First, let’s examine what went down in merry ole England. Serena crushed Sharapova for the 17th time in a row going back a decade to the last time she lost to Maria in 2005. Overall Serena’s record is 18–2 after a 1–2 start when she first encountered the pesky Russian teen who played stronger than she looked.
Maria made some unflattering comments about Serena after her 2nd triumph over the ugly American and it seems as if Serena has never forgotten nor forgiven her for it. She has gone out of her way to destroy Maria every time they’ve played.
Serena has 21 Major titles to Sharapova’s 5. At first glance that looks pretty bad but most players would kill to win 5 Grand Slam titles. However, it has to feel disheartening to a champion like Maria to know that someone completely has her number and dominates her every time their paths cross. After her first Wimbledon title over Serena which was a shocker to everyone, Sharapova has not had to play Serena en route to her other 4 Grand Slam titles. That shouldn’t diminish her accomplishments because she still had to beat everyone she faced but it does make one wonder if she could’ve still won those trophies if she had to play her nemesis.
This “rivalry” (for lack of a better word) between Serena and Sharapova reminds me a lot of another tennis rivalry that was just as one-sided: Between Andy Roddick and Roger Federer. Roddick was going to be America’s next big champion but he could never overcome Federer. Roddick’s lifetime record vs Federer was 3–21! Yes, it’s eerily similar to Sharapova’s hideous 2–18 mark vs Serena.
Here’s where I go beyond sports. This rivalry thing between super talented individuals reminds me of the famous rivalry between Mozart and his contemporary composer Antonio Salieri which was documented in the Oscar winning AMADEUS. Salieri was a successful and accomplished composer that most envied…but he was obsessed with the fact that he was not as good as Mozart who was obviously blessed with a gift from the gods.
I wonder if people like Sharapova and Roddick feel like Salieri sometimes when they encounter incredible opponents who appear not of this Earth. Is it wise to even measure yourself against such freaks of nature?
It seems that we always compare the new kid on the block with the legends of the past. LeBron James has been dealing with the shadow of Michael Jordan ever since he was in high school long before he entered the NBA! Kobe Bryant has also dealt with MJ comparisons for his whole career and even after winning 5 championships he still has naysayers criticizing him because Michael won 6 and three in a row twice.
In those situations it’s different because those players are battling ghosts from the past instead of facing them one on one like Sharapova and Roddick had to do. I wonder which scenario is more frustrating…forever being compared to a legend from the past or dealing with the fact that you could not beat your nemesis.
There have been times when someone who’s been dominated in a rivalry manages to change their game and turn things around in their favor. The most recent example that comes to mind is world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic who was always losing the Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (like everyone else) until he decided he had enough. He examined his entire approach and decided to work on all of his flaws and weaknesses in his game as well as his physical and mental health. He worked hard and soon he was beating his legendary rivals and eventually started winning Grand Slam titles and became number one. Now he is considered one of the Big Four of the era: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray (it should be the Big Three and a half if you ask me).
I believe Maria Sharapova can take a page from Djokovic and raise her game by improving his physical conditioning and certain elements of her game such as her serve which has always been her Achilles’ heel. She would have to become obsessed with this mission because it would require a great deal of time and effort to go through such a metamorphesous. Quite frankly, I doubt she would ever decide to do this because it’s obvious that she loves her life exactly as it is. She makes millions outside of tennis with modeling and endorsements and travels the world and somehow still managed to win 5 Grand Slam titles including the Career Slam (French, Wimbledon, Australian & US Open). So what if history will show that she was second best to Serena Williams. After all, Serena will go down as the greatest female tennis player of all-time. Well, there are those that say Martina Navratilova was a more complete tennis player…. but that’s a ghost story for another day.