The news on Wednesday that women’s tennis champion Maria Sharapova was retiring from the sport was met with lots of fanfare from adoring enthusiasts who have followed her career. But there was also a growing chorus of dissenting voices from fans who bristled at the suggestion that the 32-year-old Russian was a rival of the Serena Williams, widely considered to be the greatest women’s tennis player of all time.
A closer look at the differences between the two — the winning, mainly — was all the proof that any untrained eye needed to see that the two athletes were not even close to being on a par with each other. The golden standard for excellence in tennis is typically measured in how many Grand Slam titles (championships at the four annual major tennis tournaments) a player has. In that context, Sharapova and her five Grand Slam titles were a far cry from Serena’s record-approaching 23.
To be clear, this is not being written out of petty spite. Instead, this is based on all facts.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) website documented the times Serena and Sharapova faced off, demonstrating just how lopsided the so-called rivalry really was.
Then, there is also the issue of cheating to contend with. Sharapova was suspended in 2016 for more than a year for the offense of doping, or using a performance-enhancing drug called Meldonium. Meanwhile, Serena has given birth and almost died because of it and was still able to triumphantly return to the tennis court and win another major title without the assistance of any performance-enhancing drugs.
Still, Sharapova was able to outearn Serena off the court when it came to corporate endorsements in what seemed to be the lone way that anyone could credibly compare them in the terms of having any semblance of a rivalry. That was decidedly not the case when it came to winnings on the actual court, though.
Did Serena ever lose to Sharapova? Sure. But it didn’t happen very often, a fact that Sharapova seemed to take umbrage at in her autobiography, “Unstoppable: My Life So Far.”
Sharapova wrote about the one time Serena lost to her at Wimbledon and described witnessing Serena cry in the locker room.
“What I heard when I came in to the locker room was Serena Williams bawling,” Sharapova wrote. “Guttural sobs. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there.”
Sharapova continued: “Mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. Not long after the tournament, I heard Serena told a friend – who then told me – ‘I will never lose to that little bitch again.’”
When Serena found out about that part, she shot back.
“I think what happens [in the locker room] should definitely maybe stay there and not necessarily talk about it in a not-so-positive way in a book,” Serena said in 2018.
Sharapova also wrote that she hoped they could be friends in retirement.
“Serena and I should be friends; we have the same passion,” Sharapova wrote. “But we are not. I think, to some extent, we have driven each other. Maybe that’s what it takes. Only when you have that intense antagonism can you find the strength to finish her off. Who knows? Some day, when all this is in our past, maybe we’ll become friends.”
Only time will tell if they become friendlier in retirement than they have been in competition But if the social media reactions to Sharapova’s retirement are any indication, Serena’s fans don’t ever want to see that happen. Scroll down to see how some folks are sounding off after learning of Sharapova’s retirement.