the match by coming out on top in an equally close second set. Having broken through the Japanese player’s resistance, Sharapova romped through the decider 6-2 to reach the semi-final.
Against All Odds
Despite her exceptional run to the last four, many observers believed it would come to an end when she faced Lindsay Davenport. It is clear from Sharapova’s autobiography that she agreed.
“I was a kid. Lindsay was a woman. I was weak. Lindsay was strong. I was stringy and narrow. Lindsay was powerful and solid. As I said, in many ways our games were alike. We went by power, played from the baseline, hit flat and low, without much spin, a style that both of us learned from Robert Lansdrop.
“She was twenty-eight years old, so far along there was talk of her retirement. She was not number one just then – that was Serena – but had been number one, off and on, for ninety-eight weeks. So she was one of the greatest tennis players in the world.
“In other words, I’d hung on and hung on till I’d advanced myself right out of my league. I mean, how was I supposed to beat Lindsay Davenport? She was just like me, only bigger, stronger, older, and more experienced. She was just like me, only way more.”
As if that was not already enough to make Sharapova’s task extremely difficult, she also found herself a bit overwhelmed by the occasion. She said she felt as though the crowd would see she was a kid “who did not belong there”, and that the first serve she hit “fluttered over the net like a butterfly”.
Rain Saves Sharapova
Just as the Russian expected, Davenport overwhelmed her to begin with. She won the first set 6-2 in just 26 minutes and then went up a break in the second. But just when it seemed like all hope was lost, fate intervened. Rain came pouring down and Sharapova retreated to the locker room to regroup.
Not that the Russian saw it that way. “In my mind, I was already on the plane, heading home,” she said. Thankfully, her father Yuri had other ideas. He told her he had seen it in a dream that she would turn this match around and go on to win the tournament.
And he seemed so certain that Sharapova believed him. It had a strong effect on her. She explained, “In that minute, I went from feeling like I had absolutely no chance, being beaten before I even went back out on the court, to believing I would have the prize if only I could summon the will to take it.”
To her immense credit, that is exactly what the Russian did. She came out after the delay and played exceptionally well. She returned well, drilled her trademark, flat groundstrokes into the corners for seemingly countless winners and even came to the net sometimes to finish points. It was a remarkable turnaround.
Showdown with Serena
I do not have many clear memories of Sharapova’s run to the championship match of Wimbledon 2004. But the final itself will stay in my mind forever.
I remember sitting down to watch it with my mother and thinking, I really hope this spirited Russian underdog can win, but I don’t really believe it. I mean, this is Serena Williams she is facing after all.
If Sharapova had any doubts, they did not show. She came out onto Centre Court and demolished the best female tennis player on the planet. She sent down ace after ace when she served and hit a thrilling succession of winners to finish rallies when they had scarcely begun. And the Russian attacked Serena’s serve in a way I had never seen before and remained calm and focused throughout.
Consequently, the match was over in about 70 minutes and Maria Sharapova – the 17-year-old Russian who most viewers barely knew before the tournament – was the Wimbledon champion. She had produced an extraordinary performance that stunned the sporting world and changed her life forever.
SuperTennis Granted Rights To US Open Until 2027
SuperTennis will be the home for the US Open in Italy until 2027.
SuperTennis have been given exclusive rights to show the US Open in Italy until 2027 after a new agreement was reached.
The USTA and SportCast reached the agreement as announced in a press release.
SportCast are the Italian Tennis and Padel Federation Group company that manages the SuperTennis TV channel in Italy.
In the press released the USTA confirmed they reached a five year agreement with SportCast for SuperTennis to show the US Open until 2027.
The deal means that SuperTennis will show the best daily matches live and delayed alongside coverage on the SuperTenniX digital platform, which gives FITP members and subscribers access to stream all matches across the two week tournament.
It also means that the US Open joins Wimbledon, Davis Cup and a number of ATP and WTA events to be shown on SuperTennis.
Chief Commercial Officer at the USTA, Kristen Corio, had this to say on today’s announcement, “SuperTennis has proven to be a trusted home for the sport in Italy,” Corio said in the press release.
“With a number of Italian players at the forefront of this rising generation of talent, it’s an exciting time to begin this new partnership and we look forward to working together with SuperTennis to continue growing the audience for the US Open.”
Meanwhile the president of Italian Tennis and Padel Federation, Angelo Binaghi, was delighted with the latest news and talked about the impact it has on Italian tennis, “The Italian Tennis and Padel Federation continues its development policy through the promotion of great tennis in our country, and with the founding of the SuperTennis channel 15 years ago, it brought back the sport of tennis to our dedicated audience,” Binaghi said.
“Alongside providing extensive coverage of Wimbledon, we are now proud to make another tennis Grand Slam available to all Italian tennis fans. The US Open is a tournament that has recently provided some incredible stories, including the historic 2015 US Open final won by Flavia Pennetta over Roberta Vinci.
“The level of access that SuperTennis can provide to its viewers will only contribute to the further promotion of tennis and the increased support of our national tennis players.”
This year’s US Open will take place from the 28th of August until the 10th of September with Iga Swiatek and Carlos Alcaraz looking to defend their titles.
Undeterred Novak Djokovic Hopeful Of US Open Return In 2023
Novak Djokovic says he ‘really wants’ to play at this year’s US Open when it is likely he will be allowed to enter the country.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion is currently unable to enter American territory due to being unvaccinated against COVID-19. All foreign arrivals are required to be vaccinated before travelling to the country under an emergency law implemented to curb the spread of the virus. Although this law is expected to come to an end in May.
Djokovic had attempted to apply for a special exception which would have allowed him to play Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami but was refused by authorities. Even though he had the backing of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) who pledged their support on social media. Furthermore, American players who are unvaccinated are allowed to play in these events.
Speaking to CNN about his recent absence, a defiant Djokovic has insisted that he has no regrets about not being able to play. The Serbian has said in the past that he didn’t want to have the vaccine as he has concerns about the impact it might have on his body.
“I have no regrets,” Djokovic states. “I’ve learned through life that regrets only hold you back and basically make you live in the past. And I don’t want to do that. I also don’t want to live too much in the future. I want to be as much as in the present moment, but of course think about future, create a better future.”
On Monday Djokovic lost his No.1 ranking to Carlos Alcaraz who won the Indian Wells title. He has held the top spot for a total of 380 weeks so far in his career which is more than any other player – male or female – in the history of the sport.
“I congratulate Alcaraz. He absolutely deserves to come back to No.1,” Djokovic commented.
“It’s a pity that I wasn’t able to play in Indian Wells [and] Miami. I love those tournaments. I had plenty of success there. But at the same time, it is the conscious decision I made and I knew that there is always a possibility that I won’t go.”
Djokovic’s last match on American soil was back in September 2021 when he lost in the final of the US Open to Daniil Medvedev. He is a three-time champion at the Grand Slam and has also contested the final on six other occasions between 2007-2021.
The 35-year-old remains optimistic that he will return to New York later this year as long as the government emergency legislation is lifted.
“I really want to be playing there, want to be there,” Djokovic said. “I actually had in 2021 when I lost in the finals against (Daniil) Medvedev, probably one of the best moments I ever had with the New York crowd. And I’ve been fortunate to win that tournament three times, play many finals. And even though I lost that match, I received a lot of love and appreciation from people and I want to go back and I want to reconnect with the crowd there. So that’s something I’m looking forward to and hopefully it will happen.”
So far this year Djokovic has won two Tour titles in Adelaide and at the Australian Open. Out of 16 matches played, his only loss was to Medvedev at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Wimbledon Likely To Scrap Ban On Russian Players, Says Two-Time Champion Murray
Andy Murray has told BBC Sport that he understands the ban implemented on Russian and Belarussian players competing at Wimbledon will be lifted this year.
The All England Club, as well as by British LTA, has been under pressure to conduct a u-turn on their policy following the backlash they received last year from both the ATP and WTA. In 2022 Britain became the only country on the Tour to ban players from their events as a result of the war in Ukraine which has claimed thousands of lives. Organisers said their decision to do so was based on advice from their government who voiced concern that Russia could use UK-based events as propaganda.
However, the governing bodies of men’s and women’s tennis condemned the move with both of them issuing fines to the LTA. It has been reported by The Telegraph newspaper that the WTA is willing to halve their $1M fine if athletes from the two nations are allowed to play this year. It has also been reported that officials are contemplating the possibility of requiring these players to sign some sort of contract to say they will not be making political gestures before being allowed to play. However, this has not been publicly confirmed.
Whilst there is yet to be any official statement, Murray appears confident that the ban will be lifted based on what he has heard. Murray, who donated more than £500,000 of his prize money from last season to charities supporting Ukrainian children affected by the war, has previously voiced his opposition to the 2022 ban.
“It’s a really difficult one and I do feel for the players who weren’t able to play last year – but I also understand the situation and why it’s really hard for Wimbledon to make a call on it as well,” Murray told BBC Sport.
“My understanding is that they are going to be allowed to play and I’m not going to be going nuts if that is the case.
“But if Wimbledon went down another route I would be understanding of that.”
Besides their financial penalty, Wimbledon lost their right to award ranking points last year for the first time in history. There have also been concerns that should the ban not be reversed, the rights for some events held in the UK such as Eastbourne could be removed and sold elsewhere.
Under current rules, players from Russia and Belarus are allowed to play on the Tour but only under a neutral status. They are currently suspended from all team competitions such as the Davis Cup.
Murray spoke about Wimbledon to reporters in Indian Wells ahead of his first round clash with Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina. So far this season he has won six out of nine matches played with his best run being to the final of the Qatar Open last month.
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