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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Annals of Shamapova

There she goes again.

A major tennis tournament is underway right now in the city of Indian Wells, California. It's the Pacific Life Open, and it's not only a Tier 1 tournament with a massive 465 rankings points available to the winner but a joint tournament where both male and female athletes compete together just like a grand slam event.

But you only collect a measly 40 ratings points (and less than $9,000 in prize money) if you are blown of the court 1-6 in the third set in the third round of the tournament by the 15th seed who is not even ranked in the world's top 15 players.

And that's just what happened to "World #1" Maria Sharapova yesterday.

Sharapova entered the tournament, once again, with a stacked deck in her favor (there's a good argument that she's the luckiest human to walk the face of the Earth). Neither the world #2 (Justine Henin-Hardenne) nor the world #3 (Amelie Mauresmo) nor the world #5 (Kim Clijsters) entered the tournament, nor did the world #1 for 2007 to date Serena Williams. To get the the quarter finals, the most so-called "#1" Sharapova could possibly have been required to do would have been to beat the world #20 and then the world #10. To reach the finals, she might have had to beat world #6 Martina Hingus (who actually ranks above Sharapova on the 2007 rankings). If she had reached the finals, she'd most likely have faced fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, the #2 seed and a player who regularly embarrasses herself on the court with her own shoddy (and utterly uninteresting) play.

And yet Shamapova still couldn't do it. She couldn't even begin to try to do it. Once, again she folded up like a house of cards under the slightest pressure, losing to world #20 Vera Zvonoreva in her second match of the tournament (she had a bye in the first round) and showing that she is so unfit and unathletic as to be able to even play competitive, much less winning, tennis in a third set -- not even against a wildly inferior player coming back from a layoff like Zvonoreva.

Shamapova has now held the #1 ranking for two different periods of several months in her career (she's about to lose it to Henin, who won her last two tournaments and is now just 73 points away from grabbing back the ranking) -- yet, in all that time, she's never won a single tournament while so ranked. In fact, she's never even played credibly in a tournament where she held the ranking -- and the only reason she hold is now is that Henin was sidelined by injury at the French Open.

Shamapova is the personification of Russia -- all illusion and arrogance, no substance and humility, and no intention to change, reform or improve.

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