Maria Sharapova : Sports Most Hated

"...With such career greatness, and yet such low support, the world's tennis followers are probably sitting there watching time tick over and see how this situation develops..."

Maria Sharapova, once the world number one womens tennis player, held the highest crown in tennis that she could achieve for a total of 21 weeks over five separate periods of time. Currently the world number 11, Sharapova has also been rewarded at Olympics level (winning silver at London 2012), and has a total of 35 singles titles and five Grand Slam titles (French Open: 2 / US Open: 1 / Australian Open: 1 / Wimbledon: 1) to her name. Despite such an illustrious career, Sharapova has also been injury prone since the the tender age of 18 in 2005 when she became world number one for her very first time, and such a feature are injuries to her, that many Tennis greats have gloriously praised her for her longevity and determination to continue; John McEnroe notably named Sharapova “one of the best the sport has ever seen” in 2011.

In line with her tennis capabilities, Sharapova has also become the face for many global brands, each choosing her over many other world number ones such has been her charisma and apparent fan-base across the tennis circuit. Nike, Prince, Canon, Cole Haan and more, Sharapova has even been a United Nations Ambassador for their Goodwill Programme. At the slender height of 188cm Sharapova has featured as a model on several occasions for Vogue and InStyle, and is a front row fixture at the New York Fashion Show in recent years. To tip all her accolades off, Sharapova was recently named by Forbes magazine as the worlds highest paid women’s athlete for the eleventh year running, with this figure amounting to US $285 million since she turned professional. With all her glory to bathe in, why so is Sharapova 2016’s most hated? Perhaps jealousy? No, drugs.

In March 2016 – just a few weeks ago – Sharapova revealed that she has failed a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open, admitting to the world that she has tested positive for meldonium, a substance that has recently been banned, and as a result, the Queen of modern women’s tennis has been provisionally suspended by the International Tennis Federation from continuing to play tennis. Awfully askew, not one professional tennis player has made any public support for Sharapova in the recent weeks in these desperate times of need for her. The situation deepens.

The drug meldonium was tested to significantly aid blood flow around the body and give extra performance to any cardiovascular system. “I did fail the test and I take full responsibility for it…” announced Sharapova as she stood before the press on March 7th 2016, “…I have been taking the drug for 10 years for a personal magnesium deficiency, however my team and I failed to spot that the drug had been added to the banned list this year.”

Such an announcement shocked her high-profile roster of sponsors, with all of Nike, Tag Heuer and Porshe immediately ending their long-standing relationship with the superstar; though Head (racket manufacturer) has stood by her. Perhaps a little radical considering that various sportsmen and women have been cited as drug taking in the modern sports game across the worlds press, Dick Pound of the World Anti-Doping Agency publically announced that there has been a “fairly high prevalence of (meldonium) use in tennis.” Neglect, however, is unforgiving, and such lack of support across the professional tennis network may be down to lack of tennis-related friends as much as lack of peer confidence.

As Sharapova told the Telegraph in 2013, “I’m not really close to many players. I think just because you’re in the same sport it doesn’t mean that you have to be friends with everyone”, and it definitely now seems she has no friends at all (think to any doping scam in the news, there are usually clamours of public support). Confirmed by an ex coach, and her former boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov – also tennis professional – Sharapova is known to be cold and independent. Serena Williams even mocked a world top-five player during an interview with Rolling Stone in 2013 – many of which assumed she was referring to Sharapova – on which note, the rivalry between Williams and Sharapova has been vicious for many years.

With such career greatness, and yet such low support, the world’s tennis followers are probably sitting there watching time tick over and see how this situation develops. Beyond tennis, once the face for many aspiring and luxury global brands, being ambassador and optimising everything that such brands stood for, Sharapova has been reduced to little more than a regular-sportswomen. Tough cookie, yet you have to concede (no tennis pun intended), Sharapova’s public announcement came so immediate to the situation arising that she still has SATORI & SCOUT’s respect for everything that she has achieved. Who knows, maybe she will recover; lets see how 2016 rallies on…

The Sharapova Wandwagon

The world's highest-earning female athlete, Sharapova also has entrepreneurial ventures as much as her endorsements. Sugarpova, anyone?

(Photography Credit : Tatiana)

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