Thursday, September 27, 2007

PLEASE GO AWAY, MS. SHARAPOVA

First of all, don't call me a hater - not only do I hate being called a hater, but also I think it's the stupidest term on the planet. Some kind of rogue amalgamation of a verb and an adjective to describe someone consumed by the green-eyed monster of envy.

That Maria Sharapova is the most annoying person in tennis is debatable (Lleyton Hewitt is still playing - albeit less boisterously - and I believe Marcelo Rios still plays on the Champions tour), but I'm pretty sure if you took a poll at any tennis court in Moscow, you'd find her name at the top of the list. There are so many reasons to be fed up with this woman, it's hard to choose just one. But let's just delve into this Fed Cup debacle for a moment, and you'll see what I mean.

But first some background.

She may have a russian name, and she may have been born in Siberia, of all places, but she's about as Russian as she is a damn monkey. Her unbearable father, Yuri, is Belarussian, and moved from Homel to Siberia following the nearby Chernobyl nuclear accident. At age 7, her father moved her (without her mother) to train at the Bollettieri academy in Bradenton, Florida...big surprise there. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, she has retained her passport, but that, and some american accented Russian, is about the run of it.

So what about this Fed Cup business? Well she was scheduled to play against Spain in April, but had a shoulder injury. Then she was supposed to play against the US in July, but this mysterious shoulder injury recurred, and she skipped out again. Finally, she indicated that the shoulder was still giving her problems after the US open, and pulled out of the Fed Cup final in September, but somehow managed to offer herself as a practice partner and supporter of the team.

So imagine how it felt for Anna Chakvatadze and Svetlana Kuznetzova to bust their humps selflessly, after longer and more arduous efforts than Maria's at the US Open, to win the Fed Cup for Russia, only to have this woman steal their limelight without even lifting a racquet. Not only did she have the temerity to galavant around the court in a lap of honor normally reserved for those who actually won the Fed Cup, but she has added to this a blatant, and rather hollow attempt to disguise her desire to play in the Olympics.

Keep in mind that she's never played Fed Cup for Russia - she's probably the only Russian woman in the top 100 who hasn't. It's amazing because you would think someone with this grand desire to play in the Olympics would want to represent their country in other competitions, like, oh...I don't know...say, the Fed Cup! But that assumes Sharapova has any interest in anything other than herself. Why she wants to play in the Olympics is probably a two-pronged motivation. 

First, there's a lot of money in it for her if she wins, assuming there's someone out there that has not already been bombarded with her unbearable image plastered everywhere the sun shines (and some places it doesn't). And because the IOC defers to the ITF, just so the ITF will pressure top professionals to play in the Olympics, rules stipulate that if you want to be considered for an Olympic tournament, you have to have made yourself available for Fed Cup. Sharapova being Sharapova, has done no such thing. Thus the soulless publicity stunt flurry of showing up at the final, and running around waving the Russian flag, etc. If she loves Russia so much then why hasn't she played Fed Cup - ever?

And why the Olympics?

Well, that's the other:  you see, in tennis the Olympics is the one place where a tennis player can engage in the illusion of patriotism while still playing and winning for him/her self a gold medal. Nothing would make her happier than being able to say she's won a gold medal, because the value of that financially is tremendous, and it only comes along every four years - and who knows if she'll still be playing when the Olympics go to London in 2012. If she does win the gold, then every time the Olympics roll around, for the rest of her life, someone will be there to hand her a load of cash to take a picture with her medal and some loser product that would otherwise be sold at a steep discount at WalMart.

I suppose it's also possible that through some rather free flowing osmosis, because her father is Belarusian, he has infused in her an admiration for the Olympics. Nobody loves the Olympics more than Russians. Needless to say, the shameless Chinese, and the insatiable commercial appetite of the IOC are likely all in favor of her "so pretty" face doubling billboard advertising rates all across Beijing in 2008. This is the perfect storm for another in a long line of so many galling acts of self mutilation the WTA and professional tennis promoters have conducted in deference to Ms. Sharapova (e.g. the absurd experiment with on-court coaching in the US Open Series following Yuri and Maria's 2-week homage to Marcel Marceau at Flushing Meadow in 2006.)

Think I'm exaggerating? Take a look at these comments from the ITF:

"Her presence in Moscow certainly didn't hurt. She was injured and couldn't play, but by being here she clearly demonstrated her commitment to the Fed Cup and that will certainly enhance her chances (of playing at next year's Olympics). It's a big plus for her."

I can just hear the accounting calculator buzzing away in the coffers of oh so many unnamed charlatans at the IOC and in Beijing. What was it that Mark Felt told Woodward and Bernstein? (or was it just Woodward?)

"Follow the money."

I hate to be a cynic, but everything about her little act stinks to high heaven, and the comments of her "teammates", if you consider her a member of the "team", clearly concur. World number two Svetlana Kuznetsova said:

"Personally, I don't know why she came; I mean, she said she wanted to be our practice partner but if you can't play how then can you practice?"

Good point. And Chakvetadze had this to say:

"If you haven't played Fed Cup all year, it wouldn't be fair to just show up for the final. It's not fair to all the other girls who committed themselves to the team's cause."

You think?

Clearly they resented her presence, and weren't shy about saying it - one thing these Russian girls are good for, besides abnormally loud grunts and 4-foot pony tails, is catty comments about each other. They don't pull punches when it comes to other Russians, and certainly not when it comes to the most unbearable (sort-of) Russian in tennis today.

I'm sure they'd join me in asking for the granting of a single wish: that Miss Sharapova would just go away. But as long as lap dogs buy the crap she's selling, there'll be no end of her, or her atrocious father, in sight.
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