Maria Sharapova vs Serena Williams: A soap opera on our hands
London: The only place Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams can meet at Wimbledon is in the final. After the Russian’s unsubtle dig at the defending champion’s private life, the Royal Albert Hall might be a more appropriate venue.
The bombshell landed like one of her aces when Sharapova, the gilded darling of women’s tennis, remarked on the relationship between Williams and her French coach Patrick Mouratoglou. They have not publicly confirmed anything but unless pictures of Serena in Paris with him are mere hints of a new career for her in men’s tailoring, there is plenty of public evidence to suggest a liaison of some sort.
So, what was until recently a healthy rivalry with keen undercurrents in the French Open final, where Serena triumphed in two sets has turned into a war of words. What was doubly odd was that the remark followed a light-hearted intervention by Novak Djokovic that lit up a press conference that was meandering through mediocrity and on towards irrelevance. The mood snagged back sharply from bonhomie when Sharapova was asked if she had read Williams’s ill-considered remarks in Rolling Stone magazine about a rape victim in the United States (for which Williams has apologised).
She had, she said, leaving a yawning gap, into which was thrown the next grenade. So, what did she think?
“Obviously, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Serena and what she’s achieved on the court. You can never take anything away from that.” You could see the counter coming as if it were led by a brass band and dressed in pink.
After another wander around low-danger subjects, she returned to the hottest topic of the day, or probably the fortnight, perhaps the summer. “This is nothing to do about me,” she said. “It’s not about being in trouble or not. I obviously have many opinions about different things in life. But what I do on the court and what I talk about in my press conference is strictly about my career. I’m sure people want to know more, but yet I try to keep my personal life private.
“Nobody really cares about what I have to say, my opinions. If I speak to my friends, that’s one thing. But I don’t go out and try to create things that shouldn’t be really talked about.” Right.
And there we are again, on Rumour Boulevard; Serena is said to have had a fling with the rising Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov, who then left Mouratoglou’s academy and has embarked on a far more public relationship with Sharapova.
Something quietly and quite extraordinary was conceived at Wimbledon on a day when nothing at all is supposed to happen. Before a ball has been struck, we have on our hands a soap opera of grand proportions, one that might have the most glorious, and most acrimonious, conclusion on July 6