We would know by Friday (local time) this week if Maria Sharapova’s return to tennis after a 15-month doping ban was a success or a failure.
It would be both.
If the Russian wins her first round match on Thursday (local time) against Italian Roberta Vinci at the Stuttgart Open in Germany, her victory will be attributed to the “wonders” of meldonium, an “over-the-counter cardiac supplement” that Sharapova had been taking for the last 10 years or so until it was banned in early 2016.
She just turned 30 and although she is now unranked as a result of the ban, she will actually defend the Stuttgart crown, which she had won three times from 2014.
Recently, the glamour girl of world tennis lashed out at the sport’s authorities for failing to give her “sufficient warning” that meldonium had been banned almost right at the start of last year’s Australian Open.
If Sharapova loses against Vinci, who famously thwarted now-pregnant Serena Williams’ bid for a calendar Grand Slam in the semifinals of the US Open in 2015, critics of the Russian star will give “credit,” to what else but meldonium, for the comeback that never was.
Sharapova, apparently knowing that she can’t have the best of both worlds, also recently said her detractors’ beef against her was “the least of [her]concerns.”
She is taking it on the chin apparently because her rivals, according to her agent, Max Eisenbud, have long been sour-graping against Sharapova since she won her first Grand Slam event at Wimbledon in 2004 at age 17.
Meanwhile, her competition, other than Williams, are nearing 30 and have not even come near the podium in Melbourne, Roland Garros or Forest Hills.
Chief among Sharapova’s bitter rivals is Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, who early this week called out Porsche–sponsor of the Stuttgart clay court event—for giving the Russian a wild card there even if she had been suspended for taking meldonium.
Radwanska, 28, had lost miserably to Sharapova in the major tournaments and Eisenbud believes that his client’s rivals, including the Pole, are “motivated solely by jealousy.”
He described the Pole and Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, 26 and another of Sharapova’s “enemies” on and off court, as “journeyman players… who have never won a [Grand Slam title] and [with]the next generation [of tennis players]passing them.”
The Russian, former world No.1 and reportedly the highest paid female athlete before her suspension, had quite cattily put Radwanska in her place a few years ago.
When asked to comment on the Pole complaining about her “grunting” at the 2012 Australian Open, where Radwanska lost in the quarterfinals to another “grunter,” Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, Sharapova said, “Isn’t she back in Poland already? When did she get a chance to say that? I’ve been the same over the course of my career. No one important enough has told me to change or do something different.”
With the inscrutable Maria Sharapova having clawed back at Radwanska, perhaps she can do a Raquel Welch in putting down her win/loss against Roberta Vinci.
The unbelievably ageless and irresistibly beautiful Miss Welch once also (infamously) told those obviously envious of her, well, looks and curves, “F__k it,” when they insinuated that everything about her body was fake.
The star of One Million Years B.C. (1966) is now 76 and looks maybe five decades younger.
Apparently, she does not play tennis but does “yoga and cardio exercises.”