Its been amazing 2 weeks, the French Open concluded on Sunday. For the first time I saw a women’s final which was more interesting than men’s. Newspaper said “Coupe des Mousquetaires remains Spanish” ( Honestly, does anyone stands a chance when Nadal plays on clay?? Well NOT, almost!! So I guess no need to mention “Cup remains in Spanish possession” ). Did they really thought David Ferrer would do that (no offence Ferrer! )?? I mean, what in the world made you think so! A big congrats to Nadal for the eighth one.
The women’s final was between 2 of my most favourite players. The mighty Serena Williams and the fighter Maria Sharapova. Of course I had the idea what would be the outcome (especially with Serena leading 13-2 head to head). But I really wanted to see how Maria fares. She did quite a good job actually. But then she had to climb Mount Everest that had staggering 15 Grand Slam titles to her name. The serve made all the difference in the end with Serena’s being out of this world. Maria’s serve wasn’t bad actually, but compared to Serena’s it wasn’t up to the mark. Result….. an entertaining high quality match that Serena won 6-4 6-4 for her 16th major. Congrats Serena.
But this is a post that is meant for Sharapova.
Wimbledon 2004. The 17-year-old Russian starlet startled everyone when she won the Wimbledon defeating Serena Williams. Everyone knew that this wasn’t a renewed version of Anna Kournikova for Maria knew how to win. She subsequently reached more semifinals and finals winning US Open 2006 and Australian Open 2008. All seemed to go Russian’s way, but destiny had something else in store. She suffered a career threatening shoulder injury in 2008.
The surgery followed by the rehabilitation took Maria out of tennis for some 10 months. If you thought that was the hard thing for her, then hardest was yet to come. She returned to the court with her ranking plummeted of 126. It was like starting everything from scratch. Many Tennis experts believed that Sharapova would not be able to reach those heights again that she conquered prior to her injury.
Even Sharapova had her doubts. According to her not many players had made successful comeback after such a severe injury.
When she returned, her comeback was not at all the way she wanted it to be. She started losing to players, she once used to beat convincingly. Her game started to collapse in a match, often. The weakest part of her game was the serve. Her serve deserted her quite often. Once a powerful weapon, her serve became the most vulnerable part of her game. She used to serve 20 plus double faults in a match. Sharapova double faulting on break points was quite often the scene. Once a Grand Slam contender, she lost in early rounds, many times in the second round itself.
She lost her form, she lost her confidence, she lost her ranking but one thing she never lost was that fighting spirit, determination that helped her win those three Grand Slam. Many critics wrote her off, thought she was a spent force. Many said she won’t even return to top 10 again. But she was determined to be back to where she belonged. She worked harder, trained harder and brought in a new coach Thomas Hogstedt and together they embarked on a journey…….The journey of being a Grand Slam contender once again, to win those Slams.
It was really frustrating for Maria to lose to players who had never beaten her. She had been there, had touched the zenith and had hit the rock bottom too, but she kept patience. She took small steps and improved bit by bit. Slowly but surely Maria started to give consistent performances by reaching fourth rounds of Slams regularly. But it wasn’t until 2011 French Open that she reached her first Grand Slam semifinal. She backed that performance by reaching the final at the Wimbledon, thus reaching her first Slam final in nearly 3 years.
And last year at the French Open 2012, she won the title and completed the career Grand Slam. She became only the 10th women in history to win all 4 majors. And icing on the cake…………No.1 in the world. Now that is some achievement!!
Maria continues to struggle with her serve sometimes and though it still affects her game especially when facing big names like Williams, Azarenka, etc, it is much more consistent than it used to be. Also, her extremely poor record against Williams is a bit of a concern.
But still I think she has done a very commendable job to be where she is today. Maria has a close-up that rakes in millions of dollars every year through endorsements (In fact she is 22nd on the Forbes list of highest earning sportsperson and first among women with $29 million). Her comeback continued for quite some time (2-3 years actually) before she regained her form. In this period, she could have easily retired citing injuries and could have made millions through modelling like Anna. But then as she said in an interview “I didn’t left my mom at the age of 7 for nothing”.
And this “never-say-die” attitude of her’s, will take her to new heights. As lot of Tennis legends say, the most powerful assets Sharapova has are her mental toughness, competitive spirit and her fighting qualities. Indeed they are!!!
Being a champion isn’t about how much you win, it’s about how you recover from your downs, whether it’s an injury or a loss. How you recover from that is what creates a real champion.
And Maria Sharapova is one.
There is a lot to learn from her. Life drags us into some unwanted territories at times, where all seems lost. It feels like nothing is going to be the same as it use to be. But when we are down and out, there is always a glimmer of hope for those who seek it. Perhaps you might not be able to recover what went through, but you can always start afresh. Its LIFE………..So never quit.