I have always been a tennis fan, my mum would watch Wimbledon avidly every year and as a young child I picked up all the rules and followed all my favourite players. I remember Virginia Wade winning the trophy in 1977 , a very rare tennis victory for Great Britain in those days. I would go to the local park with my full-size tennis racquet and an eager friend to check if I had the same talent as Virginia but sadly I couldn’t get past the first serve.
I still watch whenever I can and recently spotted Maria Sharapova in the US Open wearing a black tennis dress encrusted with Swarovski crystals. It seemed a little over the top for someone returning after a fifteen-month drugs ban if I’m absolutely honest but it did stir some interest. When I spotted Maria Sharapova’s autobiography on NetGalley I was intrigued to read her side of the story, especially as she promised to reveal all.
The fiercely honest, fearless, darkly funny autobiography of global tennis star Maria Sharapova In the middle of the night, a father and his daughter step off a Greyhound bus in Florida and head straight to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. They ring the bell, though no one is expecting them and they don’t speak English. They have arrived from Russia with just seven hundred dollars and the conviction that this six-year-old girl will be the world’s next great tennis star. They are right. This is Maria Sharapova’s gripping and fearless autobiography, telling her story from her roots in the small Siberian town her parents fled to after the Chernobyl disaster, through her arrival in the US with nothing and her phenomenal rise to success – winning Wimbledon aged just seventeen – to the disasters that threatened her career and her fight back. Here the five-time Grand Slam winner gives us candid insights into her relationship with her father, who gave up his job and life in Russia to dedicate himself to his daughter; the truth behind her famous rivalry with Serena Williams; the injuries and suspension controversy that threatened to end it all; and her recent battle to get back on court. Told with the same combative, no-holds-barred attitude as her game, it’s a story of crazy luck, mistakes, rivalries, sacrifice, survival and, above all, the constant, unwavering determination to win.
Maria writes in a very personal style, you really feel like she is having a casual conversation with you and I found the pages flying by.
Her story describes how she and her father left Russia to go to Florida after Martina Navratilova spotted her talent and urged her to pursue a career in tennis.
The relationship with her father, Yuri, fascinated me. They left everything behind including Maria’s mother who followed much later.
Yuri had to work various labouring jobs to pay the rent as Maria attended tennis academies full of the offspring of rich Americans. Her skill was perfected by repetitive practice with an emphasis on strength and endurance and gradually it began to pay off and she started winning tournaments.
She talks about her fascinating rivalry with the William sisters, a devastating shoulder injury and of course, she gives her own account of how she got banned from tennis in 2016.
She has a steely determination and desperate need to win on the court. I always considered her somewhat of an ‘ice queen’, hardly smiling during a match, unfriendly to opponents and prickly in media interviews. She explains in the book that she never saw the person across the net as a friend but an opponent, someone who she had to beat. If she made friends on the lonely tennis circuits there would be a time when she had to meet them in a match and she didn’t want personal feelings disrupting her will to win.
A good read for tennis fans, there isn’t an outpouring of gossipy anecdotes like in most celebrity autobiographies but she certainly has an interesting story to tell.
Pub date 12 September 2017
I was kindly sent the book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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