(Se)Rena’s Army v Sharapova fans, how can I describe it? If you support Liverpool, as I do, you don’t support United irrespective of if they are playing a league, domestic cup or European game. The feeling is mutual. Also, for me personally when England have played Germany, I have pissed myself when England have lost, I’m a Liverpool fan, not an England fan. So I’m not likely to support Sharapova, am I? I’m sure even the Russian and her fans would fully appreciate this! To say I think Sharapova is bad tennis player would be a lie, that’s obvious, let’s try and be a bit balanced. She is a player who has the ability to dominate players and unquestionably shows a lot of fight. She has won five slams to date and all four at that. When it comes down to Serena and the rivalry, it’s been very one-sided though. Has there been one since 2004? How can anyone argue though that she had lived in the footsteps of the American? You wouldn’t have the balls to! 23-5 and a 19-2 head to head, as Delboy says in only fools “I didn’t know you were good at maths Boyce”
There was a time growing up as a teenager in England (and there still is to a large extent) when reading lads mags, that women of Sharapova’s ilk were shoved in your face and almost guiding you into what you should fancy. If that’s your bag then I have no problem with that at all. The days of buying Loaded and FHM spring to mind! It probably worked for a while, on moving to London well over a decade ago, my tastes changed! I’m Serena, Sloane or Cibulkova in my double take today. So I’m not really taken by that argument that gets put to me! Just not for me! The Russian has never been one to be too bothered about not being liked. She says she has few friends on the tennis circuit, that seems to be the way she has always wanted to play it. You may argue that it shows a single-mindedness but I think other top players past and present still manage to get the balance right. It comes across to me as overconfident and arrogant at times, but I’m always going to be biased!
The bottom line is she has enough fans, even though that tally may have been slightly whittled down with recent events. I don’t dispute Sharapova fell into the category of being good for the game. That line has without doubt been tarnished with the recent ban. There has been a lack of support for her out there on this and I would imagine that motivates her. The problem is she broke the rules in the first place! There is no doubt now that players will more than ever be out to beat her. Some simply won’t be good enough but others will have their successes. Either way, I expect to see a bit of beef out there in a lot of matches now, eyeballing and stare downs galore! The interest is now surrounding the grand slams, will she be given wild cards to qualifying? I can’t see how they won’t be dished out to her. I actually had a feeling that she might just get main draw wild cards initially, which would have been wrong! But she should have to work her ranking back up like any other player would have too. If she doesn’t it will set a precedence and other players coming back from a ban would have a case for similar treatment. It can’t be one rule for one and another for the Russian. Plenty of well-established players have spoken out on Sharapova’s ban and the possibility of wild cards(WTA). Kerber, Wozniacki, Halep, A-Rad and Cibulkova, to name but a few. They have a point, what example does it set? Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome main draw wild cards have already rightly caused a stir!
Andy Del Potro