PARIS – The fourth-round showdown between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams was a spicy thing to look forward to.
Only it never happened, because Williams had to withdraw due to a pectoral injury.
But in the buildup, the 36-year-old had some things to say about the references to her in Sharapova’s autobiography, Unstoppable, released last September.
Williams has not been at tournaments often since then. And in Indian Wells, when she returned, there were far more interesting, non-Sharapova subjects to talk about.
She was a new mother. She was about to be a wife. And she was returning after more than a year away from the game.
“100 per cent hearsay”
Principally, it was Sharapova’s contention that Williams’ extra motivation during their encounters – and thus the lopsided nature of the head-to-head between them – stemmed from the Russian spotting Williams crying in the locker room after her loss in their 2004 Wimbledon final.
“I think the book was 100 per cent hearsay, at least all the stuff I read and the quotes that I read, which was a little bit disappointing,” Williams said after her third-round victory.
“You know, I have cried in the locker room many times after a loss, and that’s what I have seen a lot of people do. I think it’s normal. … I think it would be more shocking if I wasn’t in tears,” she added. “And I am emotional and I do have emotions and I wear them on my sleeve. You know, I’m human. So for me I think it’s totally normal. I think what happens there should definitely maybe stay there and not necessarily talk about it in a not-so-positive way in a book. But regardless, that’s that.”
No negative feelings
“I don’t have any negative feelings towards her, which again, was a little disappointing to see in that hearsay book. So I have always, you know, and especially having a daughter, like, I feel like negativity is taught. One of the things I always say, I feel like women, especially, should bring each other up,” Williams said.
“You know, a lot of people always assume that I feel a different way and it’s not true. You know, if anything, I feel like we should encourage each other, and the success of one female should be the inspiration to another, and I have said that a thousand “
She also pointed out that when Sharapova’s doping suspension happened, she didn’t kick her when she was down, as so many of their fellow players did.
Williams didn’t quite come out and say it, but it sounds as though she actually did read it.
“I wanted to read the book and I was really excited for it to come out and I was really happy for her. And then the book was a lot about me. I was surprised about that, to be honest. You know, I was, like, Oh, okay. I didn’t expect to be reading a book about me, that wasn’t necessarily true,” she said.
“So I was, like, this is really interesting, but, you know, I don’t know. I think maybe — I don’t know. I think maybe she — I didn’t know she looked up to me that much or was so involved in my career.”
Sharapova ousted by Muguruza
It wasn’t the best time to ask Sharapova for a rebuttal, after she had just been outclassed by 2016 French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza in their quarterfinal Wednesday afternoon.
Muguruza rolled, 6-2, 6-1 in just 70 minutes, and is in the semifinals.
But the Russian was game.
Sharapova took a slight little dig at Williams for waiting so long until she withdrew before their fourth-round match.
“I think she made everyone wait a little bit,” she said.
But as for Williams’ contention that the bits about her in the memoir were hearsay, and that she was surprised she played such a big role, Sharapova didn’t agree.
“Well, I think it would be strange for me not to include someone that I have competed against for so many years. I think there is a lot of autobiographies out in the world, especially in the sporting world, that don’t necessarily speak about whether they were rivals or someone they competed against. And I think we played many matches. Some of those matches were very defining for me,” Sharapova said.
It would be very strange, I think, if I didn’t write anything about her. I think everyone would ask me questions, as well. So I’m not entirely sure how to go about that answer. When you’re writing an autobiography, I don’t think there is any reason to write anything that’s not true.”
It would only be right and just for the two two meet this year at Wimbledon, right?