Monday, May 26, 2014

Sharapova and the "praise" that cuts

I turned on Tennis Channel a while ago, and there it was again--that footage of Maria Sharapova "explaining" to the press why--what with everything she's achieved and all the injury she's had to endure--she doesn't retire from professional tennis. She has "everything," we always hear--fame, a lot of money, a Career Slam. She's had ongoing shoulder problems. And then she tells the press, over and over, that she's an athlete and what she wants to do is to play her sport.

It isn't that we haven't heard a similar question asked about and of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. They are both "old" for their sport, they've won a truckload of majors, and--in Federer's case--he has four children; in Serena's, she's had multiple injuries and a life-threatening illness. The question is somewhat more relevant for them, and yet it doesn't come up with them nearly as often as it does for Sharapova.

Today, Lindsay Davenport told us that Sharapova has "good excuses" to leave the sport, but she doesn't leave. Really? So if tomorrow, Sharapova were to say that she was tired of dealing with her shoulder or that she wanted to concentrate on being an entrepreneur, it would be an "excuse"? Sorry--the pun cannot be escaped here--but the backhanded compliments poured on Sharapova by the media have become a bit obvious.

I think Maria needs to stop explaining herself to the press (though there isn't anything she can do about the Tennis Channel gang dragging out old video so that we can all go through the whole thing all over again). Enough. When and why she retires is her business. And even those who are not fans of the Russian star would surely have to acknowledge that she has overcome great odds more than once to achieve great things in her sport.

Yes, she's an international star. Yes, she's very rich. Yes, she has looks that help her make money. But she's also smart. And--what's that other thing? Ah, yes, she's a dedicated, hard-working, talented athlete.


Overhead Spin said...

Actually Diane, I think that narrative can be read another way. It is that despite all the fame, money, beauty etc., Sharapova's main focus is still being an athlete. There have been rumours that one of the reasons why Connors quit was because of the lack of work ethic that he saw in her. She spent more time doing her outside interests more than she does in tennis and I think they are trying to put that to rest, hence the narratives.

You are right however that they do her a disservice when they spin the story to make it seem as if she has to keep proving that she is an athlete first and foremost.

Diane said...

Well, that isn't another way; it's exactly how I read it, but I consider it a snide "compliment." The presumption is that she would choose fame and money over her main gift.

And it would take a lot for me to find validity in those Connors rumors. Of course, she eas going through a bad time (partly because she couldn't relate to Connors) and may have slacked off for a while, but I have my doubts about even that. That's the sort of stuff that's been thrown at Serena for years, and look how she turned out :D

Overhead Spin said...

Exactly. I have always admired Sharapova for her competitiveness on the court and her ability to stay focused. I have seen a lot of the younger players indicate how much they admire both her and Serena for the focus and intensity and professionalism that they bring to the court. I wish the media would actually put that meme forward rather than the same old narratives all the time. Part of that is the agents who write the script to be honest

Diane said...

Good point, Karen.

Anonymous said...

As a hardcore Maria Sharapova fan, I've sometimes question her work ethic as well. Sometimes it's hard to when you see all the endorsements that she has on her plate.

Then I look at myself in the mirror, and I say "What the heck am I saying?" This is one of the best female tennis players of the world. A career slam winner, and a future hall of famer. OF COURSE she is focused on her tennis first! If she wasn't she wouldn't be as successful as she has been/and continues to be.

Keep going Maria, I admire her work ethic despite what James Scott Connors might've said. Go beat S. Williams and grab your second FO. Come on!