When one happens to be one of the hottest tennis players on the tour with stunning good looks like Russian superstar Maria Sharapova, there is the curiosity to know her fairytale tennis journey. And when that comes in the form of an autobiography – UNSTOPPABLE – My Life So far by Maria Sharapova it is all the more riveting. Ardent tennis fans could not have asked for more.
This book by Maria, a 5 time Grand Slam winner and former number one, came soon after the U S Open 2017, where she staged a comeback to the tour after the drug ban was lifted . Maria was initially banned for 2 years but her sentencing was soon reduced to 15 months. She staged comeback at the Stuttgart Grand Prix on April 26 on a wild card entry.
Her return to Grand Slams at the US Open 2017 on a wild card entry was an impressive one. She bowed out after reaching the fourth round. She had on the way upset World number 2 Romanian Simona Halep in the first round 6-4, 4-4, 6-3. Indicating that she is not finished and is eager to compete and silence her doubters.
And it is quite obvious that the start of the book refers to that nightmarish day in Melbourne, 2016 Australian Open where after she was asked by a nurse to pee in cup to check drug test on athletes, as part of the normal procedure by the ITF to keep the sport clean. Little did she realise that a normal procedure would one day haunt her. At 28 with all Grand slams under her kitty and not more to achieve, Maria was even pondering over retirement as well. And had even visualised a victory tour . But things do not go as per plans always. There was a twist coming.
It was one e-mail from the ITF three weeks into the tour in 2016 that was a bombshell and shocked her – It said that the urine test Maria had taken back in Melbourne has been tested positive. She had failed drug test. Meldonium had been found in my urine and in January 2016 meldonium had been added to the World Anti- Doping Agency’s list of banned substances. Following the drug revelations, Maria was banned from the tour with immediate effect. She was initially banned for 2 years. But her sentencing was later reduced to 15 months. She finally returned to the tour at the Stuttgart Grand Prix on April 26.
As meldonium threatened to ruin her career, Maria was determined to fight back. ‘Goddammit’ she screamed and rousing herself said : “ Iam going to fight this bullshit”.
And then came her desire to tell the world her side of the story. And this autobiography came to the fore. And in her own words she says : What’s defined my game more than anything? Determination, tenacity. I do not quit. Knock me down ten times, I get up the eleventh and shove that yellow ball right back at you. “ This will not beat me”, I said. “This will not be the last word”.
To understand my determination, you need to know who Iam, Where I come from, what happened. You need to know about me and my father and the flight from Russia in the dead of night when I was six. You need to know about Nick B and Sekou and Serena and a nice old couple from Poland . You need to know the crazy story. In other words, you need to know everything. This is a story about sacrifice, what you have to give up. But it’s also just the story of a girl and her father and their crazy adventure.
Maria recalls how as a young girl she made parents of other girls jealous by regularly beating them at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida . And how she was forced to move out of the academy only to return back after series of very impressive performances.
Maria is blunt and says she hated comparisons with Anna Kournikova, her Fellow Russian at the Academy. On the comparisons she said What bullshit! We don’t look alike, don’t act alike, and our tennis games are very different. But the only thing the public saw was hair colour and the country of origin. At the Academy Anna was the cute little Russian star and there was insecurity in her Anna’s parents after Maria’s presence at the Academy and suddenly there was competition.
This is a fearless bold and candid story by Maria Sharapova. She tells her incredible tennis journey and the supreme sacrifices made by her Father Yuri. Her roots in the small Siberian town her parents fled after the Chernobyl disaster. She recalls the agony of staying away from her mother ( she did not join them in initially in the US due to visa issues). Her father had worked round the clock in various areas to help her realise her dream. He cut lawns and carried flower boxes. He had done it all.
She recalls how after days and years of struggle she was signed by IMG and which later on get her sign first Nike Contract for $ 50,000 that too when she was aged 11. The deal with IMG was blessing in disguise for her and her family. It helped solved many pressing problems like food, house rent, doctor, travelling to tournaments. It allowed her to focus on her game – Tennis with zeal and determination. Moreover, the tie- up with IMG made Maria realise that tennis is a sport and not just a sport. It’s passion but it’s not just passion. It’s business. It’s money. It’s stability for my family. I got it now.
Maria mentions her long standing rivalry with Serena Williams and on this she had this to say : “I approach every match against her with trepidation and respect. It was Serena whom I beat in the Wimbledon final in 2004 ( 6-1, 6-4) to emerge on the international stage at seventeen, and it’s Serena who’s given me the hardest time since. I’ve beaten all players who have beaten Serena, but it’s been nearly impossible for me to beat Serena herself. There’s a reason for this – she knows it and she that I Know. It’s our secret, which I‘ll get into the fullness of time”. As she continues to find answers to way to beat Serena, Maria is optimistic : “Maybe I’d find a way to beat her and my career would end as it began, with me holding the chalice beside Serena as the crowd roared”.
Laced with wonderful anecdotes, admissions of mistakes, rivalry talks , Locker room atmosphere, sacrifice, survival, Maria wows all with her constant unwavering determination to win. She manages to win hearts by revealing a journey of a six – year-old who came to US, Florida from Russia and headed to the famed Nick Bollettieri Academy with seven hundred dollars dreaming to becoming the world’s next great tennis star. Rest they say is history.
This is a must for all ardent fans of Maria Sharapova. It is a book that reveals superstar Maria from up-close and personal like never before. This 6’2 long legged star is one of the game’s biggest characters. And Tennis needs persona like Sharapova to make it popular world over. She is a magnetic head turner with her smouldering sexy looks. No wonder the advertisers are laughing all their way all to bank on her return to the circuit.
That she has an enduring star power was confirmed when even she was not playing on the circuit due to the ban. Sharapova remained in the limelight wherever she went and pictures went viral. This is the star power of Maria Sharapova. And the book title is perhaps could not be more apt – UNSTOPPABLE.
MY LIFE SO FAR
AN INPRINT OF PENGUIN BOOKS
PAGES : 289
PRICE : Rs 699